Ганна Немирська у гуртожитку в Чернівецькій області 1

Donetsk Region

I accompanied my only son to the war and saved those who never had a real family. The story of social care teacher Hanna Nemyrska

Social care teacher Hanna Nemyrska was the only one who agreed to accompany orphans from a social dormitory from the frontline Druzhkivka in the Donetsk Region to a safer region of Ukraine. In the first weeks of a full-scale invasion, she left her family to rescue lonely children who were unprepared for the possible risks of war.

State dormitory in Druzhivka is home to young people who were brought up in boarding schools and orphanages, and after graduating from high school they have no place to live. The main task of employees of such an institution is to socialize children, teach them to live independently, earn and spend money, communicate with state and social institutions, and maintain healthy relationships with others.

But unfortunately, state orphanages in Ukraine do not prepare for war at all. And in the face of war, "state" children appear completely defenceless. So Hanna decided to help. And now he talks about this double struggle for their destinies.

Next is a direct speech by Hanna.

Nine scared teenagers who don't understand the risks of war

When the evacuation was planned in mid-March, several more employees and their families were supposed to be involved in the escort. But in the end, they all refused for various reasons. I was the only one to accompany the students. If I had refused, the students would have stayed in Druzhkivka.

At the beginning of a full-scale war, the dormitory had 19 residents. But after the first explosions, someone managed to go to a temporary family, where they lived until adulthood, someone — to an educational institution that was supposed to evacuate them separately, someone — worked in another city and decided to stay there. And eight guys and one girl had nowhere to go at all.

The youngest of my group is 18, the oldest is 22 years old. Almost all of them suffer from mental health problems and are people with disabilities, although they are not recognized as disabled. Of course, the aggravation of the situation, explosions, a long trip, and a change in the usual living conditions became additional stress for them. Now one of my students was placed in a regional specialized medical institution for treatment. The psyche could not withstand the load.

Of course, they are adults by age. But according to their state of mental development, they are frightened children, and their view of life is limited to about 15 years old. Moreover, they lived all their lives under the strict guidance of adults and never learned how to make decisions on their own. They simply did not have such an opportunity, because in state institutions they eat, sleep, walk and even go to the toilet according to the schedule and agreement. It is a fallacy to assume that these young people will somehow take care of themselves during the war. They had never even had a similar experience.

Therefore, for me, there was no question of whether they should be taken further away from the war. Because it is obvious that they are not yet able to independently assess the risks associated with the war, and cannot ensure their survival, hide in shelters, avoid shelling, simply find food during a shortage, or not get into trouble communicating with the invaders.

I boarded the train, leaving my old mother with my dog and four cats in Druzhkivka. She refused to evacuate because she was almost the only doctor in her institution, where she went by taxi every day — my mother has been using a walker for a long time due to illness. And we left.


You can play by notes or you can play by ear. Now we are intuitively looking for options for their lives.

Ганна із сином перед відправленням у навчальний центр ЗСУ

Thanks to the precise work of the Chernivtsi Regional Service for Children's affairs, it was not a trip to nowhere. The community specialists who hosted us solved a huge number of issues of resettlement and support of our pupils.

First, we ended up in a Christian camp. There were a lot of people and acceptable conditions. But, of course, it was difficult for my guys to adapt to completely unusual rules of life for them. Children from boarding schools don't always behave as one would expect of children who grew up in a religious and happy family.

Although they receive social services in our dormitory, they have the right to go anywhere without permission, because they are not prisoners, but free people. To be honest, children can use the usual "vocabulary" of their surroundings, which the Christian Center reacted sharply to. Three of them were smoking. Although the percentage of those who use tobacco at their age is hardly lower among the other categories of young people.

They tried to behave nicely. And I did my best to protect and support the children. At the same time, I continued to do what I did for them and together with them before the evacuation: I helped with communication and legal issues. We applied for the restoration of three lost passports, prepared documents for obtaining the status of Internally Displaced Persons, and established contacts with medical institutions and doctors, because all my young friends constantly need medical care and prescription drugs.

