All sectors of the population suffer the effects of a war, however, there are certain ones that are not so visible. In this sense, different entities make sure that this does not happen.

For many years, Odesa has had a large Jewish community, which was brutally hit by Nazi Germany’s invasion of Soviet Ukraine in 1941 and which today, 81 years later, strongly refutes the Kremlin’s argument to justify the invasion of their country.

The rabbi of a Jewish community in Odesa says that, despite not wanting to take a political stance, the Jews of the main Black Sea city have lived in peace and harmony for 31 years. “Even some of the mayors Odesa has had are Jewish,” he adds.

The rabbi of a Jewish community in Odesa sitting in his office (Daniel Vázquez)

And the fact is that the president himself, Volodymyr Zelensky, is Jewish.
Indeed, his grandfather served in the Red Army to fight German Nazism during the Second World War.
He explains that because of the war, the orphanage he runs has been forced to send 200 children to Berlin to keep them away from the sirens and bombs. However, he has decided to stay, as there are a large number of Jews still living in the city and he does not want to leave them alone.

A few kilometres south of the city another orphanage is located, this time for
dependent people, for girls between the ages of 4 and 35 years old. However,
the underage girls have been forced to leave Odesa and have been relocated
to some western cities in the country. There are currently 82 girls left, while 27 have been forced to leave.

The boarding school, which has been in existence for more than 70 years, due to the start of the war has begun to make clothes for the soldiers, called
balaklavas, and Ukrainian flags which are distributed throughout the country. It is said that there are already 1,500 soldiers on the front lines wearing balaklavas, and a total of 700 flags made by the residents of this centre are displayed all over the country.

Before February 24, one of their tasks was to sew the traditional T-shirts,
Vyshyvanka in Ukrainian, and send them to a total of nine museums in the
country, even though the pandemic was already making this very difficult.

Room where Ukrainian flags, traditional clothes and balaklavas are sewed (Daniel Vázquez)

They ensure that each intern has her own specific plan, adapted to different needs and realities. They have a large team of psychologists, doctors and carers and also collaborate with a social inclusion centre. According to this, the main priority of this centre for people with different abilities is to strengthen their skills in order to guarantee them a good social insertion. Good examples of this are the different residents who now, instead of being patients, are workers of the centre itself. “Or a girl who, after spending some time with us, married a German and went to live with him, for the purpose of making her own life”, explains the director of the centre.

The several paintings on display throughout the centre are made by the residents and the aim is to show that each person is unique and different. Far from seeking remuneration for these artistic expressions, the centre offers the possibility for people to pay any amount and buy them; “2, 3 or 10 grivnas (0,30€), whatever they want,” says the director.

A patient shows her drawings (Daniel Vázquez)

They relate how the course of the war is affecting the girls noticeably and how the nerves produced by the noise of the sirens and explosions make interns’ psychotic outbreaks much more recurrent. They also explain that when sirens sound and must go to the shelter, those with a higher degree of socialisation are the ones who help in the organisation. Even so, they have been divided into different groups, each one with a guide, and the regulatory time to reach the shelter once the alarm is sounded is 7 minutes.

Residents being sent to the bomb shelter during an air-raid siren (Daniel Vázquez)

The director states that the common diagnosis is a medium mental disability. Nonetheless, the centre works to explore the different abilities to make them feel unique and with important ambitions for the future. He points out that the vast majority of the residents understand what it means to be at war, they associate it with something negative and with an external enemy. He adds that others can even understand the reasons why it has happened despite not knowing geopolitical concepts. In this sense, they have mobile devices so that they can stay connected to the world and know what is happening in their country every day.

Paintings made by the residents (Daniel Vázquez)

It is important to highlight that the reasons why each one is in this centre are very different. There are families who cannot take care of them, even girls who come for shorter periods of time. Others, due to the context of the current war, have come for alternate periods because in many cases their fathers are at the frontlines and their mothers cannot take care of them. “Here they are guaranteed five meals a day and that makes it much easier for them,” says the director.

The frequency of visits varies a lot depending on the person, he says that it is very personal, “it can be once every two weeks up to once every six months”. Leila, on the other hand, cries every three weeks when she asks for a visit from her mother and sees that she doesn’t show up. Leila has not seen her mother for more than a year.

The civilians are always those who end up suffering the harshest consequences of wars and, in many cases, the most vulnerable and minority groups are forgotten and in the shadow of a more powerful generalised misfortune. For this reason, the laudable work carried out by certain entities is of the utmost necessity and should be recognised and continuously funded.