Skip to page content

Interview with Angela Sincovici


Interview with Angela Sincovici

Angela Sincovici is a psychologist with 35 years’ experience working with both children and adults. 

Over the last seven years she’s held various positions within the Psycho-pedagogical Assistance Service (PPAS) in Moldova, which Lumos helped to set up as part of our work implementing childcare reform and inclusive educationin the country. While with PPAS, Angela has been involved in the evaluation of children with special educational needs and children with disabilities as part of the multidisciplinary team that assesses children and provides recommendations regarding their education. She also provides support to parents, focusing on their mental health and wellbeing. 

Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Angela has been working with Lumos as part of our emergency response to provide psycho-social support to children and adult refugees arriving in Moldova.

We spoke to Angela about her work and why psychological support for those affected by the war is so crucial.

Why is it so important for children to stay with family in this crisis?

Being with family in this kind of crisis is very importantfor children, and helps ensure emotional attachment. The long-lasting effect of this attachment is reflected in the development of the child’s social integration skills, in the building of their identities and inthe organisation of the child’s internal information processing system. The importance of a child staying with their family cannot be underestimated.

What concerns you about the wellbeing of children in this crisis?

In addition to the psychological trauma of exposure to war, there is also the stress of being in a combat zone. This type of stress can lead to insomnia, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Children who witness war are also more likely to demonstrate aggressive behaviour and to have difficulties with socialising and learning.

Adolescents are also at increased risk of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal behaviour, self-harm and alcohol and drug abuse.

Can you tell us about how this crisis is impacting children you’re working with?

I’ve noticed that many of these children cannot totally relax, even now they are here in relative safety in Moldova. I’ve met children deeply traumatised by the sounds of sirens and bombardments who live in permanent fear.

One child cried all the time, another child tried to injure himself during our sessions because of the stress he was experiencing, another child started to vomit every time he tried to speak.

Not all children are able to speak about their experiences or feelings. In most of these cases they had to learn, with our help, to rest, to relax, to feel good and to adjust to the situation they now find themselves in. We’ve been getting them involved in various activities that helps them to express themselves. We help them to gain some confidence back, and we help them to understand that now they are in a safe place, protected from the violence.

How does this crisis compare to other crises in terms of its impact on children and their wellbeing?

The current situation is something none of us could have ever imagined happening. And because of this, the negative consequences are the worst imaginable. Children have shown severe signs of trauma. In general, the war has a greater impact on them than on adults. Seeing how the world they’ve lived in is collapsing, seeing their parents suffering, being forced to abandon their favourite toys, their schools, to separate from their friends and, often, from their families is too much for their little bodies and brains. As a result, they might become more aggressive, nervous, anxious, scared - and all this leads to fits of anger and disobedience, emotional instability, sadness and feeling dejected.

Also - and this is even more dangerous – there are cases where children have just “frozen” in their emotions, their feelings. Those around these children are surprised when these children don’t show any emotions - even, for example, at the news that close relatives have been killed in the war.

Are there particular groups of children that are especially vulnerable?

The most vulnerable children are those with hearing issues. Although I know sign language, it is very difficult to have a proper intervention and to provide the most appropriate response to their needs. Other groups that are particularly vulnerable are children with autism, who perceive change as danger, and Roma children, who are struggling to adapt to a new environment, rules, language and routine.

What other challenges have you faced when working with refugees from Ukraine?

I started working with children and adults from Ukraine in the first few days when refugees began arriving in Moldova. I noticed that mothers, despite being under huge stress themselves, were trying to protect their children from any information about the war. This actually made my work somewhat difficult and I had to carefully choose which words to use when speaking to the children.

What should a host family think about in order to best support a refugee child or family?

This is a very important psychological moment. Even when families are open and willing to help refugees, they need to be aware of their psychological state. The host families have to be ready to accept other people in their house, to change their usual routine, to respect differences in terms of religious beliefs, political opinions, culture customs and individual particularities of those they are hosting.Communities should organise activities to promote inclusiveness and tolerance to ensure the successful integration of refugees. Doing so will help the host families to not only physically open their doors to refugees, but also, on a psychological level, open their souls to them.

What sort of impact could hosting a refugee family or child have on children in the host family?

Hosting a refugee child or family might teach them how to share, to accept diversity and to practise empathy. They might have a better appreciation of peace and they may learn to feel grateful for what they have.

How long-lasting could trauma experienced during this crisis be for a child? How could it impact their future?

Everything that happens to us throughout our life has its place in our short or long-term memory. Right now, refugee children are encountering a number of issues relating to how they must adapt to a new reality. The violence and suffering they’ve witnessed or experience themselves will have a profound and long-lasting impact on Ukrainian children. The extent of the effects of this trauma cannot be predicted. However, we can say with certainty that these experiences will stay with them for the rest of their lives. It’s one of our duties to provide emotional support to these children, and to help them to overcome these difficulties so that the negative impacts are at least minimised.

You can support our work to help these children and families in Ukraine and Moldova by donating to our Ukraine Appeal below. 100% of your donation goes directly to our project work.