The walls of the playroom at the Palanca border post between Moldova and Ukraine are covered with children’s drawings. Among the sea of hearts and Ukrainian flags, one image stands out: an elephant floating above a Russian tank.
Embedded in a pink sharpie, the work is signed “Vanya, 12 years old”.
“He drew himself as an elephant and said if he was an elephant he could destroy the tank by stepping on it,” said Diana Negru, a psychologist who works at the Blue Dot refugee assistance center in the city. UNICEF in Palanca.
Vanya, her mother and two siblings escaped from Kherson, a city in southern Ukraine that has seen heavy fighting since the start of the war and is now under Russian control.
When Negru met the family, they were on their way to Germany. Vanya’s father stayed to fight.
A Russian tank destroyed half of her family’s house and Vanya saw it all. He saw his grandmother die,” Negru told CNN.
Like many children who walk through her door, Vanya needed urgent care. He couldn’t breathe, his eyes were moving and he was very emotional, Negru said.
“Some children are traumatized, they react to the slightest noise. If the door closes, they get scared and aggressive, so we have to calm them down, try to focus their eyes, use breathing techniques to help them,” Negru explained.
The team of psychologists, social workers and therapists have limited time with each family. Le Point Bleu provides information to refugees and helps them on their subsequent journey, but it is not an accommodation structure.
At the time of CNN’s visit on Wednesday, a few families were waiting in the center for buses to take them to Germany. A little girl was in the playroom, stacking bricks on a toy truck, assisted by a therapist.
A bus carrying 70 refugees from southern Ukraine was on its way to the border and relief point workers were rushing to prepare meals and ensure the center was ready.
Sometimes several buses arrive at the same time, with hundreds of people needing help at the same time.
“It’s not full therapy, we only have maybe 20 minutes with the kid, so the goal is to stabilize him and calm him down,” Negru said.
“We are just showing them that they are now in a place where it is safe.”