Accessibility links

Breaking News

Calm Amid The Storm: Drawings By Refugee Children Belie Their Dramatic Journeys

In the Hotel Bristol in downtown Belgrade, near the bus station that serves as a temporary home to hundreds of refugees who have escaped conflict in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, is a place called the Children's Corner. It's a sanctuary where children, during their difficult journey, can, at least for a short time, experience what kids are supposed to experience: peace of mind and play. Kids come and go through Children's Corner, and they often leave behind colorful evidence of their stays: crayon drawings.

Psychologist Andrea Blagojevic, who works closely with the refugee children, says the drawings usually belie the horrors they have experienced on their dramatic journeys.

"The drawings are mostly dominated by bright colors -- yellows, reds, greens," Blagojevic says. "There are mostly houses, trees...The drawings are happy and only rarely do we have a child drawing what he or she experienced. I think they are still unaware of what is happening around them, especially if their parents are not talking to them but trying to protect them from current events."

Some of the children, however, seem to be aware of their predicament, such as 5-year-old Muzzamil from Syria, who drew an entire house being carried aboard a ship. Or 10-year-old Naweed from Iraq, who drew a peace dove. Even those drawings are hopeful, however.

Children's Corner is run under the auspices of the Serbian government, the city of Belgrade, and UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund.

-- Ognjen Zoric (RFE/RL's Balkan Service)