More than 5 million Ukrainian children have been displaced by the war. About half of them travel abroad, sometimes without parents. Singer Laura Janssen was in Poland last week to help boarding school children in the crisis.
In Ukraine, 100,000 children live in schools and boarding institutions without their parents. Half of these children have a disability. Since children often have a guardian or family, it is very difficult to transport such children to neighboring countries. They may also only be moved in groups. Laura says 2,000 of these children now reside in Poland.
Singer and stage maker Laura Jansen currently lives in Berlin. I moved there after helping refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos for 2.5 years. She has been in Poland for the past few days with The Flying Seagull Project, an organization that helps children in crises around the world through dance, singing and theater.
Laura recently traveled through Poland to trace the path that people and children take, to see where they end up and map out their vulnerabilities. With the organization, Laura focused primarily on institutionalized children, who therefore live in a boarding school and can only be taken in groups.
Tucked away in boarding schools
“The care of these children in boarding schools is not covered by the EU level of protection,” she says. “It’s about children with disabilities or poor health. They are usually taken out of their homes.”
“1.5 percent of all children in Ukraine live in an institution, which includes more than 100,000 children. They are not necessarily orphans, 92 percent of these children have parents, but they are children with disorders, for example from birth. About Roma and Sinti children those in institutions.
Laura Janssen recounts what she lived in Poland as she took care of boarding school children
Abuse and abuse
Laura, who has met many of these children recently, says that these children were already traumatized before the war. “They are targets of human smuggling, exploitation and human trafficking. They have been through trauma their whole lives. There is a lot of abuse and abuse.”
It also says that children in Ukraine do not receive individual care. “It’s about 600 to 800 children with very few caregivers.” At the start of the war, there were “many cowboy drives by individuals who took hundreds of children away when parents were unable to look after them,” she said. “War throws blind spots. This should not disappear from our view.”
Since the war, children have been dispersed from these institutions in neighboring countries. Poland now has about 2,000, spread over 7 locations. “They get basic care, but that’s it,” says Laura. She says these children in Poland are better protected than in Ukraine.
“There are protocols in Poland to protect them. For example, I can’t just go in, which I think makes a lot of sense.” I’ve talked a lot with people from organizations where these children are now being cared for, to find out what’s needed. “I played and talked a lot with the children. They are very stiff, pale, and afraid of loud noises.”
Laura hopes to develop a structural plan with The Flying Seagull in the coming weeks and months. “So that they can intervene for a very long time and very structurally, with safety on top.”
In addition, Laura hopes that children from Afghanistan and Syria, who are being sent back along the same Polish border, will also be taken care of. “This is inhumane. These children often flee the same Russian attacks. I hope this will be a moment when the solidarity and openness of our society means that we are doing this for everyone.”
She has experience receiving refugees and providing them with assistance. After touring with Armin van Buuren in 2015, Laura left for the Greek island of Lesvos to help refugees. It was supposed to provide assistance for ten days, but it turned out to be a period of 2.5 years.
She was totally exhausted after that. She decided to move to Berlin, where she was mainly occupied with recovery and where she was working on a new album. She also wrote the book “We Saw a Light” about her experience on Lesvos. “Now I divide my time between helping the refugees who arrive here in Berlin and providing assistance in Poland.” Laura hopes to visit Poland often in the coming months.