Ambassadors and representatives from over a dozen countries on Thursday morning visited the Ukrainian kindergarten established in Pyla for Ukrainian children who took refuge in Cyprus with their parents during the war with Russia.
The event was attended by ambassadors and representatives from the USA, Britain, Italy, Poland, Ukraine, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Romania, Switzerland, Finland, Australia, Germany, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
The visitors enjoyed performances by the children, followed by a guided tour of the building and a gift exchange.
“The specific space was created to help both the children who have come as refugees from Ukraine, but also their families who are mainly mothers and grandmothers,” Christodoulos Ellinas, one of the initiators of the initiative, said.
He added that there was a great need for this type of school, as mothers need to work to support their families.
“Children under five attend these schools, as it was very hard for them to immediately enter a Greek school,” he said.
Ellinas thanked “from the bottom of [his] heart” the Pyla community council and its community leader, “who was positive about the creation of this school from the first moment we asked Pyla for help”.
“They have done everything possible to restore the old police station to house the Ukrainian kindergarten,” he said, explaining that the building was being used as a police station since the British rule.
Asked whether there are other similar schools elsewhere on the island, Ellinas said that another one has been created in Paralimni, but it was easier to set up as it is operating inside an existing school.
“We embraced the idea of creating a daycare centre for refugee children from the very first moment,” Pyla community leader Simos Mitidis said.
“The main reason was that we too experienced war, and we know what it means to be a refugee, especially in a foreign country”.
He added that 12 to 20 children attend the kindergarten, saying that it is a great offering for working parents, to make sure their children can stay in one area, and read and play carefree and safely.
“The restoration of the police station cost about 60,000, and we expedited all the procedures because the children had to be housed somewhere,” he said.
“We could not give the building as it was because it needed immediate repair and was dangerous for both the children and the teachers.”
Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Cyprus, Julie Fisher, expressed her great satisfaction to be in Pyla during the first days of her assumed duties, and to see, “how Cypriots welcomed the refugees from Ukraine, especially the children and to see how they prosper here on the island”.
She also said it was a “great honour” to be at the specific venue close to the one-year anniversary since the outbreak of the war, saying that “this is a really difficult week as we think about the consequences of Russia’s inhumane war in Ukraine”.
“This kindergarten, this home for children that was made to continue developing their Ukrainian identity, is a small ray of sunshine in the fog of all this tragedy,” she said.