Ukrainian children living in bunkers get ‘Christmas cheer’ from UK volunteers
Children living in underground bunkers in Ukraine have experienced “a bit of Christmas cheer” after receiving presents from a group of British volunteers and being visited by an iconic child character.
On December 11, a group of independent volunteers from the UK made their way to areas in Ukraine including Irpin and Bucha to deliver gifts such as crayons, stuffed animals and clothes to children in time for Saint Nicholas Day, which falls on December 19 celebrated in Eastern Christian countries.
One of the places visited was Saltivka on the outskirts of Kharkiv, which suffered heavy rocket attacks and where children still live with their families, as well as a metro station.
Children received gifts such as chocolate, winter jackets, coloring books and sweets and even got a surprise visit from a dragon.
“My friend Jakub (Sochujko), a Polish volunteer from Cornwall but who lives in Kharkiv, dressed up in a dragon costume and entertained the children,” says Wendy Warrington, a nurse, midwife and humanitarian who organizes the visits to Ukraine , told the PA news agency.
“The kids absolutely loved it.”
“We want to spread some Christmas cheer – it won’t be world-changing, but will give the kids a little reprieve and a sense of normality for an hour or two.”
A famous child character also visited children in a bunker under a school near Kyiv.
“My friend Angie Sutcliffe from Tottington (Manchester) dressed up as Peppa Pig and [her and the other volunteers] everyone entertained the kids when the sirens went off outside and gave out presents,” she said.
Ms Warrington added that as a grandmother, seeing children’s eyes “light up” when they receive the presents is a “rewarding” experience for her.
“Christmas is the most important time for most children and seeing children means not having to worry about what is going on in Ukraine for a while and only being allowed to be a child and play with other children for this short time and keeping busy makes everything feel so valuable,” said the 56-year-old, who lives in Bury, Manchester.
“For these kids, playing in an underground bunker is becoming the norm, but it’s not normal.
“The reason I volunteered was because of my grandchildren – I wish someone out there would help them if they were in this situation.”
On December 25, the group plans to organize a Christmas party for around 300 children in Kharkiv to spread more “Christmas cheer”.