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First ladies' efforts give Ukraine's orphans a home in Turkey

March 30, 2022, 15:15 221 dailysabah.com Atotal of 159 children from orphanages in conflict-ridden Ukraine arrived in the southern Turkish province of Antalya on Sunday.

Some of the children evacuated from Ukraine at an airport, Antalya

Some of the children evacuated from Ukraine at an airport, Antalya, southern Turkey, March 27, 2022. (AA Photo)

Atotal of 159 children from orphanages in conflict-ridden Ukraine arrived in the southern Turkish province of Antalya on Sunday. The children will be accommodated in hotels in the city, which has a sizable Ukrainian population.

Their evacuation is the result of work by Turkish first lady Emine Erdogan and Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska. The first ladies have been in close contact since the Russian-Ukrainian war broke out last month. Emine Erdogan arranged the evacuation of Ukrainian children through the assistance of the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Family and Social Services.

The children, accompanied by 26 carers working in Ukrainian orphanages, flew to the Turkish city from Poland. They were welcomed by Ukrainian Ambassador in Ankara Vasyl Bodnar and Ukrainian Consul-General in Antalya Emir Rustamov. Bodnar told reporters at the airport that this was the first group of children and more would arrive in coming days. He thanked the Turkish government for the evacuation. “I hope the children will have a comfortable environment here and overcome (the trauma) of incidents in Ukraine. I hope we will be able to host some 2,000 children from orphanages in Ukraine,” he said.

Other countries have also stepped in to help children in orphanages in cities under Russian bombardment. A Scottish charity had sponsored a flight of some 50 youngsters from orphanages to the United Kingdom this week.

Children’s trauma

Since the war began, 4.3 million children – more than half of the country’s estimated 7.5 million child population – have been displaced, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said last week. “The war has caused one of the fastest large-scale displacements of children since World War II,” UNICEF chief Catherine Russell said in a statement. This includes more than 1.8 million who have crossed into neighboring countries as refugees and 2.5 million who are now internally displaced.

Along with orphans, Turkey, which took in at least 20,000 refugees from Ukraine, hosts families with children.

In Antalya, some 340 children who arrived with their families, attend educational courses organized by the municipality of Konyaalt?, a district of the province. Some 48 Ukrainian teachers volunteer for the children where psychiatrists help children to overcome the trauma of lingering conflict.

Drawings by Ukrainian children who took shelter in Turkey with their families, Antalya

Drawings by Ukrainian children who took shelter in Turkey with their families, Antalya, southern Turkey, March 27, 2022. (DHA Photo)

Volunteers say the horror of the conflict is reflected in the drawings the children make. Irina Chemadurov is among the Ukrainian psychiatrists who sought an insight into children’s minds and how they were affected by the conflict. She asked the children to draw something about their life back in Ukraine. What she got was what children witnessed: Tanks, soldiers and bombs falling out of sky. Some scrawled their parents “in graves” while others are seen hiding inside their houses. “They suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” she told reporters on Sunday.

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