Ukraine’s Other Front Line

Defending the Future of Ukraine One Child at a Time With Trauma Healing & Hope


Posted By
Abigail S. Widynski
Posted On

“Tell me one thing you love,” I asked a smart, fidgety group of children at a special school in the shielded western part of Ukraine. They were all eyeing the juice and Roshen chocolates waiting for them after an English chat. 

“YouTube videos and American missiles,” confident seven-year-old Pasha* said in Ukrainian to the group. The adults shifted visibly in their seats, and a new conversation was quickly restarted. Yet, there was much more left unsaid that couldn’t be said.

This is the vocabulary of war, a vocabulary no adult would wish for a child. And yet, it’s reality. Just as the entire country continually adapts in the 25-month war, the next generation tries to make sense of their “now.” One-line comments, like that of Pasha, reveal a layered struggle to make sense of the once safe world, now unsafe. 

Ukraine’s 7.5 million children have joined the nearly 1.65 billion children worldwide living in countries plagued by war and conflict, as reported by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). War has long targeted the most vulnerable, and Ukraine is no different. With a shifting military frontline in the east, these children stand another frontline: the one separating the wartown present from the country’s hope of a much brighter, peace-filled future.


As an American living in Ukraine and LYNC partner, I have a front-row seat to resilience at its finest, that of children and their parents. I’ve had the life privilege of conceiving and leading LYNC’s multi-phase, multi-year trauma healing program called “Rebuilding Ukraine Now.”  Following the program’s first two phases with refugee women and children in Bautzen, Germany, we turned our gaze inside Ukraine mid-2023. Visiting IDP centers and orphanages and interviewing parents and administrators in Lviv, Uzhhorod, and Kyiv, it became abundantly clear that the invisible wounds of war, the ongoing trauma endured by the children, was an opportunity for greater mobilization of expertise and willing hearts across Ukraine.


As the groundwork was laid for phase III, entitled “Children & War: Caring for Ukraine’s Children Through Trauma Healing, Hope and Critical Care,” the mission to bring healing tools reverberated both in Ukraine and the United States, attracting your invaluable support and partnership. In Autumn 2023, LYNC launched a local partnership with the charitable foundation VAV Better Future, joining forces to host, train and graduate 42 children’s frontline workers. LYNC also successfully partnered with the leading children’s trauma curriculum developed and iterated following the Bosnian War to bring best-in-class and war context-specific expertise to these children’s workers, heroes in their own rite. 

Delivering emotional wellness tools in a war zone requires extreme agility and discernment. Even now, groups are running underground in shelters and under sirens. Our team and army of worker-leaders press forward, bearing their safety and that of the children in mind, to ensure a different type of defense for the future. I’m pleased to share what they have accomplished to dateto May 1:

  • 25 7-week trauma healing groups for children and their parents completed;
  • 276 children attended, graduated, and positively impacted;
  • 42 trained leaders deployed;
  • 16 regions in which the project operates; and
  • 10 groups are currently active, with more to come.

In conclusion, I would like to share this example of the work continuing, and hope expanding: At the conclusion of a group in the Zhytomyr region, one 11-year-old girl thanked the leaders and told them she changed a lot. They also noted a change, having known and tried to work with her for a year and a half. She struggled deeply with her emotions, trying to find her way through processing multiple traumas. However, after the leaders attended training and ran a group including herthe difference was marked. I changed on the inside, she told them. 

One child at a time. Thank you for your support. 

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