Victoria, now seventeen, left her native Ukraine shortly after the Russian invasion. Together with other children who also grow up without parents, she sought refuge in Romania. She talks about her journey and about her life at the moment.
'I came here in March 2022. The reason was simple: the war. It was too dangerous near the school where I lived. Every night we heard the sirens, but there was nowhere to hide. My teachers told me, ‘You have to get out of here. You can go abroad. Do you want that?' I agreed. If I had known then that it would take so long, I might have made a different decision.'
Rushing to get away safely, Victoria didn't have time to prepare for her journey. 'I only packed for a month,' she says. 'My hope was that I would go to Poland. A number of friends from school ended up there. But for me it became Romania. Together with seventeen other children from the Odessa area, whom I did not know yet.'
Victoria stays in the centre of Bucharest now. Although she is safe, she tells us life is not always easy. 'I am studying to become a nurse and my lessons are online. But since it is a medical profession, I actually need practical training. After my nurse qualification, I would like to continue studying to become a doctor if possible. I like to help others, so I might as well become a police officer.'
To get through this difficult time, Victoria talks to a psychologist regularly. She also followed creative therapy. 'Yet the trips and the activities organised by volunteers are the best,' she says. 'We have been to many places in Romania - in the mountains, to the coast, in museums. Volunteers teach us Romanian and organise sports tournaments.'
'It's nice to see and experience other things outside of this centre. And to talk to people other than my fellow students online and the small group I came with from Odessa. It helps me to relax. Although I keep hoping that I can return to Ukraine soon.'