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Hope In The Midst Of War: Meet The Ukrainian Speech Therapist Inspiring Her Students.

A two-photo collage. The first is of Katerina Kryvenko smiling. The second is of Katerina holding a straw or something similar on her upper lip with her students, seemingly imitating a mustache.

One of the most incredible traits a human being can possess is the ability to adapt in the face of adversity and continue caring for others even when the world is collapsing around them. This trait is even more admirable when the person is caring for children.

Ukrainian speech therapist Katerina Kryvenko is just such a remarkable person. She works with children at the National Specialized Children’s Hospital Ohmatdyt, including cleft-affected children associated with Smile Train.

Katerina Kryvenko smiling.
Katerina Kryvenko

Because of the war currently raging in her country, Katerina had to get creative with how to both continue therapy and encourage her students.

“The war pushed us to think quickly and act quickly,” Katerina said. “Now, I immediately implement all the ideas that arise in my life. Some of them are successful, some are unsuccessful. But it helps in determining future paths.”

Toward the beginning of the war, one of the ways Katerina and others had to get creative was by taking their speech therapy sessions online. These were far from normal sessions – Katerina remembers sitting in bomb shelters listening to alarms go off as she was working.

With all the chaos, Katerina decided to establish some calm in her therapy sessions by just conversing with her students. In fact, her first online session didn’t have any treatment goals at all – she just wanted to make her students comfortable.

a picture of a video meeting with Katerina and her students on a laptop
Katerina Kryvenko

Plus, online lessons opened up the opportunity for some unexpected guests to join Katerina’s therapy sessions: animal friends!

“One of [my students] lives in a village, and she showed us all their farm: pigs, chicken, cows,” Katerina said. “It was really sweet.”

Katerina herself has her own four-legged speech therapy assistant: a cat named Feta.

“I met her at the beginning of the war,” she said. “My so-called military friend. She is doing well now. She continues to live her happy cat life.”

Katerina with one of her students and two women in labcoats
Katerina Kryvenko

Making her speech therapy sessions fun and interactive has earned Katerina a spot in her student’s hearts. Sessions are now starting in person again, and Katerina’s students show their appreciation by chatting with her, telling her their secrets, and hugging her. One student even gave her flowers!

The fact that these children enjoy speech therapy so much has also encouraged parents to keep their children in speech therapy, despite the turmoil of war.

When the war began, Katerina could have chosen to flee the country for her own safety. Instead, she decided to stay and continue supporting her students in whatever way she could.

Katerina holding a straw or something similar on her upper lip with her students, seemingly imitating a mustache
Katerina Kryvenko

“I don’t know how to explain it, but I didn’t even have thoughts of leaving the country,” she said. “I just can’t even imagine [thinking] about it. My only desire is to fight, act, develop, and support. Everyone now has their own mission and front. I feel that I am needed here, and I am ready to develop this direction in speech therapy.”

Thanks to Katerina, the children in her care get to forget about the worries of war for a little bit and focus on their own wellbeing instead.

Don’t forget to share this article to praise Katerina’s hard work.

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