Alex (7) is Building a Paper Army To Defend His People From Attack

Teacher, actor, doctor, astronaut - what does Alex want to be when he grows up? “I want to be a soldier”, he says. “Then, we can win our land back.”

Alex (7) escaped war in Ukraine with his mother and older sister

Photo: Michael Jessurun


Alex tells how in Ukraine the air-raid sirens went off for hours and rockets and bombs hit nearby

Photo: Michael Jessurun

War and Flight

Very soon, Alex will turn eight. Yet, due to the war in Ukraine, he has already lived through events that many adults will not have to experience in their lifetime. When the war came to his city he fled the country with his mother and older sister. There were aid raid alarms for hours on end and rockets and bombs flying into buildings. Since then the violence only got worse.

After a long journey, the family was put up in a private home in a village in Moldova. Here, they joined over four million refugees seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.

Illusion of Peace

In this sleepy Moldovan village, farmers grow walnuts and every family makes their own wine. It’s no exaggeration to say that the chaos of war and violence couldn’t seem further away.

For Alex, this peaceful façade is exactly that - an illusion. He spends his days making tanks, rockets and airplanes out of paper. Sat on his guest bed, he attacks the enemy - with his paper army.

“I want to be strong”, he says. “If they attack; if they hurt us, then we can hurt them too.”

Watch Alex's story

Psychological First Aid

Ask any child psychologist - children who have lived through armed violence often play war or draw violent scenes. It’s a way to help them understand what is happening to them. If they can understand it, they can control it…

“We’re being attacked by someone”, says Alex. “They’ve almost captured my city; they destroy everything. But we won’t be gone for long because we will capture it back.”

Anger, hyper-activity, sadness or withdrawal - none of these emotions are unusual or uncommon. But they can be difficult to respond to. War Child is supporting local organisations across Moldova who are providing protection and psychological first aid to children like Alex.

Missing Home

By offering support at the right moment, and reminding children that their feelings are normal, these organisations are doing a lot to ensure that these symptoms of distress go no further. But the longer a child is removed from familiar surroundings, the more likely their mental health will suffer.

Alex misses his tomcat, Mutik, terribly. He remembers how fluffy and beautiful he is. They couldn’t take Mutik on the train out of the city. “It was too difficult with all the bags.”

Alex: “He’s probably doing badly. Without mama; without granny; without me.”


Alex is building a paper army to defend his people from attack

Photo: Michael Jessurun


Alex is doing well at his new school in Moldova: "I've already made two friends"

Photo: Michael Jessurun

Uncertain Future

And it’s not just the comfort of his own home and beloved pet that Alex is forced to live without. It’s also the opportunity to go to school and be with friends. “I don’t know where my classmates are now”, he says. “Maybe they have also left.”

Initially, Alex was assigned to a Moldovan school that taught in Russian. But his parents quickly enrolled him elsewhere. He’s already made two friends in his class – but he can’t remember their names.

After school, Alex continues to fold tanks out of paper. He likes the ones with the three barrels best – they are the most powerful. “I like to build everything!", he says. "I do all kinds of crafts. I could talk about that for a long time, but I don’t want to.”