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At the suggestion of her mother's friend, I came to the camp in early summer, together with my younger sister. I did not expect it to be awesome. It's not quite a camp. The training sessions that are held here help to get closer to people. When I saw the people in my group, I thought first that I would not be able to communicate with those teenagers because they seemed too mature and remote. But right after we started communicating during the training sessions, I realized that they were already close to me, maybe not as much as I would like, but I found many friends among them. I came home happy. Unfortunately, I cannot take the programme once again. I really missed the time I was there. So when I was offered to be a peer-to-peer trainer, I was delighted. During that shift, the fourth, I met some people who were on the first shift. And now, we are a team of peer-to-peer trainers. It is not easy to conduct the training sessions because it should not be a lecture but something that will serve as inspiration for those who came here.

Maria with team of peer-to-peer trainers © UNFPA Ukraine
Maria with a team of peer-to-peer trainers © UNFPA Ukraine


I am an instructor for the youngest group, 14 and 15 years old. At first, those children all kept silent. But in a few weeks, the situation changed. Now I know a lot of stories of teenagers from the regions scorched by the war in Ukraine. And it did influence my choice of profession. Now I am even more sure that I want to be a military psychologist and will enter an educational institution in Odessa. This is what I promised my dad, who died in the war during the liberation of Snake Island in May 2022.





My dad was the best. He was a real hero. We used to live in Crimea, in the town of Saky, near Novofedorivka. But in 2014, when the peninsula was occupied by Russian troops, my dad made a decision – he couldn't be a traitor. He took out people and equipment from Crimea and continued his service. Our family moved to Mykolaiv. My mother is also in the military. I remember the morning of February 24. The day before, together with my classmates, I was working on an important project until late at night. At 5 a.m. my mother woke me up and said that a war had broken out, and my documents were on the table. When an air raid sirens sound, you must take documents and go down to the bomb shelter. On the first day, I felt scared, but when my mom came home after the service, I knew everything would be fine. I began to adapt to the situation.

Maria with her father ©Maria Bedzay


Maria while holding training © UNFPA Ukraine

Before that, my dad had already moved to Odessa to carry out combat missions. He came back to Mykolaiv once to wish me a happy birthday. And even fulfilled my cherished dream – to have a kitten. Now I am in charge of a little creature that, at this moment, is far away. And I am also responsible for my mother, who took my father’s death very hard. He died when the helicopter with the Ukrainian military was flying to the island that had already been liberated. But the copter came under fire, and dad was gone. Knowing that he is not with us – hurts a lot. I remember the day when my dad died. We were at our summer cottage, and everything was fine. And then we got a phone call and were told that my father had died. On July 20, 2022, Dad would have turned 50, and he was going to retire. He had a lot of plans about refurbishing this summer cottage. Now that won't happen. But now, after the training, I am sure everything will be fine.

Although Mykolaiv still suffers shelling and bombardment, I will not leave it. I must support my mother.

I want to wish all my peers not to crawl into their shells. I cried my eyes out during the first three days in the camp. And I had a chance to talk and get it off my chest. So I want to advise all my peers - find someone who will listen to you and understand that all your problems can be solved. Don't be afraid of this experience. You must believe that there are many good people around you. And my camp experience convinced me of that.


Maria Bedzay