Children Learn to Grieve
The most ordinary children gathered at Gen.Camp. They talk, laugh, cry, and wait for the Tooth Fairy. But each of them looked death in the eyes and lost a parent. All of them are living witnesses of atrocities and crimes against the Ukrainian people.
Meet 15-year-old Yegor from Kharkiv.
Soon after the beginning of the invasion, Yegor, his sister and their dad went out to get some food. The father sent his children to cross the road at a pedestrian crossing, but he ran straight ahead. At that moment, the shelling began. When the children reached the body of their dad, he lay motionless, mutilated.
“At first, due to trauma, Yegor refused to speak. Now the kid is trying to communicate with peers, but he doesn’t talk yet. In the camp, he learns how to show his emotions again,” says Oksana Lebedeva, founder of the Gen.Ukrainian Organization, who brought children together in this camp.
Meet 13-year-old Anya from Odesa Region.
“We had an apartment overlooking the sea,” says Anya. On the evening of June 30, 2022, a Russian rocket hit the high-rise building where Anya lived with her parents.
“There was a supporting wall between the kitchen and the corridor, where my parents put me when the air raid sirens started. Mom went to pick up her orchids, and dad to turn off the TV. They didn’t come back,” the girl recalls.
The rocket hit an entrance to the building next to a hardware store. “My godmother told me that people came out of this store alive—a pregnant woman and a 5-year-old child. But we lived further away from the explosion. I can’t understand how it could be: they survived, and in my family, I was the only one left alive”. Anya’s face is full of emotions: anger, indignation.
“Children are angry at their parents who died at the front: why did he leave us and lose his life, and someone is still living at home? The slogan ‘heroes do not die’ is not for these children. Their heroes died,” explains Oksana Lebedeva. She adds that this also occurs when parents get killed while saving their children.
“The main goal of the camp is for children to accept all their emotions. They learn to grieve and experience the loss in order to return to a normal life. Children must live to the fullest so that their parents’ sacrifice is not in vain.”
By Victoria Andreeva. 5/12/2023. Translated and abridged by Alla Mantsur-Shane