By Lourdes Velasco
Dnipro, Ukraine, May 7 (EFE).- Most of the residents of a boarding house for children with disabilities in Dnipro were evacuated when Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine but around 45 remain.
The majority of the patients left at the center in the eastern Ukrainian cities have severe mental disabilities and could not be evacuated due to their healthcare needs.
Valentyna Mykolaivna is the director of the boarding house and accompanied Efe through the long, green corridors that now connect largely empty rooms.
A total of 115 children, the majority orphans or abandoned by their parents, used to reside at the center. Many have since been evacuated out of Ukraine and are staying across the border in Poland.
“Here are the children between 4 and 8 years old,” Valentyna says as she caresses one of the children.
To protect against the Russian bombings in the region, the center’s staff have boarded up windows but insist that the walls are strong enough to withstand the hostilities.
The air sirens and the sound of shelling, however, are an added trauma to the residents.
“In the last few weeks we have had children suffer from panic attacks,” the director told Efe.
All of the center’s workers, from the psychologists and healthcare staff to the cooks and cleaners continue to work despite the ongoing war.
“At first we were scared. We didn’t know how to act but at no point did it occur to us to leave. We have our sick kids, they only have us and the only thing that matters is we protect them,” she added.
The children who were able to be evacuated still attend classes remotely.
“I miss them a lot. I hope they can return soon but I’m relieved because I know the ones in Poland are doing fine,” Nina, a therapist at the center, told Efe.
Adoption processes have also dried up since the war began.
Valentyna, the director, added: “We had families interested in Europe and in Canada. We don’t know whether they want to carry on with the process or not.”EFE