Lviv, Ukraine, Dec 19 (EFE).- The morning of December 19th is traditionally one of the highlights of the year for Ukrainian children who rush to find presents, ostensibly delivered by St Nicholas, under their pillows or their Christmas tree when they wake up.
This year, however, St Nicholas day was celebrated amid air raid sirens, drone attacks and widespread power cuts.
Despite the raging war, volunteers are striving to ensure that children who have lost their parents or homes to the Russian invasion can still enjoy the holiday spirit as much as possible.
In Kyiv, as well as in many other cities in the center and east of the country, early morning brought the latest drone attacks, with more than 20 strikes targeting the capital’s energy infrastructure.
But the latest wave of Russian missiles has not stopped Ukrainian adults from organizing festivities for their war-ravaged country’s children.
At a park in Lviv, a St Nicholas house has been set up, where a class from a local school visited on Monday for a trip that was postponed from last week due to an air raid that lasted several hours.
The children smiled and laughed as they watched a short play, and the war faded into the background, if only for a short while.
The short poems that were recited by the children were sobering, however, as they asked St Nicholas to bring presents to those who have lost their loved ones in the war and protect Ukraine’s soldiers. Rather than asking for sweets or toys, many of the children instead asked for the missiles to stop falling from the sky.
When St Nicholas, who was portrayed by Taras Ivashko, spoke about the importance of trying to be a good person, he mentioned donating to the Ukrainian army where some of the children’s relatives are serving.
His aid Dasha, who played the role of Olaf from the “Frozen heart” cartoon movie, told Efe that it was important for the children to still believe in dreams and fantasies despite what they have lived through.
She said the St Nicholas house has welcomed many children who had to flee their homes in Mariupol, Kharkiv and Odesa and were now living in Lviv.
“I couldn’t hold my tears as one little girl cried and asked St Nicholas to make the war end. These children, still very small, became very mature because of what they had to experience”.
“I have seen a lot of pain and have had to be very delicate when I spoke to them”, Ivashko said.
The People’s Rehabilitation charity foundation has been working for seven years to provide gifts to the children whose parents, in most cases fathers, were killed in combat. The devastation brought by Russia’s full-scale invasion means they have had to work even harder this year.
The children write letters to St Nicholas to say what they would like to receive this year. They usually ask for toys, clothes, bicycles and phones and the organization tries to fulfill their wishes. Some ask if he can bring their parents back to them.
The initiative is made possible thanks to the contribution by thousands of Ukrainians who donate to the volunteers or buy presents themselves.
Director of the program, Svitlana Bahvalova, expects up to 2,000 letters this year as the Russian invasion has killed close to 7,000 civilians and 10,000 soldiers, and has displaced millions of Ukrainians.EFE