After fleeing the war, Ukrainian children who came to Brazil try to get their lives back together.




Ukrainian children learn Portuguese from their mothers when they come to Brazil

Photo: Estadão

When Galina left Donetsk with her three children, she never imagined she would be in Brazil today, watching the children go to a school in the heart of Sao Paulo. But the family was clear when it came to choosing a destination: “The farthest from the war.”

Along with the other 44 Ukrainians – children, adolescents and women – they came to the country through a partnership with the church in the city of Dos Campos in S জোo Jose and will receive assistance for one year. “I continue to teach my students in Donetsk. I try my best to keep them normal,” said Galina, speaking in Russian.

Their children, Ivan, 11, Michelo, 12, and Kesnia, 16, chat with friends and try to understand the basics of communication in Portuguese while attending church hall classes. Students celebrate all the colors they get in our language.

Ukrainian children learn Portuguese with their mothers after arriving in Brazil Photo: Fernanda Simas / Estadao

“We really like Brazil, the school, the teachers and our friends. We like the attention that our colleagues give us. Of course, it’s difficult, because we don’t know Portuguese, but we are studying and it will get better soon,” said Anastasia Shevchenko. , 15, who came with his brother Elijah, 11, and their mother, Irina, 46. The family has left Kharkiv and left many relatives.

Every second of the two months of the war, at least one child had to leave their home. As of May 1, 2.7 million Ukrainian children had fled and 2.8 million had been internally displaced. “More than 4.5 million children have been displaced since the start of the war,” said James Helder, a spokesman for UNICEF in Ukraine.

Irina lived with her husband and children in a building that had only one entrance and one exit. When the attacks intensified, Elijah cried every day and they left with his mother-in-law. From there, the husband decides they have to leave.

Most refugees go to neighboring countries, but many are leaving. As of March 18, Brazil had received 894 Ukrainians, according to federal police. The country granted 74 visas and 27 human residency permits between March 3 and 31.

Ten children at the Dos Campus in Sao Jose came without their parents. Some kept in touch with them through the internet. Church Minister Carmen Rangel said, “It was very sad when a family received the news of their father’s death while he was already here.”

A law in Ukraine prohibits men of war age from leaving the country. Therefore, 90% of the refugees are women and children. “Most had to leave their parents in Ukraine. So the trauma is strong. Their world is turned upside down,” Helder said.

Anastasia Shevchenko, 15, with her mother, Irina, 46, who showed a picture of her husband in Ukraine; Today they live in an apartment given by the Adventist Church in the city of Dos Campos in Sao Jose. Photo: Taba Benedicto

Adaptation was not difficult. Some people tried Pastel de Feira for the first time and said they liked it. “We have something similar in Ukraine,” says Irina, showing a picture of a Ukrainian pastel on her cell phone.

Anastasia says she likes Brazilian food. The day before, she was 15 years old and had won a party with Coxinha, Brigadiro and Cake. Irina misses Kharkiv and her family, especially her husband. “I want to keep them with me in Brazil.”

Anastasia was not informed of what was happening in Ukraine and did not know if one day she would be able to see the whole family together. “Sometimes some guy wants to show me things from there, but I don’t want to see them.” Looking happy again, he shows her a sketchbook he has brought in his backpack, where he keeps portraits of her and “new friends.”

Uncertainty is a common feeling. Only Miss Sophia speaks English and helps church staff communicate with other families. Young Kauna, who has mastered the Russian language, teaches lessons and is thrilled at every blow.

Lots of planes

The Portuguese class was the beginning of adaptation. Children and adolescents walk, talk and laugh together when class does not begin. Lessons are seen as the gateway to a new life. “There (in Ukraine) I would come to class, sit down and write. Here, I can get up, go to the bathroom, eat during breaks. I enjoy it,” says Anastasia.

But the fear of war is with everyone from afar. “There are a lot of planes here. One day, when one of them passed by and made a noise, a boy started crying in fear. It was a bomb,” said Carmen.

The road to Brazil was difficult and still a forbidden subject. “The biggest need for children is still safety. Hundreds have been killed. We don’t think about how much these parents and grandparents will suffer forever,” Helder said.

More about refugees in Ukraine

As of April 12, the war had killed 148 children and injured 233 others. UNICEF says 3 million needs humanitarian assistance and 3.6 million needs educational or psychological assistance.

Children in Ukraine have also given up routine. Many spend most of their time in underground shelters or flee to other cities. In Mariupol and Kherson, they have been without water, food and sanitation services for weeks.

“What the word abbreviates is trauma. They live in extreme stress, living for weeks in bunkers or basements, sometimes without daylight, lacking water and food. Imagine the stress of living in a country war and suddenly leaving home Have to leave “, Helder explained.

One in six UNICEF-backed schools in eastern Ukraine has been destroyed or damaged since the war began. In Donbass, 15 of the 89 schools included in a protection program were demolished. The war has turned into Europe’s worst humanitarian crisis 2nd war – According to the United Nations, there are 5.7 million refugees.

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