“Recently, an ordinary airplane in our town caused huge fear among the local children: some of them were trying to hide in basements. I was extremely saddened to see this because before the war, the children would have gladly run out to look at the plane.”
Sergiy Soroka works in western Ukraine as a family coordinator for Mission Without Borders (MWB), supporting families living in poverty – and he is seeing firsthand the impact of war on children’s and families’ wellbeing.
Before Russia’s large-scale invasion, his work involved helping families in various ways to make positive changes and become more financially stable. Since 2022, the demands of his job have multiplied – with grief, fear, trauma, loss and deeper levels of poverty hitting families hard.
Sergiy said, “I see many clear signs of trauma in the families and children I’m working with. For example, every loud sound, such as distant thunder or even a book falling down, is now associated with the sound of a missile and often causes shock.
“The sounds of air raids cause fear and panic. People have become depressed, and many more people now have sleep disorders. Many find it difficult to overcome frustration and as a result, they’re under constant stress.”
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MWB began working in Ukraine over 60 years ago, with local staff supporting families and children. When war broke out all over Ukraine in February 2022, MWB’s staff were directly affected – and ready and willing to respond to the crisis by helping those in need all around them. Huge numbers of displaced people came to western Ukraine, fleeing parts of the country under direct attack. Families and elderly people endured all kinds of loss and trauma – and for many, poverty deepened as a result of the invasion.
Pavlo Melnyk is another family coordinator working for MWB. “Since the beginning of the war, there have been a lot of rocket attacks, and both adults and children have become fearful and worried,” he said. “In some of the sponsored families I support, the children, unfortunately, have started to stutter; some struggle to fall asleep at night and are crying more. There are families that couldn’t cope with that and fled abroad. Of course, those families whose family members are in the army and on the front line are living under constant pressure, and their everyday lives have changed a lot. That is very clear to see, and I notice it right away when I meet with them.”
Lyudmyla Soroka, another family coordinator, said, “The families I work with have become much more stressed and irritable, and that is very noticeable. Some are afraid of everything; some, on the other hand, ignore the danger.
“Another factor is that some people have big financial difficulties because of the war and, sadly, have become even poorer. They cannot provide for their families’ basic needs, and it makes them desperate and dispirited.
“Many people are exhausted and depressed because of hearing bad news every day. People are on edge: they are filled with negative emotions and even a little minor thing can make them cry or become very angry.
“It’s very challenging to talk to those who have lost their loved ones. Very often, they are closed off and seem to live in their own world.”