Praying hard this war will stop
"I hope the conflict will be over soon," says Riza.
The 66-year-old grandmother tells her story as she sits waiting at the RomExpo in Bucharest -- a hub for services for refugees from Ukraine.
Riza is watching her young granddaughter play at World Vision's Child-friendly Space while they wait for the girl's mom to pick up supplies for their weekly needs.
One year ago, Riza says their lives changed without warning. She says they were confident the conflict would not escalate, but at 3:00 in the morning of February 24, the bombing started near their small town in Odesa region. The family decided to leave.
Riza and five members of the family -- except for her husband and other men who were not allowed to leave the country -- walked for three days with the belongings they could carry, and reached the border where volunteers were waiting to help them.
"It was a difficult decision to leave. It is very painful. We are praying hard that this war will stop, and it will be over soon," Riza says, wiping her tears.
She says for now her biggest concern is the safety and well-being of her grandchildren. "We lived in fear while in Ukraine. We do not want them to go through the experience."
Riza has good reason to be concerned. According to a World Vision report, "a generation of children is being scarred by the war, with 1.5 million children in danger of issues including anxiety, depression and social impairment. Ukrainian parents say their biggest worry is the mental health of their children."
This is why -- along with cash, household items and hygiene supplies to Ukrainian refugees --World Vision has provided childcare services, including Child-friendly Spaces called Happy bubbles and Kids corners, like the one visited by Riza and her granddaughter at the RomExpo. More than 4,000 Ukrainian children had come to the RomExpo children's facility in the first six months after it opened.
According to Ukraine Crisis Romania/Moldova Response Director Eka Zhvania, "World Vision's commitment is to continue supporting children and their families through these difficult times."
The help has made a difference for Riza who says she is grateful for the assistance they have received from World Vision and others. Despite the struggles, she adds, "I am relieved that we are safe in Romania."