Ukrainian mothers in Moldova share courageous journey from suffering to gratitude and joy

Securely located at the back of a local theatre in Chisinau, Moldova, Step By Step runs a daycare center with support from World Vision Korea. Ukrainian mothers and their children attend weekly activities that provide educational opportunities and psychosocial support.

The children, aged two to five years old, learn English lessons, handicrafts, theater plays, and other forms of informal education. The mothers benefit from the educational and psychosocial support as well and enjoy the relationship with other mothers.

Nataliya and son Fedor found a safe haven spending time and meeting fellow refugees in the center managed by World Vision's partner Step-by-Step.


Nataliya, a Ukrainian mother from Dnipro, has found solace at the center with her three-year-old son, Fedor. She recognizes the benefits for her and her son's well-being.

"He loves his English lessons and crafting. I appreciate connecting with other Ukrainian mothers during these activities, giving me a sense of support and community, a reminder that I am not alone," she shares.

Irina, with son Daniil, is grateful that the center has assisted in his language skills.


Irina, a Ukrainian mothers from Odesa Oblast, expresses gratitude for the center's teacher, Olena, who helped her son Daniil develop his language skills. "It brings me joy to see my child learning and developing language skills from an early age," she expresses.

She said the teacher deserves full credit for regularly uniting the group and fostering a familial atmosphere. "I have a fondness for this place, partly due to our incredible teacher who makes me feel at home and welcomed," she says.

Anna is grateful of how daughter Zlata was provided with support to become socially active with other children, noticing significant changes in her attitude.


For Anna, a mother from Mykolaiv, the center has been crucial in helping her daughter, Zlata become more socially active. "Zlata was unable to attend kindergarten, but since joining the center, I've noticed a significant improvement in her behavior.”

She lacked social interaction with other children but is now more open and outgoing. Olena, our teacher, played a vital role in helping her become more socially active," Anna shares. She also values the opportunity to connect with other Ukrainian mothers and receive support from them.

I have found a sense of belonging here, and it is a pleasure to watch my children thrive. My son became more open to interaction after participating in the activities.

"This center has been beneficial to me as a mother. I have met many Ukrainian mothers, and we provide support and a listening ear to one another," she expresses.

Olena, a mother from Kyiv, has joined the center with her three-year-old daughter Amalyia, for the past six months. Olena appreciates how the teacher personalizes the approach to each child.

She notes, "When I visit here, my mind is not preoccupied with the issues I face. I step back and watch as my child engages with other children and takes part in the various activities the teacher has organized. They offer an extensive array of games and exercises that enhance their cognitive growth," she explains. 

Olena and daughter Amalyia both enjoy the activities being facilitated and recognized the value it brought for their mental health.


Kate, a mother from Mykolaiv, Ukraine, who sought refuge in Moldova with her 2-year-old son, Akim, also values the sense of safety and community in the center. She said her two-year-old son Akim adores his teacher and the theater plays. Kate felt happy that her children spend time productively.

"I have found a sense of belonging here, and it is a pleasure to watch my children thrive. My son became more open to interaction after participating in the activities. At this age, children need love, care, and interaction, which this center provide," she shares.

The children are engrossed playing together under the watchful attention of staff and mothers.


Olha, a Ukrainian mother from Mykolaiv, shares her son Vlad's excitement. "When we're home, my two-year-old son eagerly brings me his jacket and beanie, ready to head out to the center. It is a testament to how much he enjoys being here.

"When it's time to leave, he doesn't want to go back home," she shares. She is grateful towards organizations like World Vision providing services for free. "I'm finally able to socialize and see my child content and secure in a place far from the horrors of war," she adds.

Giving her sons a sense of normality as they socialize with fellow Ukrainian children in the center is a source of peace for Olha.


The daycare center’s team is committed to providing children impacted by the crisis with a safe space to play, engage in informal learning, and be able to express their worries and fears to trained staff.

The partnership between Step-by-Step and World Vision has not only provided essential educational and psychosocial support to Ukrainian children and their mothers but has also helped establish a supportive community in Chisinau, Moldova.

Story and photos by Eugene Combo and Christopher Lete, UCR Communications