Special mission for Ukrainian orphans

On 9 August 2022, SEM participated in the evacuation of 36 Ukrainian children whose orphanage in Mariupol had been completely destroyed by the war. These were orphans, but also minors who had been placed there for protection. The youngest were only a few months old, the oldest not quite six years old. After an arduous journey from Lviv, where they had been temporarily housed, the children and their Ukrainian carers arrived in Poland. A specially chartered flight was waiting for them in Krakow to fly them to Switzerland.


Setting up this operation was not an easy task. It took weeks of organisation, the tireless efforts of volunteers, and the involvement of federal and cantonal authorities to ensure that it ran smoothly. While the transport was financed by private donations, the operation itself was carried out at the request of the Ukrainian government through its embassy in Bern.

SEM was able to take part in this mission in order to make sure that it was carried out successfully by coordinating with the relevant authorities, authorising the children's entry, granting them protection status S and ensuring that they were all registered in parallel with the Ukrainian consulate in Switzerland.


The canton of Vaud has since taken over: the children found refuge in Pompaples, in a former nursing home converted for their needs. In the meantime, other children of the same age have joined them. These children, who came from another Ukrainian orphanage, had previously been housed elsewhere in the canton of Vaud. Today, around sixty children live here, together with approximately fifty professional carers from Vaud and Ukraine.

At the beginning, one of the big challenges was to give the children new points of reference. The evacuation had been very difficult for many children, some of whom are physically or mentally handicapped and require special care. And while the focus was on providing them with shelter, as the war drags on the emphasis has now moved to integration.

One of the priorities is to encourage the children and the Ukrainian carers to learn French. Another issue is the opening of two special classes within the home to enable those children with special needs to attend school. For the time being, no one can say when they will be able to return home.