Smiles as Ukrainian orphans find refuge amid their deepest drama

Rostyslav celebrates his 18th birthday
Rostyslav celebrates his 18th birthday Copyright Credit: Euronews Romania
By Joshua AskewAlida Mocanu
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"These children are now experiencing the deepest drama they have ever experienced."


Rostyslav smiles broadly as he holds a cake and a group of children sing happy birthday.

It's a welcome moment of happiness in what has been an extremely depressing period for these already vulnerable Ukrainian orphans.

More than a dozen have made it out of the country to safety at a specialist facility in the Romanian capital Bucharest.

Rostyslav, originally from Odesa, was one of them. He's been given food, clothing, medicine and psychological support since arriving two weeks ago. 

He's also received lots of birthday wishes, having recently turned 18.

Those looking after Rostyslav and other children are keen to empower them and stay positive. 

"We are trying to talk about the fact that the war will be over," said Larisa Bilous, a Ukrainian language teacher working with the children. "These children are our future."

"It’s upon them to build their future," she added.

Alongside giving them the chance to unwind and have fun, Bilous is one of several Ukrainian teachers helping the orphans with their studies.

"They must keep on studying," says Bilous, "they must have a profession one day."

Bilous worked in a high school in Odesa before the war but left Ukraine with her children and a just suitcase after the invasion began, leaving everything else behind.

She now helps oversee the care of those sheltering at the orphanage in Bucharest.

Although life is tough, Bilous says she is not losing hope.

"We all hope we’ll go back to our country and that we will live again happily, as we used to," she said.

Larisa Dumitru, of the organisation Hope and Homes for Children Romania, said the children at the facility were particularly vulnerable to the conflict.

"These are institutionalised children, for whom there is no mother and no father who can take them in their arms and tell them that everything will be fine, or who could protect them from the war and explain to them what is happening.

"These children are now experiencing the deepest drama they have ever experienced, that is the drama of not feeling safe at all and the drama of not having anyone to take care of them."

Some 600 Ukrainian children are now living in Romanian foster homes or orphanages, according to a UNICEF report. Meanwhile, more than 4.3 million children in Ukraine have been displaced since the start of the Russian invasion, 1.8 million of whom have fled to neighbouring countries.

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