"When the war ends, I will cry. And then, I will call all my loved ones."

Anya (17) comes from Čerkasy, a city in central Ukraine. She came to Slovakia on 24 of March 2022, one month after the war broke out, to look for refuge. Due to the fact she did not understand Slovak, the first few months were very difficult for her.

Since September however, she has been studying at Stredná zdravotnícka škola in Trnava, where she has noticed positive changes. Both in and outside of the school, she is being supported by Lívia (16),  a classmate, with whom she has formed as a “buddy” in the Stand By Me programme. 

The Stand By Me programme. It is an international programme that connects young people from Ukraine with their peers in schools and communities. Its main goal is, so that young people who fled the war do not waste their potential, find friends among their Slovak peers and spend their free time meaningfully.

In Anya’s own words:

I have always wanted to attend medical school. When I was small, I used to take care of plush toys. My current goal is to become a surgeon and help people. I still have obligations in my school in Ukraine, where I am graduating next year. For that reason, I am happy that Lívia helps me with my studies here in Slovakia.

Outside of studies the girls enjoy doing extracurricular activities together. With the help of the Stand By Me programme, the girls fill out their activities in workbooks. They make plans of places they would like to visit. At the end of the school year, their plan is to create a poster from the map of all their visits together. 

Lívia, Any’s Slovak “buddy” adds:

Anya and I often talk and laugh together, in order for Anya to learn as much Slovak as possible. I help her to prepare for her subjects and we have tutoring lessons every Tuesday.

For the spring holidays, we have made a plan to visit the ruins of the Tematín castle. We will be joined by another buddy group, Mariia and Dorota. I believe, that the girls will love hiking.”

Anya loves being outside and trips in nature, so is very much looking forward to the trip:

Čarkasy is well known as a green town, we have a lot of parks and sandy beaches next to the river” says Anya. When I reach the top of the hill, I will be looking at the landscape from above. I will try to not think about anything, only perceiving the peace and beauty of the place around me.

According to Anya, Slovakia is also similar to Ukraine, in the sense that young people have similar interests.

I love to create TikTok videos, sing and play the guitar. I would like to continue to play the violin, however I left them at home. One day I will come back to it and also start playing a bass guitar.

Lívia meanwhile loves to read, especially mystery novels and horrors. She also loves to spend time with children, especially with her small cousin and would one day like to become a midwife.

The girls want to enjoy their time together and influence each other, although they know that one day their paths will diverge. Anya naturally hopes that the war will one day end.

If the war would end today, I would start crying, and then call all my loved ones.

I would come to Anya and give her a hug. For Anya it will be a relief, that it is the end. As well as for all of us, Lívia adds. 

Miloš Ondrášik, Director of the Award in Slovakia explains more about the project and why it is so transformative on the lives of young people:

According to the data of UNICEF, there are 14 000 young Ukrainians aged 14 to 24. Thanks to Stand By Me, the Award wants to connect these young people. We will help young Ukrainians to find their belonging in a new place. Through meeting up with their peers from Slovakia, they will create friendships, get to know the country, do sports together and overcome the language barrier. We believe that this complex programme will positively affect both sides. It is not only about a short-term activity, but regular meetings over the course of at least three months. Everything is happening.


The main partners of the Stand By Me programme are UNICEF and Slovenská sporiteľňa.