People Talking

For Refugee Children From Ukraine, a Safe Place to Play

As the refugee coordinator at C.A.T.T.I.A., a reception center in Brasov, Romania, Andreea Vrinceanu spends her days assisting newly arrived refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine. Every day, she sees firsthand the shock and heartbreak experienced by people forced out of their homes by violence, wondering where their loved ones are and if they are still alive. 


C.A.T.T.I.A. is part of a network of Blue Dot hubs, refugee support centers set up by UNICEF and UNHCR, in coordination with local authorities and partners, along key transit routes to help children and families in need. 


The center provides refugees who have left everything behind with temporary lodging, meals, travel information, emotional support and other services, including a cheerful playroom for children, outfitted with colorful child-size furniture, toys and art supplies.  


"Most of the time we are inclined to [think] that the children's experience is not [as] impactful as the adults, because they don't see reality with the same eyes as we see," she says. "But actually, they are the ones most hurt by these kinds of changes. They are actually suffering deep down inside."


An oasis for children in flight is "a little bit like home"


Vrinceanu describes the joy and relief the refugee children experience as they explore the play area and realize they are in a safe and welcoming space.


"That is where the magic happens, because all the kids start to know each other and start to play one with the other," she says. "The change is striking. It's happening ... only because they have access to a place and a community that makes them feel a little bit like home. Children speaking the same language and a safe space where they can play, that makes a very, very big difference."


As of April 28, 2022, more than 5.4 million people had left Ukraine, crossing the border into Poland, Moldova, Romania, Hungary and other neighboring countries in search of safety. UNICEF is scaling up its humanitarian response to meet the urgent needs of children and families as the brutal war continues.


Help UNICEF reach children and families caught in the war in Ukraine. Your contribution can make a difference. Please donate.


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Top photo: Andreea Vrinceanu, center, is the Refugee Coordinator at C.A.T.T.I.A., a reception center for newly arrived refugees in Brasov, Romania. The center is part of a network of Blue Dot refugee support hubs set up by UNICEF and UNHCR, in coordination with local authorities and partners, to meet the needs of people fleeing the war in Ukraine. © UNICEF. Video by Tong Su for UNICEF USA

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