From Odessa to Bucharest, the journey of Ukrainian orphans

From Odessa to Bucharest, the journey of Ukrainian orphans


All the innocence in the world is reflected in Victoria Ruslanovna’s eyes. This one-year-old and seven-month-old girl and her mother, Irina Igorevna, took refuge in the reception center for abandoned women and children in the 3rd arrondissement of Bucharest, the capital of Romania. They arrived in early March from Odessa, the largest port city in southern Ukraine, threatened by Vladimir Putin’s expansionist aims. “I lived with my daughter at Stitch Dodomu Center [« le chemin vers la maison »] of Odessa, explains the mother, who is 32 years old. Then the war started and we were told to leave. I put everything I could in a suitcase, took my daughter in my arms, and got on a bus. »

Irina Igorevna, 32, and her daughter, Victoria, at the Center for Abandoned Women and Children in Bucharest, Romania, May 19, 2022.

Twelve other children and another young mother ended up on the same small bus. A departure to the unknown for those who had never left this home, which welcomes abandoned children and abused and raped women. A journey of more than 500 kilometers, with no certainty about what awaited them. “I remember a long journey, I felt like we were going to the end of the world,” Irina remembers.

The small group of war-torn orphans had only meager belongings, a small suitcase, a bag for everyone, and their birth certificate. Nothing else. No escort. A driver drove them across the southern border of Moldova, a small country of 2.7 million people nestled between Ukraine and Romania, to the Purcari wine estate. . Welcomed by the latter’s employees, moved by the small disoriented group, the children, aged 1 to 16, and the two young women, quickly left, this time for Romania. “I knew Romania was a country, but I didn’t know where it was.” confides Irina.

Mihaela Ungureanu, Head of the Directorate for Social Welfare and Child Welfare of the 3rd District of Bucharest, May 19, 2022.

“They arrived on March 3, at 3 a.m., and we were there to greet them. explains Mihaela Ungureanu, Head of the Social Welfare and Child Welfare Directorate of the 3rd District of Bucharest. Since the beginning of the war, we have received 3,500 refugees. » In this half-millionth district, which has several refugee reception centers, the Unirea Center (“Union”) has been entirely reserved for Odessa orphans, to which were added a few days later. , four other children and two mothers from the same Ukrainian institution.

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