CANADEM's Humanitarian Response in Romania
~ Home Sweet Home ~
Ana Juárez in Romania with UNICEF
Child Protection Specialist (Trafficking and Migration)
In the immediate aftermath of the Ukrainian war, millions of people fled to nearby European countries in few weeks.
Thousands fled to Romania crossing the various borders with Ukraine or passing through Moldova, from which a green corridor had been established. In mass movements such as this one, when day-to-day relationships and safe environments have been disrupted, the potential for the trafficking of children and adults increases. For this reason, UNICEF, thanks to funds from the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), has included a series of activities to prevent the trafficking of children and to strengthen prevention and protection domestic mechanisms.
During the assignment, I had the opportunity to meet various Ukrainian and Romanian communities, families as well as unaccompanied children and orphans with legal guardians. Since the beginning of the war, 4,403 children without parents or guardians entered Romania. According to the Government National Authority (dated 22.12.2022) in regards to unaccompanied and separated children: 4,403 children registered by the border police as unaccompanied children base on the joint Order No: 20362/31/3386/812/400/2022 out of which 1,511unanccompanied children, traveling with an adult person other than their parents or legal representative, declared they will be staying in Romania. 125 children aged 0 to 5, 517 aged 6 to 13 and 869 children aged 14 to 17. 615 are boys and 896 are girls. 2,851 unaccompanied children traveling with an adult person, other than parent or legal representative, have declared they will only be transiting Romania. 167 children are aged between 0 to 5, 1185 aged 6 and 13, y.o. and 1499 children aged between 14 and 17 y.o. (1420 are boys and 1431 are girls) with fostered adults have crossed the border.
In one field visit, I met a shelter/center in Călărași, in the south-east of the country near the Danube River, that has been giving accommodation to a small Ukrainian community since March 2022. Initially 24 adults with five children and three orphans, now only the 8 minors and six adults lived there.
The orphans, Xavie, a 14-year old boy and two sisters, Sofia and Natalia, aged 15 and 10 respectively, lost their parents two month before the beginning of the war and reached Romania with their Ukrainian guardian, who used to foster them in the orphanage in their country. During my conversation with them, I asked him how UNICEF could support them. And since they all attend Ukrainian school online, we agreed they needed the education kit and school bags.
Xavie is a very talented boy, who likes drawing and painting. I was told that he did not receive any psychological counseling back home to cope with the loss of his mother, neither did the two sisters. One of them themm Sofia (15), plays the guitars very well. She play the guitar to heal their pain. Both are dealing with their emotions by painting or playing the guitar; using their talent to comfort their pain. Perhaps painting is his way of healing and his tools to communicate his feelings regardless of the language, which is still a barrier for many Ukrainian refugees.
"...after the darkness, there is always hope."
Xavie wanted to give me one of his paintings; a rounded canvas representing a tree at night and daytime. He said that he wanted to express "that after the darkness, there is always hope." I asked him to describe his paining and he said: The beauty of the day and the beauty of the night.’. I wanted to know also what his hope or his biggest desire was, and he told me that he wanted to go home. Regardless the war he dreams to go back to his hometown, the house of his foster mother until they reach 18 years old. After 18 years old she stated that she doesn’t know if she has the means to keep them. Its very sad to think that this orphaned children after 18 years old their future is uncertain not only for the war but also because they might not have a family.