Toys and tales helping Ukraine kids process war trauma

KYIV: In the cellar of a Kyiv kindergarten decorated with bunting and wall paintings of doughnuts and cats, dozens of children are taking shelter during an air raid.

The staff try to reduce the psychological impact on children who can barely remember a time without sirens and fear.

“They go calmly, none of them cries,” says one of the carers, Tetiana, 68.

The children chatter and giggle as they do colouring, listen to stories, build Lego and get their faces painted.

“We’re hiding from bombs,” one boy, Platon, tells AFP as he selects Lego pieces.

“When we expect bombs, we go to the cellar,” a girl, Nadiya, adds matter-of-factly.

Concerns over the war’s emotional toll on children have prompted diverse efforts to help – from a book of therapeutic stories to specially commissioned videos from the makers of US show “Sesame Street”.

The kindergarten director, Alla Pysmenchuk, said some of the children come from hotspots in eastern Ukraine that many families have fled.

“There are children whose father or mother, or close relatives, are now at war and defending our country,” she said.

Iryna Kioresku, a psychologist, works with such children in a soft-surfaced sensory room.

“All the children understand that something’s wrong, even if at home they don’t talk about the war,” she says.

“The topic of war is very hard for children. Whether you are talking about children who left their homes or stayed here, they are all anxious and have fears.”

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