How do we help Ukrainian refugees to feel at home in a foreign land

In this blog, Lyuba Karpachova from the Ukrainian Cultural Center by Promote Ukraine in Brussels explains how the colouring book “Heroes Cry Too” helped mothers and children from Ukraine feel supported

After the beginning of the full-scale Russian attack on Ukraine in February 2022, Promote Ukraine, a European Citizen’s Prize Awardee based in Brussels since 2014, extended our activities to provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine and support to Ukrainian refugees in Belgium.

In May 2022, we have opened our Ukrainian Cultural Centre “Prostir”, a quiet space in the heart of Brussels, where Ukrainian refugees can get support, unwind from daily troubles and connect with Ukrainian culture far away from home.

Volunteers of Prostir also organise psychological support groups, art- and dance-therapy, vocal and yoga lessons, as well as conversational level language classes, among other activities.

Last July, we organised a joint event of art therapy for mothers “Art & Wine” and a book reading of the colouring book Heroes Cry Too as a fairy-tale therapy for children aged between 5 and 8.

While mothers were busy learning how to paint – most of them have never painted before – guided by our talented volunteer Tetiana Korol, children were taken care of by a Ukrainian psychologist and refugee herself, Olena Matyash.

During these difficult times, when Ukrainian women refugees don’t have the support of their significant other or their families who stayed back in Ukraine, childcare is almost fully on mothers. This event gave mothers the opportunity to relax and enjoy a quiet time, while children had a chance to spend time with other Ukrainian kids, listening to a story about Little Mouse in Ukrainian. Later on children had a chance to continue coloring the book or play with their fellow Ukrainians.

Moreover, this book is always available at the centre for Ukrainian children-refugees waiting for their mothers, while they attend other activities at Prostir. The book is not only an interesting and educational read, but it’s also a coloring book, which makes for a fun and entertaining activity for children aged 2 to 8 years old.

Being in a foreign country, not knowing the language is always very difficult. Therefore, any opportunity to immerse yourself in your native culture is always priceless. And children were finally feeling like themselves while reading and playing in Ukrainian.

Prostir by Promote Ukraine is a place where Ukrainians can find peace and be themselves. We continue providing support to Ukrainian refugees and we are planning different projects on introducing Ukrainian culture to Europeans. If you want to support our activities, don’t hesitate to reach out, donate or join our volunteer's pool. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

If you would like to receive printed copies of the child-friendly Heroes Cry Too colouring book, please contact Eurochild's Partnerships and Programmes Officer, Ciaran O'Donnell.

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