Empathy in the Ukraine refugee crisis: "We know what it means to be separated from your family" - CARE

Empathy in the Ukraine refugee crisis: "We know what it means to be separated from your family"

Arriving Ukrainians disembark the ferry across the Danube at Isaccea border crossing between Romania and Ukraine. Photo: Lucy Beck/CARE

Arriving Ukrainians disembark the ferry across the Danube at Isaccea border crossing between Romania and Ukraine. Photo: Lucy Beck/CARE

Andreeas Novacovici, a social worker and president of the YouHub Association in Romania, is partnering with CARE to respond to the Ukraine crisis. YouHub is a member of the Federation of Child Protection NGOs (FONPC), and is one of 80 members of this federation who stepped up when conflict broke out to respond to those fleeing into Romania, as well as those in need still inside Ukraine.

Andreeas Novacovici is a social worker and the president of the YouHub Association in Romania, which is a member of the Federation of Child Protection NGOs. Photo: Lucy Beck/CARE

Through FONPC, CARE will be supporting YouHub with office containers and funds to hire social workers and psychologists to work with the most vulnerable, including children, and border entry points such as Isaccea in the east of Romania.

In this short Q&A, Andreeas shares how his organization is responding to the crisis, as well as his personal background that gives him unique empathy in this tense situation.

Natasha and her son Artem, 2, hail from Ukraine's coastal Odesa region. Fleeing home due to bombing, they took a bus and ferry to arrive in Romania. Photo: Lucy Beck/CARE

How is YouHub responding to the Ukraine crisis?

When the Ukraine crisis happened, we adapted our work to help those inside Ukraine and fleeing the country. We have been able to send humanitarian aid trucks to Kyiv and Lviv, we sent over beds, medical kits and blankets and clothes that people seeking shelter now in hospitals can use after long journeys. We also sent baby kits, or ‘victory’ kits we like to call them for mothers with new babies.

At the border point in Isaccea, with CARE funding, we are planning to set up a base with containers for a permanent office for humanitarian aid coordination of all the items being sent over to Ukraine and also to register children that will need to stay in Romania for longer and need specialized items. The containers we will set up will also serve as well as a sleeping unit so that we can cover 24/7 shifts. In the big cities of Romania there is a lack of items and services coming and going as we want to help with coordination. For now, it is still very chaotic. We currently have resources for three months, and more of my colleagues will come this week – social workers, psychologists and case workers, to help support with this.

It is so important to have psychologists and specialists in child protection here working with those who are arriving and staying and providing them with psychosocial support for all the trauma they are experiencing.

We are happy we can help; we are not happy with their circumstances, of course, but from the very first hour when we saw on the news that the war started, that same night we had a meeting with the FONPC membership and we were able to set up a plan and workflow so that all needs could be covered as much as possible and as quickly as possible, and to make sure the services, social services, child protection, child participation and independence are provided for. It is so important to have psychologists and specialists in child protection here working with those who are arriving and staying and providing them with psychosocial support for all the trauma they are experiencing.

I’m happy to see dogs and cats here. It means that people are still human, that they can’t leave their ‘fur babies’ behind. It reminds me of their humanity. It is so important to be here for these people, for as long as we can, to provide them with the services they need as best we can.

Photo: Lucy Beck/CARE

What motivates to you to help?

In my organization we are all ‘care leavers’ – people who grew up in children’s institutions and orphanages – so for us it is also personal. We know what it means to be separated from your family or to be away from your home, taken by the services and being frustrated because you don’t know where you are; passing through different homes, different shelters. We know this, we went through this, and as a result we are more empathic because of this.

In my case, from the first hour of birth, I was left in the hospital. The woman who brought me to this world left, and the only item that I have from her is the birth bracelet from the hospital which had my name – Andreas – on it. The government gave me the name I have now, Novacovici, (which by the way I don’t like!). At one point I was nearly adopted by a Danish family, but this fell through. So, I grew up my entire life, until 2 years ago, in an orphanage.

I grew up my entire life, until 2 years ago, in an orphanage.

I left it when I went to study a social work master’s in the university. and now I’m waiting for an answer from the Harvard Kennedy School of Social Sciences. And hopefully I get in and I’ll be able to get my PhD there. I want to study the social situation of ‘care-leavers’ in other United Nations member countries. I want to see the different services provided to them after leaving care, compared to here in Romania; where there is really nothing. For me, getting this PhD will be so important. It is a personal goal more than an academic goal – to find out what happens to my peers all over the world. I want to study somewhere where these issues are really studied and followed and recognized as bigger societal problems, rather than hidden away.

I’m 27 years old now and for 25 years I grew up in four different institutions. This is what I meant when I say that I know what it means to be moved from one home to another; meeting new people, having trouble trusting people and learning to be assertive and develop resilience – which is something that is never taught in books!

The situation we see here is really heartbreaking and we are trying to do our best. We are so thankful for all the help, support and funds coming from abroad, and we will make sure to use these resources as best as we can. And these resources as so important because the assistance so far, a lot of which is coming from local businesses and organizations are running out, and we can’t sustain it without international assistance and support.

Related Stories

Ukrainian Exodus: refugees share their harrowing stories

Almost three million Ukrainian refugees, mostly women, children, and the elderly, have fled the country since the Feb. 24 Russian invasion. More people stream into Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Moldova with each passing day. Ukrainians have demonstrated extraordinary resilience, and neighboring countries have embraced them with a generosity not often granted. Read More

Read More

Ukraine Conflict: Soaring Food and Fuel Prices Threaten Wellbeing of Millions in East, Central, and the Horn of Africa

As the conflict in Ukraine continues, hundreds of kilometers away, communities in Africa are feeling the ripple effects. Across the East, Central, and Southern Africa Region, ordinary citizens are experiencing the initial effects even as indicators, and analysts, point to even more adverse repercussions hitting the region within the next six months. Read More

Read More

1 Month of War: 5 ways women and girls are impacted by the Ukraine conflict

One month in, the crisis in Ukraine is having a disproportionate impact on women and girls, including exploitation, abuse, and hunger. Read More

Read More