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Kyiv group helps kids cope with trauma of war

Aya Ibrahim in Kyiv
April 11, 2024

Children in Kyiv talk with DW about their pain from Russia's war in Ukraine, sharing how therapy has helped them regain strength. The loss of home, security, family and friends due to war has left them immensely traumatized.


No matter how hard you look, you won't see their injuries. 

Theirs are deep within, inflicted by two years of war

Eleven-year-old Matvi saw Russian soldiers occupy his home overnight when the full-scale invasion began in 2022. 

He and his family had to run to four different places in and out of the country before settling in the capital, Kyiv. 

Matvi: "I love traveling, but this was probably the worst trip of my life."

Thirteen-year-old Anastasia's hometown of Mariupol is also occupied and was heavily shelled by the Russians.

Anastasia: "It was a really happy place to live in, it would have been great if the war hadn't started, it would be more and more pretty. 
Sometimes you just want to run away from your problems and be free and happy like a little child."

Here at The Voices of Children, an NGO in Kyiv, they try to offer just that. 

Free psychological counselling, art classes and every once in a while a literal escape from reality like with this role-playing game. 

Matvi: "This game is fascinating, it has many possibilities: you can become a lizard-man, or a giant, or a half-plant half-man, you can have any weapon at all, you can build your own, so to speak, history. I like playing a giant because his main characteristic is strength. I am the strongest character so far."

It's a way to help the children regain a sense of control they lost when forced to leave home and everything they knew. 

Oksana Bohutska, Voices of Children: "Nowadays there are a lot of kids who just don't want anything, they're just tired and bored and they don't have the desire to do anything, but these kids do. It is important that they express themselves, that they are not afraid to try something, change their plans, make mistakes and look for solutions to these mistakes."

Oksana says she sees progress. Many of the children open up. Letting go of barriers they put up to protect themselves from fear and loss.

Anastasia: "I feel happy, I feel relieved from all my problems because it’s easier to sometimes forget that I need to do homework, wash the dishes or just about the war. Right here it is a safe place where I can talk, smile or be sad."

Even though there are no signs the war will end soon, children like Matvi and Anastasia are not waiting for national victory. They are on their recovery journey now, one session at a time.