E-book app connects Ukrainian fathers with refugee kids By Reuters


© Reuters. Ukrainian household Mykhalchenko learn and hearken to Higher Time Tales, a undertaking launched for Ukrainian kids who’re seperated from their households in Rotterdam, Netherlands October 25, 2022. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw


By Stephanie van den Berg

ROTTERDAM (Reuters) – When Ruslan Mykhalchenko leaves his household within the Netherlands to return dwelling to Ukraine subsequent week, one of many issues he’ll miss most is studying his 5-year-old daughter Olivia a bedtime story.

It is a harsh actuality for Mykhalchenko and numerous Ukrainian fathers who’ve been separated from their households by the conflict with Russia, now coming into a ninth month.

Martial regulation in Ukraine prevents males aged between 18 and 60 leaving the nation. Mykhalchenko, who works with an NGO in Ukraine, was capable of snatch a while along with his refugee household this week within the Netherlands whereas accumulating an help supply.

Now, an audiobook app, “Higher Time Tales”, makes it attainable for Olivia to listen to her dad’s voice when she goes to sleep at night time, even once they’re aside.

The app, which is funded by donations, presents 5 titles chosen to assist kids course of the trauma of conflict and is aimed toward children from 3 to 7 years previous.

Mykhalchenko, 41, recorded himself studying Olivia’s new favorite e-book, “101 Lighthouses”, a few father who counts lighthouses along with his son to assist him go to sleep.

“This e-book could be very particular to me, as a result of (Olivia) is much from me, from my coronary heart,” Ruslan mentioned, as he struggled to comprise his emotion throughout a current reunion in Rotterdam.

The interactive books include a QRcode that, when scanned or tapped, opens an app with an audiobook model. The app additionally permits households to ship a hyperlink in order that fathers can document their very own audio model, which then seems within the app.

Fathers can see the image books on-line and document their audio web page by web page. If undesirable noises like air-raid alarms disturb their studying, they’ll re-record sections.

The story app was created by Andriy Shmyhelskyy, an Amsterdam-based social tech entrepreneur initially from Ukraine. Shmyhelskyy, who has lived within the Netherlands since 2014, needed to assist refugee households keep linked with males who stayed behind in Ukraine.

“I needed books that may assist mom and little one to work collectively and thru this emotional misery (of) what’s principally a separation,” he advised Reuters.

In response to the United Nations refugee company UNHCR, 90 p.c of the greater than 7 million refugees from Ukraine are girls and kids. In a current UNHCR survey, greater than three-quarters of all refugees questioned mentioned they’d suffered a household separation.

Packages with 5 bilingual books in Ukrainian and Dutch, or Ukrainian and German, might be requested by refugee households from the Higher Time Tales web site.

Utilizing donations obtained since late September, round 1,000 orders have been accepted within the Netherlands, of which 200 have already been delivered. Shipments for the German language model haven’t began but, Shmyhelskyy mentioned.

The mailed bundle, which incorporates all 5 books to accompany the app, prices 15 euros.

Yulia Bilan, a mom of two sons, is eight months pregnant and has been residing as a single guardian in The Hague for the reason that conflict broke out. Her husband stays in Bucha, close to Kyiv.

Her boys Ilja, 10, and Pasha, 11, are a too previous for image books however had been glad to obtain their first Ukrainian books in months, which they’re studying to their unborn sister.

The books are serving to her household course of troublesome feelings, Bilan mentioned, as her son Pasha confirmed guests his favorite, a e-book referred to as “The Day Conflict Got here To Rondo”.

Mykhalchenko mentioned he’ll savor studying to Olivia till he drives again to Ukraine subsequent week, forsaking his spouse, 37-year-old Alla. He lives in Mykolaiv, a metropolis close to the Black Sea that’s the goal of frequent Russian missile assaults.

Alla mentioned the audiobooks her husband recorded have helped her really feel much less alone.

“Earlier than we go to sleep we hearken to his voice and go to sleep extra secure, extra quiet,” she mentioned.

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