It’s much more horrifying than when I see it on TV because it directly affects you, on a personal level.
Marcel from the Lumos Moldova team shares some reflections of the war in Ukraine, including his hopes and fears, and why Lumos' support is so crucial for refugee families seeking safety in his country.
Monday 10th October
On Monday last week, I woke up to the news that there were rockets flying over Moldova. It was very frightening. For me it was doubly frightening, as the rockets flew over the district in which my parents live. I started thinking - what if something happens, what if a rocket falls on their city? Of course, I’m very aware that there are people suffering missile strikes in Ukrainian cities, but this immediately made it more personal and harder, and it scared us.
I spoke to my parents on the phone and visited them later in the week. I don’t want them to get too stressed, and did my best to calm them down, although I myself do not feel very calm. At first I thought about moving my parents closer to me, so that we can stay together, should anything happen.
Life in Moldova
Since the war started, life has become more stressful. It has changed life in Ukraine of course, but it’s also changed life in Moldova, whether it’s the huge number of refugees entering the country, or the rockets and missiles passing overhead.
Every loud sound right now makes you wonder – is that a bomb or something else? When I hear sirens in the city, I think maybe that’s an ambulance, but is it for a regular medical condition, or did something bad happen? It’s a constant stress.
When the refugees started to arrive in Moldova from Ukraine, it was sad to see them leaving their country, their houses, their belongings, seeking places to hide from the war. They did not have time to prepare and many have no family or friends here. They came not knowing what to expect – you just drove and stopped wherever you were and asked about somewhere to stay.
The support Lumos gives is so important, especially the psychosocial support to children. When you’re a child you usually feel secure because you have parents who you trust to take care of you. But it’s a huge stress to leave your favourite toy behind, to leave your friends, to not know where you are going and what you are going to do. Lumos is working to make this transition a bit easier by providing them with support, to give them food and other essential items, helping parents to enrol their children in school, making sure they have devices that connect to the internet so they can engage in online learning, or connecting them with assistance from the local authorities.
We’re also continuing to train local specialists on how to support refugees as it’s a new experience, hosting refugees here in Moldova. And we ourselves are learning, every day there’s something new to learn.
I’ve seen so much footage on the TV about refugees from elsewhere, for example African refugees crossing the Mediterranean. Now I’m witnessing it myself. It’s much more horrifying than when I see it on TV because it directly affects you, on a personal level.
I am proud of the population of Moldova, who opened their hearts and houses to help strangers, sharing with refugees everything that they have.
Looking to the future
The biggest problem is that we don’t know what’s ahead; what can happen in an hour, a day, a week. Nobody knew when we went to bed that Sunday night that we would wake up to a rocket flying over our country. These things are unpredictable, and this uncertainty piles on top of all the other concerns we have right now – the energy crisis, prices increasing everywhere. It all accumulates and has a deep impact on our psychological health.
Even if we don’t feel it right now, these worries settle somewhere in the back of your mind, in your shoulders, and on your family. It raises tensions even in close relationships, you might overreact to your child misbehaving, for example. It impacts our work. You see everywhere in the streets that people have withdrawn deeply into their thoughts. You don’t see too many smiling faces these days – everyone has his or her worries.
As for me, my family have plans in place if we need to leave suddenly – we have a few friends and relatives across Europe who would welcome us – but we very much hope this will not be needed. We very much hope the war will end soon, and that all refugee families and children will be able to go back home, reunite and get back to the life they used to have before the war - although obviously, it’s not going to be the same as it was.