“Aunty, mum cried again at night today. Maybe you can talk to her. It helped last time.”
“We spend about 15h a day in this place. We sleep 4h each and we do everything possible and impossible so that the innocent children, whose world was crushed on the 24th of February, have a chance to have a normal childhood; so that the children with speech retardation are able to open up, so that at the sound of a burst balloon they don’t hide under the tables,” says Irina, director of the non-public Kindergarten “Maleńka Kraina” in Szczecin.
The extraordinary thing about our work is that we keep meeting new, unique, crazier, even more stubborn people than we are. This is what we learn from. Dreamers who don’t have their heads in the clouds, but down on earth. “‘Maleńka Kraina’ in Szczecin is the first and so far only Ukrainian kindergarten in Poland. It was founded by Irina and Mariya, Ukrainians who came to Poland to study years ago and today are real guardian angels for their compatriots fleeing the war.
On the 24th of February they took action. They got in the car and drove to Ukraine. Against the tide, against all odds, as far away as possible, where no one dared. From Zaporozhye and other towns under Russian shelling, they pulled mothers and children out of shelters. They persuaded those who were afraid to travel into the unknown with men. They evacuated more than 300 children. They supplied children’s wards in hospitals, delivery rooms and orphanages that had been cut off from the world. They supported more than 4,500 people in this way. They returned to Szczecin and continued to help.
With unbelievable persistence, reducing the formalities to a minimum, they led to the opening of the first Ukrainian nursery school in Poland. This is not an ordinary place, ordinary children or ordinary mothers. Aware that idleness does not help Ukrainian mothers, they support them in their search for work. They look after the little ones once they have found a job. They know that the children have often been left alone, unattended. Everything here functions almost perfectly. The only thing that cannot be predicted is the mothers’ decision to return home. In order to help them make a free and appropriate choice, the children in “Maleńka Kraina” follow two curricula: Polish and Ukrainian.
Everything about this project is right for us, and we want to introduce you to it today. Irina and Mariya have already knocked on every door. With their idea ready, they asked private companies and foundations to help fund it. Finally, they wrote to us. A few days later we met in Szczecin. Everything has been calculated. We know that the functioning of “Maleńka Kraina” will be possible if we add 16 600 PLN to the monthly budget. This is the cost of employing specialists, whom a large number of traumatised children badly need. It is the necessary purchases: food, cleaning products. It is also the staff salaries necessary for the functioning of the kindergarten (e.g. cleaners) and educational materials for working with children. It is an amount that is in short supply and that we absolutely need to find. Just 40 zloty is enough to cover the cost of pre-school care for one toddler for a whole week. You can sponsor this week by visiting GoodWorks 24/7 now.
Let’s put colour back into these kids’ worlds. Let’s do everything we can to ensure that drawings of guns, blood and tanks replace the colourful dreams of children.