Breaking the Ice: Reducing Conflict for Ukrainian Children

Footage from Olga Dolinina,

Anchor: Safiya Songhai

Nearly 1.6 million people are internally displaced after years of war in the Ukraine, and just over half of them are families with children. Ukrainian hockey ambassador Olga Dolinina was shocked by conflict in her homeland, so she decided to use her sport to help displaced children.

Ms Dolinina uses hockey to help kids connect with their new homes, deal with post-traumatic stress, and learn life skills.

"So through this project, this sports activity, children were getting together, and learning how to communicate peacefully with each other, and building resilience," Ms Dolinina said.

Miss Dolinina and her team organized a festival called Break the Ice this year in Kramatorsk, which brought together 100 conflict-affected children, and their parents, from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

"First, the children get acquainted with each other," said internally displace participant Vyacheslav, who attended the event with his wife Kristyna, and their children. "They expand their social circle. They learn to be members of society, they develop."

"Such projects are necessary, as they help people overcome the consequences of this war."

"Yes, they make new acquaintances," agreed local participants Svetlana and Olga. "They are friends with internally displaced persons."

"Not only children have met, but also adults," said local participant Katerina. "So we believe it is a family experience. It unites all families, and the whole country, probably."

The NHL donated table hockey equipment, and with other donations, Ms Dolinina was able to buy equipment for both a girls and boys ice hockey team in Kiev.

Ms Dolinina came up with the idea while in the USA on a sports mentoring program.

"Olga had come, knowing that she wanted to work with kids, she wanted to run this project for kids, and while she's on the program she tells us: 'I need to do something for my country, we are in the headlines for all the wrong reasons’," said Brian Canever, from the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society at University of Tennessee.

"So, that's when she came up with this idea, working with Susan Cohig," Mr Canever said.

"It's definitely had an impact in thousands of kids lives, in the Ukraine, who are the victims and the survivors of warfare and who she is helping develop an internal peace."

"I hope that by looking at how people rest here, how they communicate with each other, the conflicting parties will understand that no war is worth it," said Vyacheslav.

"I think that the conflict is temporary,” said Katerina, "because in our hearts, as in the name of this project, there is a lot of ice. As soon as the ice melts, at once everyone will unite."

Cover photo courtesy of the U.S. Dept of State in cooperation with the Center for Sport, Peace, & Society.