Ukrainian orphans begin a new life after fleeing across the country

EXCLUSIVE: Eighty five Ukrainian orphans from besieged Donetsk are put onto minibuses in the dead of night still wearing their pyjamas and driven 800 miles across the country to a new home in Lviv

  • The 85 vulnerable children were evacuated in the middle of the night to Lviv
  • Their sudden upheaval came hours after Russia launched invasion on Feb. 24 
  • Orphanage, named ‘dream’ in Ukrainian, was set up during Nazi occupation
  • MailOnline found the youngsters as they began adapting to their new lives
  • Click here for MailOnline’s liveblog with the latest updates on the Ukraine crisis

A group of Ukrainian orphans including many with special needs are rebuilding their shattered lives after being whisked away from the firing line.

The 85 vulnerable children, aged between seven and 17, were evacuated from their old home in the middle of the night just hours after Russia launched its invasion.

Dressed in pyjamas and overcoats, they were taken in a fleet of minibuses and driven 800 miles across the country to the relative safety of western Ukraine.

MailOnline found the disorientated and confused youngsters as they began adapting to their new surroundings at the Mriya orphanage in Lviv.

A group of Ukrainian orphans including many with special needs are rebuilding their shattered lives after being whisked away from the firing line. Pictured: Dedicated orphanage care worker Ruslana with Nasta aged 8 and Volodymyr aged 11

The 85 vulnerable children, aged between seven and 17, were evacuated from their old home in the middle of the night just hours after Russia launched its invasion on February 24. Pictured: Children make paper aeroplanes at the orphanage in Lviv

Dressed in pyjamas and overcoats, the children were taken in a fleet of minibuses and driven 800 miles across the country to the relative safety of western Ukraine

Pictured: The front of the Mriya orphanage in Lviv, where MailOnline found the disorientated and confused youngsters as they began adapting to their new surroundings

The orphanage named after the Ukrainian word for ‘dream’ was set up after the Second World War to care for some of the thousands of children who lost their parents during the Nazi occupation.

The sudden influx of innocent children evacuated from the war-torn Donetsk region has filled the crumbling buildings of the institution on a hillside overlooking Lviv.

MailOnline was exclusively told how the youngsters were slowly making sense of their new surroundings after being shown care and kindness by the dedicated staff.

The orphanage’s director Halyna Pyrch who is aged in her 60s, said: ‘They don’t understand anything about the war. They don’t understand why they had to leave their home and travel to the other side of Ukraine.

‘But these children are from Donetsk region, in the east of our country. They were living on the frontline. And after the Russians started to bomb schools it was not safe for them to stay.

‘So, their teachers woke them up, put them in the mini-bus and drove them to us. Many of them did not have time to get dressed. They arrived in their pyjamas with their coats on.

‘Now they live with us.

‘They are confused. Everything they have known up to now is gone. Their school, their garden, their teachers. At least they are all together.’ 

Pictured: A careworker laughs as one of the children at the Mriya oprhanage in plays with her necklace. The orphanage named after the Ukrainian word for ‘dream’ was set up after the Second World War

Pictured: Two of the children at the Lviv orphanage. One sits on the floor while watching television while the other sits on a chair looking at the camera. The facility was first set up to care for some of the thousands of children who lost their parents during the Nazi occupation

Pictured: One of the children in the Lviv orphanage peers through a door. The children were originally from the Donetsk region in the east of Ukraine

The youngsters arrived in Lviv around 48 hours after the Russian tanks crossed the border into the Donbas region around Donetsk which had its independence recognised by Russia’s president Vladimir Putin last month.

They were accompanied and cared for by their teachers on the 24-hour mercy trip across Ukraine as the country was plunged into chaos around them.

The children, many of them incontinent, are now packed into dormitories and sleep in bunk beds. Meal times are chaotic and lessons have put on hold for the time being.

Their old teachers spent a few days helping them to settle in, but have now returned to Donetsk to look after their own children.

Pictured: Director Halyna Prych in a photograph with child in her care

Nasta (right) aged 8 and Volodymyr (left) aged 11 at the Mriya orphanage in Lviv

Ms Pyrch explained: ‘The teachers from Donetsk made sure the children were safe and then returned home. They could not stay. They had to be with their own families at this dangerous time.

‘So now they are our children. We will look after them. But we know very little about them. 

‘There are no medical records, no school reports, no IDs. Only their birth certificates.

‘They have many problems. Most have disabilities – mental and physical.

‘Donetsk region has many difficulties and the children received only the essentials.

‘Here they cannot believe that if they ask for more food, they can have it.

‘Here we have more for them, but it is not enough.

‘We want to give them everything they need to lead the best life they can.’

MailOnline found the older children at the orphanage watching a film at full volume in the assembly hall.

Meanwhile the younger ones were drawing pictures, and enjoying a bit of rough and tumble downstairs.

But the war is never far from their fragile minds.

Egor, eight, proudly displayed his picture of a tank.

The sudden influx of innocent children evacuated from the war-torn Donetsk region has filled the crumbling buildings of the institution on a hillside overlooking Lviv. Pictured: Bunkbeds are seen at the children’s orphanage in Lviv

Hundreds of other Ukrainian orphans from conflict zones around the country have been evacuated since Putin launched his invasion. Pictured: Care worker Ruslana with Nasta, aged 8

Like many of his friends, he cannot explain where he saw it, what it means and what will happen if a real-life tank rolls up to the gates of the orphanage.

Hundreds of other Ukrainian orphans from conflict zones around the country have been evacuated since Putin launched his invasion

Many have left for Poland after escaping the fighting in southern Ukraine, while others have been given sanctuary in Israel.

They included a group of 215 children who spent 24 hours on a train after escaping from their orphanage in Zaporizhzhia on the day that the Russians attacked the city’s nuclear power station last week.

The group arrived in Lviv, before travelling on to Poland which has thrown open its borders to welcome more than one million refugees from Ukraine.

A charity set up by Scottish football fans after a European match 17 years ago is also attempting to evacuate almost 80 orphans.

Hibernian FC supporters were inspired to launch the charity called Dnipro Kids after organising a collection for local children in the city before a UEFA Cup match in September 2005.

The Russian invasion has led the charity to focus on helping orphans flee the conflict.

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