Child Play Spaces offer respite for weary mothers fleeing violence in Ukraine

Anna, refugee from Ukraine stands outside a Child Play Space set up by World Vision in Romania
Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Anna and her daughters, Miroslava, 9, and Malia, 3, slept for days in a basement after the conflict reached their hometown of Haricov. “When the bomb fell near our house, we left in a hurry,” she explains.

Like countless others fleeing violence in Ukraine, Anna first tried moving to different towns that seemed safer within Ukraine. But, eventually she realised she had to leave Ukraine all together if she was to find safety for her daughters.  

“I don't want them to hear [those] sounds,” she says, about the bombs.  Malia still shakes when she hears loud noises, Anna explains. Even in the safer towns they moved to, when she heard a tractor pass by, she got scared.

Fleeing for your life is taxing - physically and emotionally. The effects are multiplied for mothers and caregivers who suddenly find themselves separated from family members and their support structures — unsure what will happen to them and concerned for those who are still in Ukraine. There are only so many words of reassurance you can offer to the child in your arms whilst masking the nightmares you’ve left behind and hiding the uncertainty you face.

Mothers and children take a brea.k in World Vision's child play space in Romania
Mothers and children who have fled the conflict in Ukraine take a much-needed break in World Vision's child play space in Romania


This is the distress faced every day by the millions of shell-shocked women who have fled Ukraine with their children, nieces, nephews, neighbours and grandchildren. They are arriving – almost one child a second – at the borders with nothing more than a suitcase and a toy.

Whilst a welcome safe-haven from the horrors they’ve left behind, refugee reception centres often feel like foreign and unsettling places for children and exhausted women.

As a child-focused humanitarian organisation, World Vision has expedited the delivery of resources to create safe places for children to play and relax at refugee reception centres. These spaces, provide children with a place where they play and be cared for by others while their caregivers make plans for their next steps.

We spoke to Anna while her daughters played in a World Vision play space giving her had time and energy to focus on their next move.  “It is nice,” says Anna. “Thank you very much... the kids are not crying,” she says, received by the positive change.  

A break, a rest, a glimmer of “normalcy” is what our play spaces offer children fleeing Ukraine. “Even if the kids stay here for only two, three or four hours, they need a friendly space,” says World Vision staff Florentina.

Normally Miroslava would be playing sports, but because of the conflict, she can’t, and Anna says she’s got lots of pent-up energy. As Malia did some colouring, Anna was able to let down her guard a bit and cried as she remembered her country and what they’ve lost.

She hopes that when they get to Germany the girls can rest and feel at peace and also that they’ll be able to get back to school. World Vision’s play spaces offer a temporary moment for children to snatch back a moment of light-heartedness in these tumultuous times.

World Vision has more than 70 years of responding to emergencies.

With your help, we can create a secure and carefree sanctuary in an in-between space surrounded by uncertainty.


How can you help? 


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