“You are so young”: residents of a Ukrainian orphanage flee to safety

Refugees fleeing the Russian invasion wait for transit in Lviv
A group of children evacuated from an orphanage in Zaporizhzhia wait to board a bus for their transfer to Poland after fleeing the ongoing Russian invasion at the main train station in Lviv, Ukraine, March 5, 2022. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

March 6, 2022

By Andrew RC Marshall

LVIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – More than 200 children evacuated from an orphanage in Ukraine’s conflict zone arrived with their carers in the western city of Lviv on Saturday after a 24-hour train journey.

The 215 children, ranging from toddlers to teenagers, left their orphanage in Zaporizhzhia, southeast Ukraine, on the day Russian troops attacked a nearby nuclear power plant.

“My heart is being torn apart,” said Olha Kucher, director of the Zaporizhzhia Central Christian Orphanage. Then she started sobbing. “I’m sorry . . . I just can’t find the words. And I feel so sorry for these children. They are so young.”

As night fell and the temperature dropped, the children waited patiently on a platform at Lvov station, the older ones tended to the young ones while the orphanage staff carefully counted them all.

The little ones clutched cuddly toys. None of the children cried or complained.

Vladimir Kovtun, 16, said he now feels safe. “It’s scary staying in Zaporizhia when air raid sirens go off and we have to hide in the basement all the time.”

With big eyes and hand in hand, the children were led through a counter area crowded with other Ukrainians. According to Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovy, more than 65,000 refugees passed through the station on Friday alone.

Then, when it began to snow, the children boarded a fleet of buses bound for their new home in neighboring Poland.

It would be several hours before they crossed the border. For Kucher, the director of the orphanage, the prospect of safety for her children after such a tiring journey triggered a mixture of emotions: sadness, relief and anger.

“We don’t want to leave Ukraine – we love it,” she said. “But unfortunately we have to go.”

As the last of the children climbed onto the buses, Kucher added: “Putin just kills people. . . I don’t understand why the Russian people can’t believe that we are being bombed – that we and our children are being killed.”

(Reporting by Andrew RC Marshall; Editing by Kim Coghill) “You are so young”: residents of a Ukrainian orphanage flee to safety

Bobby Allyn

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