Tatiana’s journey to this peaceful haven in Suceava was far from ordinary. She hails from Mariupol, a city in Ukraine that became a battlefield during the conflict.
For nearly three decades, she taught preschool children in her beloved town until the war forced her and her family to flee.
They sought refuge in underground shelters for a month, enduring unimaginable stress and trauma. Her family's quest for safety led them to frequently relocate, with each move bringing fresh challenges and uncertainty. During those times, her students were always on her mind.
"While ensuring my grandchildren remained safe, I remained in contact with my students’ parents as I was deeply concerned about my students' well-being. I learned that some of them had died," said Tatiana.
The loss of her preschool students left a lasting scar on her heart and sustained her hope of resuming her cherished passion as a teacher.
However, hope emerged in an online community of Ukrainian refugees in Suceava. It was through this network that Tatiana found a job opportunity that would rebuild her life.
She applied, and through her qualifications and extensive experience, World Vision offered Tatiana to teach Ukrainian preschool children in Romania.
Tatiana believes, "this opportunity not only allowed me to revive my career but also provided me with a path to healing from the traumas I endured and the heartbreak of losing my former students."
For almost eight months now, Tatiana has been nurturing and guiding her young students, providing them with a safe space to learn, play, and make friends at World Vision's child-friendly space, supported by the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC).
Despite her challenges, Tatiana's resilience and dedication shine through as she helps her students integrate into Romanian society.
This kindergarten gives me peace of mind and to have focus on my work knowing that my daughter is in a safe place with very capable teachers.
"I am so happy with my role right now," says Tatiana, her eyes shining enthusiastically. "These kids give me joy; they boost my energy. They make me feel young and inspire me to move on."
She connects with her current students' parents and hopes they find the strength to move forward with their children in Romania.
Anna, mother of one of Tatiana's students, Daniel, shares her gratitude for the positive impact the teacher has had on her son's life. "My son loves coming here," Anna says.
"Every day, he reminds me of coming here before I can prepare his breakfast. I see that my son makes a lot of friends. He's always in the mood and playful."
She adds, "Before coming here, he was very shy. He didn't know how to socialize with other kids."
Anna continues, "this center is doing a good job of bringing together children from the same age groups and the teachers speak Ukrainian. My son is five years old, and this kindergarten was great preparation for this school year."
"Through this project, I have free time to do errands and household chores, so when my son comes home from kindergarten, we will have more quality time together."
Tatiana's impact extends beyond just teaching; it's a lifeline for families who have fled the horrors of war.
Anna's words capture the essence of this newfound hope and stability in a foreign land: "I'm very grateful for this, not only because this kindergarten is free, but this center really helps my son improve in many good ways and helps my son forget about what we went through back in Ukraine."
"I'm very thankful that even though we are away from our country, we feel at home and safe in Romania," she goes on.
Irina echoes these sentiments for her five-year-old son Robert. "I like this place a lot because my son loves it. This is his happy place."
She goes on, "He’s very sociable now, and the people who work here do a lot of activities that can improve our children's education, like writing, drawing, arts, and reading."
Robert has been coming here for almost a year since his family left Ukraine. Initially, he was sensitive to fireworks or anxious when he heard loud noises. "Now he has overcome them. Robert is also more open and friendly, before he was a very shy boy," shares his mother.
Every day, countless examples of refugees choose to serve their communities. "Tatiana exemplifies what it means to be a community asset; she creates a safe and nurturing environment and understands that Ukrainian children may have special needs as she works diligently to facilitate this smooth transition,” says Vasilii Gutu, World Vision's Project Officer.
“She is also a great mentor to her young co-educators, sharing her vast knowledge and experience. Tatiana continues to be a beacon of hope and inspiration to many of her fellow Ukrainians as she pursues her passion for teaching,” Gutu adds.
“This kindergarten gives me peace of mind and to have focus on my work knowing that my daughter is in a safe place with very capable teachers. This creates a chance for my family to have a sense of normal life outside our country,” says Anna, mother of five-year-old Diana.
World Vision, supported by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), has conducted several psychosocial and child protection trainings for the three educators, partnering with the Institute for Social Partnership Bucovina in Suceava.
As Tatiana continues to impart knowledge, comfort, and support in a new land to those whose childhoods were once interrupted, she said, "I hope that one day my students and I will walk hand in hand in the school hallways of a peaceful Ukraine without fear, with the beautiful memories we take from Romania and with dreams for a brighter future."
To date, World Vision has assisted over 293,000 Ukrainian refugees in Romania with education, protection, mental health, food, health, livelihoods, and cash aid programs.
Story and photos by Eugene Combo and Christopher Lete, Communications Specialists