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A safe space in a world of turmoil

UNICEF’s 'PORUCH' - How Maryana and many Ukrainian parents like her have found psychological support in times of war.

Where will we live? Will it be safe? How will we communicate with people there? Can we make ends meet?

Every day since the war began in Ukraine, Maryana has been faced with these difficult questions. After being forced from their home and fleeing from one temporary house to the next, she and her 8-year-old son Mark finally made it to Germany where they didn’t know anyone or speak the language. 

UNICEF’s 'PORUCH' project couldn’t have come into their lives soon enough as their unfamiliar surroundings and uncertain future began to weigh on Maryana.

“When I found out about this project, I already needed psychological support. When I registered, I felt relieved. I hoped it would help me. And it did.” 

'PORUCH' offers mental health support groups facilitated by qualified psychologists for teenagers and parents whose lives have been upended by the war in Ukraine.

Looking back Maryana vividly recalls how suddenly the war started and just how quickly it turned her and her son's lives upside down.

“I wasn’t fully awake when I came to the windows, saw the blaze, and heard those horrible explosions. It was shocking. I thought I was probably sleeping because my brain didn’t realise it was reality.”


As Maryana rushed to pack their things, her son fell to the ground from the impact of the explosions. Having no idea where to take refuge, she ended up spending the first night with other women and their kids in a bomb shelter in Kiev. With space being limited Maryana’s son slept on a desk, while she lay on the floor below.

“I almost had no energy. We hadn’t been sleeping for two days and were all stressed and nervous. I didn’t understand what I had to do, where to go, what would happen to us, and how to protect my son who I’ve been raising by myself.”

Maryana decided to travel with her son to the West of Ukraine and then to Europe. She drove for 15 hours straight from Kyiv to Kam'yanets-Podilsky without stopping for food or rest.

“I was adrenalin-driven and felt no hunger or thirst. I was just holding the wheel, and felt calm because my son was next to me.”


Since then, their exhausting journey has had them stay in hotels, gyms, refugee centres, and temporary housing.

Being in a foreign country made Maryana feel lonely and anxious. She was almost crushed by homesickness in Germany because of the different language, the new temporary housing, and the lack of community.

“I felt like I had nothing to rely on – even internal support, even myself. At the same time, I realised my full responsibility for myself, my son, and my relatives.”


Maryana tried to combine work, caring for her son, and adjusting to life in Germany, but she burned out emotionally. That is until she came across the project 'PORUCH' on social media.

Psychologists and specialists work on the project to help refugees like Maryana. The mental health techniques they teach have helped her deal with stress and challenges. Furthermore, the 'PORUCH' groups have brought together other parents and young people with the same problems, which helped form a community that supports and understands each other through shared experiences. 

“For three months, I had been living without my people next to me. I wanted to listen to other Ukrainian women and how they dealt with the situation while sheltering throughout the world”

“I realised I’m not alone with my pain. And I am grateful for that,” says Maryana, who also suggests other Ukrainian parents, who’ve been displaced, should join 'PORUCH'. “I was looking for a safe place and I found it in the project.”