Eyes of war-affected children. BLOG by Oleksandr Vyshniakov, the director of the Rinat Akhmetov Humanitarian Centre
How to see that the child has survived the war and losses? To look in their eyes. The burden of war is seen there, even if the child finds himself or herself in a peaceful city. There are patience, fear, pain and understanding in those eyes. Sometimes they sparkle brightly – the childhood can still be preserved. I saw such eyes in the villages and cities of Donbas. 3 years in a row I have been looking into such eyes in the summer camps where the children come under the project of the Rinat Akhmetov Humanitarian Centre.
We came up with the idea of the "Peaceful summer for Donbas children" for the children to forget about war at least for a couple of weeks. They arrived in the woods, to the seaside and became children again. They played, had fun, developed, made friends. For 3 years of the summer project existing we have managed to improve the health of 3,5 thousand children.
Two weeks of recovery, entertainment and silence. What is necessary, staying in a camp is combined with qualified psychologists’ assistance. Specialists help to cope with fears through art therapy, work with psychosomatics and use a number of other techniques including a common conversation.
According to the United Nations, 200,000 children live at the demarcation line. For some of them this year is already the 4th under fire. They suffer from constant stress, depression, acute and chronic health problems.
When little Varia from Avdiivka was asked whether she wanted to go to the camp she answered: "We came here to have rest, so as not to watch them shoot and everything collapse." For her, shelling is an everyday life. For me, this means that her childhood is broken, because every year leaves the imprint of war on these children, and their psychological problems grow like a snowball.
Every child remembers a private war story: shelling, explosions, long hours in shelters, losses ...
The main needs for security and food are not met with these children. The parents who lost their jobs and accommodation are not always able to provide the bare essentials.
Everyone’s got a war-time trauma. Children start with a loud sound, even a clapping door or a burst balloon.
Children talk about the war, as about an everyday routine. They got used to it. They determine the mine range and the shell calibre by the sound, they know at what hours it is possible to go out and on what paths one can not walk, because of the mines.
They have matured in a jiffy. They lack parental attention, simple conversation, warmth to open themselves to. These children often have to solve household problems together with adults, and they forgive moms and dads for this.
At art therapy lessons, children draw fear and war. They want the war to be erased from their memory forever. What's even worse - sometimes they do not know how to draw their future.
The third season of our project is over. The children left, they started a new academic year. I want to believe that they have coped with what's happening, at least just a little. I believe they will cope. I believe that they will still have childhood.