Inside Ukraine part 2: Children of the war

By Jason Williams
Taxpayers Association of Oregon Foundation,

Ukraine Series Background: Jason Williams first went to Ukraine in 2017 to do humanitarian work.  He returned again in May 2023 to provide food, clothing, and medicine to war victims.   This trip was not related to politics or foreign policy but a private charity trip.  His observations were shared with the Taxpayers Association of Oregon Foundation to give readers a rare insight into life, charity work and everyday realities inside a nation at war.

Our charity team visited three different orphanages to deliver foods and supplies. We talked to staff and played with the kids.

The boy (above) experienced his parents being killed in the war, and he himself was discovered desperately living in a doghouse for survival. The shell-shocked boy never spoke a single word at the orphanage. It wasn’t until much later, by accident, that someone nearby was speaking Hungarian (Ukraine borders Hungary). The boy heard the conversation and immediately began uttering words for the first time in his own native language. He not only suffered from PTSD but lived in a world where no one spoke his language. We saw the boy and are happy to report that he is laughing and thriving.

While some children live in orphanages, others are taken captive by Russians.

Yale University estimates that since the war began, 6,000 Ukrainian children have been apprehended by Russia.  The Ukrainian government says the total number is closer to 19,000.

Russia likely targets these children for assimilation since Moscow has faced a 30 year decline in population.  Nearly a half million people left Russia alone since the war began.   These children would be easier to assimilate into Russia since they share some common traditions and parts of the same language.

When parents petition the Russian government for the return of their child, Russia states the parent must come in person to collect the child. Fathers are unable to go as they are conscripted. Mothers then must make a daring lonely journey into Russia to reclaim their children. It is unsafe to travel from Ukraine into Russia as it is mostly a war zone, so these mothers must take an even longer route going through Poland and then into Russia.

Below are photos of one of the orphanages our team visited.

The orphans live in a tightly, well-organized society.


The children’s socks hang to dry in the shower, and their assigned bath sponges hang on the wall.




A hallway in one orphanage shows how their kids graduate and go on to lead happy, successful lives.   Despite setbacks, there are inspiring life changing stories happening everyday.


— Please follow this series for more installments.

Inside Ukraine part 1: What I saw