Happy ending for children of Luhansk

Mar 8, 2016

It sounds like a solid Hollywood blockbuster, except that it really happened in July 2014 in eastern Ukraine.

The life of Ekaterina Dontsova, a 50-something Luhansk orphanage principal, changed with an unexpected phone call.

“You have one hour to pack and get the children ready. We are taking them to a safe place,” said the stern metallic voice. Ekaterina made a futile attempt to explain that she needed to collect documents and pack clothing for the children. And the nurses started to scribble down the children’s names on their arms, just in case.  

 In about 40 minutes six men with Kalashnikov rifles were at the gate forcing 61 children, some of them with disabilities, into a shabby bus.

“Where are you taking us?” Ekaterina asked in tears.

“We are taking children for recreation camp. Hurry up,” said one of the gunmen.

At the Russian-Ukrainian border Ekaterina realized it was all a lie and that the children were about to be taken across the international border.

“We are not going through the border and I am not going to discuss this anymore,” she said, surprising both the men and herself with her newly-found fortitude.

Ekaterina and the children had to stay in a field for nine hours and cook porridge on an open fire, which was all the food they had. “I don’t know why, but somehow I wasn’t scared. I was just very worried about the children. We just prayed. There was not much we could do.” She managed to make a call to the Ukrainian Ombudsman and ask for urgent help. The situation was resolved through official channels and this story has a happy ending.

Ekaterina and all the children are safe now in Severodonetsk. It is hard for Ekaterina to conceal her joy while showing off the newly renovated rooms hosting the 50 children evacuated from the conflict zone. When all renovations have been completed, 50  more children will have a new home.

“You can see pine trees through the windows here. The air is so fresh and clean. It’s like a resort!” exclaimed Ekaterina with a big smile on her face.

Overall, in 2015 UNDP in partnership with EU and the Government of Japan restored around 50 critically important social care facilities in Donbass benefiting more than 200,000 people. Among them, there are residential care and rehabilitation facilities for people with disabilities and the elderly, kindergartens, hospitals and schools.

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