They can't handle this invasion of tasks on their own, so I'm always there. And you know, I'm not ashamed of them, even if someone considers them as insufficiently educated or well-mannered. Because they hold on despite the war, displacement, unusual conditions and the destruction of all the connections that are already difficult to establish for those who grew up without parents.

I taught everyone how to cook — now everyone has a mandatory practice. I say proudly: now everyone knows how to use electrical appliances and understands the safety rules. And most importantly, most of them have learned to help each other.

Even before the evacuation, we had a self-help group “Social Group” for those who are poorly adapted to the realities outside of state institutions. Something like Alcoholics Anonymous groups that work all over the world. And now we just constantly live within this self-help group. Some of them do not know how to buy groceries, have never used a bank card, do not know how to pay for their bus ticket or find routes to a nearby village. They help each other so that they can later live safely and productively in society. You see, you can play by notes or you can play by ear. These young people and I are intuitively looking for options for their lives.

This is my battlefield. We must help them not lose faith in themselves

Subsequently, we went to another place of stay, which was prepared by the regional authorities. At that time, my only son decided to defend me and my homeland. I cried, but I accepted his decision. And my battlefield is to protect these children who, due to the traditions of public education in institutions, are forced to be helpless. No one trusts them. They don't trust themselves.

Among my students is a guy with a disability caused by a mild form of cerebral palsy. He is well-developed mentally, knows how to communicate with officials, and knows his rights. As for me, he is best socialized in terms of contact with the authorities. But his physical limitations do not allow him to find a job, although he is constantly looking for one. He is not trusted even for things that do not require skills, because he uses only one hand and slightly limps on one leg. And because of this unrealized potential, he constantly tries to do something, because of which he would simply be noticed and heard. He does his best.

Юра займається спортом у дворі християнського табору в Романківцях Чернівецької області

There is also Oleksandra, the only girl among the guys who left with us. She also has a mental disability. She also suffers from dyslexia and poor eyesight and has to take special medication all her life. She is a full orphan from Horlivka. After graduating from vocational high school, she ended up in our dormitory, because her parents' housing remained somewhere in the occupied territory. Now it is not yet possible to send her to an independent life. Every day I teach her to plan — when and what to eat, and when to take medication. She is naive and kind, she can just give someone her disability pension. And then she lies on the bed for several days, curled up because there is nothing to eat. We just started gradually teaching her how to live in society — go to the store, count money, cook something.

This is a difficult task: explaining to people every day that the quality of our life together depends on society's willingness to accept everyone equally. Believe me, these "state children" are so afraid of letting down those who believe in them. Therefore, even during a terrible war, we must help them not to lose faith in themselves.

Євген. Допомагає в будівельних справах у місці тимчасового прихистку
Віталій. Уперше у Чернівцях. Але не в мандрах, а в евакуації

Why am I still here? I want to remain human for myself

Now, due to the displeasure of other displaced persons, our group will probably be divided. Three guys have already left for Khotyn. They're still thinking about where to put the others. Oleksandra and I stay in the dorm of the school. But I will still visit them constantly because I do not give up trying to save my adult, but helpless children. Both from war and from the destructive power of worries and threats that push people to stigmatize others. Do you ask why I am still here? I want to remain human for myself.

I understand that we all are “stretched too thin" right now. We are scared, we are far from home, and someone has already experienced enemy shelling and occupation. But I want to believe that more and more people will be able to convince you that you cannot deprive others of the right to shelter just because they seem potentially dangerous to someone.

I constantly explain that these children are also members of society. Right, they are different. They are not always pleasant in communication, they do not always make the right choice, and they are not always ready to answer for it. But this certainly does not mean that we should save from war only educated people with exemplary behaviour. Because we are strong precisely because we value every person, every Ukrainian. And so we will definitely win.

Writer: Yelyzaveta Honcharova

Photo: Yelyzaveta Honcharova

The site was created with the support of the Media Growth Agency