Photo story: Through the eyes of Ukrainian refugees

By Jessica Souza
March 14, 2022

There are now over 2 million refugees fleeing the violence in Ukraine. And half of them are children. Millions more are still expected, as this becomes the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

Plan International is working in Poland, Moldova and Romania, providing immediate relief and mental health support to refugee children and their families.  Here are the scenes of this crisis, captured by Plan staff.

 

Families are unsure if they’ll ever be able to return home.

Katy is 16 years old and has never left her country before. Now, as she waits for a train in Bucharest, Romania, she doesn’t know if she’ll ever go back to Ukraine.

“My mama was frightened,” she explains. “There were sirens in the city and the surrounding areas, and my mama thought it was best to leave. Places around the city are being attacked. Mama was afraid that the bombs would come so we decided to leave.”

Katy and her mother stayed in an empty house in Bucharest for a couple days, and then took a train bound for Hungary. They don’t know anyone there.

Katy, a Ukranian adolescent girl, waits in a train station in Bucharest, Romania, unsure what the future holds for her.
Katy waits in a train station in Bucharest, Romania, unsure what the future holds for her.
Train stations are crowded as Ukrainians rush to leave their country.
Train stations are crowded as Ukrainians rush to leave their country.

 

Refugee centers are being set up in makeshift spaces like gymnasiums across neighboring countries. 

Ukrainian women and children are flooding into refugee centers after long and stressful journeys.

When they arrive, they’re exhausted. Many are in a state of shock. They’ve just experienced painful goodbyes, leaving behind husbands and sons to fight.

The centers are trying to meet refugees’ basic needs — food, water, clothing, blankets, mattresses — but supplies are limited.

Plan is working in refugee centers, providing immediate relief and mental health support to children and families.
Tents like this are set up for refugees to rest in after they cross the border from Ukraine.
Tents like this are set up for refugees to rest in after they cross the border from Ukraine.

 

Refugee children — especially girls — have unique needs that can’t be ignored. 

Ukrainian children are seeing the horrors of war. They’re being torn from their homes and everything they know, losing all sense of routine. As difficult as this is for adults, it may be even more traumatizing for children.

Babies need diapers and formula. Young children need safe spaces to play. Students need resources to keep learning.

And girls have additional challenges. In the chaos of war, like in all crises, girls and young women are disproportionately impacted. They’re at serious risk of violence and exploitation. And they may lose access to crucial health care resources they need — like menstrual products and maternal care if they’re pregnant.

A young Ukrainian boy in a crowded refugee center in Poland.
A young Ukrainian boy in a crowded refugee center in Poland.
Two best friends, Yarik and Alexay, crossed the border into Romania with their mothers.
Two best friends, Yarik and Alexay, crossed the border into Romania with their mothers.
Ukrainian children playing together in a refugee center.
Ukrainian children playing together in a refugee center.

 

Many beloved pets have come along with their families, but some had to be left behind.

As most animal lovers can imagine, leaving behind your family’s pet is heartbreaking. Many families have brought their pets with them over the border, walking dogs and towing cages or carriers along with their luggage.

Yana came to Poland with her dog, Athena. Her parents stayed in Ukraine because they didn’t want to leave their home.

“On our way, we met people who were running from the bombs,” she says. “The whole region is completely destroyed. We can’t believe this, but it’s happening.”

Yana and her dog, Athena, made it to a refugee center in Poland.
Yana and her dog, Athena, made it to a refugee center in Poland.

 

Border communities are doing what they can to support Ukrainians refugees. 

We’ve all heard the stories — Polish parents leaving baby strollers at train stations for arriving moms, local families inviting Ukrainians into their homes, collection points overflowing with donated items.

The generosity and support from local communities in Ukraine’s neighboring countries, is heartwarming. Because as we know, around the world, refugees and migrants are not always made to feel welcome. While Ukrainians continue to cross borders with little to nothing, tired and frightened, they need all the support they can get.

Ukrainian mothers can collect diapers and other items as they arrive over the border.
Ukrainian mothers can collect diapers and other items as they arrive over the border.
This Polish community is providing free hot food to Ukrainians arriving at refugee centers.
This Polish community is providing free hot food to Ukrainians arriving at refugee centers.

 

Plan needs your support to keep Ukrainian girls and their families safe.

We’re helping as many Ukrainians as we can, but as the crisis continues to grow, we need more support to help refugee children.

All day, every day, more and more Ukrainians are crossing the border and desperately seeking support. Here’s a video from Plan’s team currently in Romania, as another boat transporting refugees arrives.

 

 

With your donation, you can help ensure girls and their families are protected from violence and get the resources they need during this extremely difficult time.

Here are some examples of what your gift can do:

— $80 could help provide immediate relief to children and their families to meet their basic needs.

— $134 could help provide vital psychological support to children who have witnessed the horrors of war.

— $200 could help provide children with safe spaces to play and learn.

Please rush your donation now to keep Ukrainian girls safe.

 

Donate now