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We are Spynka – story of Yana

This time we share a story of Yana, a mother of 3: Svitlana, 11 years old; Catheryna, 7 years old and Olexiy, 6 years old. Her youngest son is attending Spynka Day Care in Lublin. Yana is pregnant with 4th child.

Spynka (Спинка) in Ukrainian means a spine or a chair’s back, in Polish spinka correlates with connecting things together.

“I am from Kharkiv, Ukraine. I have 3 children, and we live in Lublin, Poland since March 14, 2022. The kids go to school here. My husband found a job.

I am so happy I found the Spynka day care center close to our new home. It is so good that both caregivers and the children here are from Ukraine. Children participate in different activities, they interact with their new friends, they feel safe and calm. This helps them realize that they are not alone. Communication is very important. Maybe we, adults, can do things online, in a distant mode, but children need live communication to learn and develop.

Back home, we had a small garden, I planted roses and tulips.  Now I don’t even know what’s left of it. We did not want to leave home, held on to it for several weeks, but the war did not seem to end. I didn’t want to give birth not feeling safe, it was probably what prompted the move.

When I heard about bombing of the Mariupol maternity hospital, I cried all night. In the morning, we packed a bag with household items, got into the car and drove off. We didn’t take any kitchenware, supplies, or summer clothes with us. I still remember with sadness people at the border crossing point of Ukraine and Poland, saying goodbye to their loved ones who were staying behind.

Before, I used to have different dreams – about my house, garden, small things. Now I just hope that everyone is alive and healthy, that the war ends someday. For now, the most important is to give birth safely. And then we’ll see what happens next,” says Yana.

Women and children account for more than 94% of the Ukrainian refugee population in Poland. There are insufficient spaces and trained personnel to support young children from the refugee population, particularly during the initial period of arrival.

Early Childhood Development (ECD) centers “Spynkas” have been established by UNICEF in partnership with Fundacja Rozwoju Dzieci for drop-in and daily care to provide an opportunity for children to play, interact and feel a sense of normalcy.

As of today, 36 Spynka centers are operating across all Poland to provide day-care play and learning services. To date almost 10 000 children have been reached with ECD services.

Almost all caregivers are Ukrainian refugees. Some of them are mothers of small children, so the centers offer comfortable work/life balance for them. Provision of childcare-services gives mothers the opportunity to look for employment, achieve financial independence, build self-esteem and sense of community.