war takes center stage at davos as ukraine pleads for aid and weapons
Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times
Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times
Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

KYIV, Ukraine — Draped in the bold blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag, Natalia Valevska sang patriotic songs and rallied the crowd of young children gathered in the auditorium of a hospital in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.

Children were invited to the front of the room to join the singer, one of several acts aiming to bring a smile to their faces.

For the children, thanks to the performances, for a few hours the war seemed far away.

The Ohmatdyt Hospital, the country’s leading pediatric hospital, holds concerts each week for patients, their parents and staff members. Some youngsters in the audience on this particular day were being treated for injuries received during the war. But the vast majority were children suffering from different diseases or being treated for other ailments.

Despite the war, the staff at the hospital is dedicated to providing the children with the best care possible. Equally important, many of the staff here say, is ensuring that the children are given space to just be kids.

“We organize the concerts so that these children can have a normal childhood,” said Anastasia Magerramova, a communications officer for the hospital. Since last March 8, days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, the hospital has been holding the concerts.

A young girl in the audience, Kateryna Iorhu, 13, smiled as she listened to the performance and chatted with the girl next to her. She used a wheelchair, her left leg elevated after a recent surgery.

She and her sister were outside a train station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk in April with their mother and aunt, waiting to be evacuated from the city, when a missile tore into the crowd.

Her mother was killed. And in the months since, she has been in and out of Ohmatdyt Hospital for follow-up surgeries and rehabilitation.

But at these concerts, she can leave the horrors of the war behind for a few minutes, and she said she misses the performances when she is not in the hospital.

It is just one of the hospital’s initiatives in to lift children’s spirits. It brings in volunteer clowns to entertain the children, provides art therapy, and has an on-site school for those in long-term care.

Colorful scenes of castles floating on cotton-candy-pink clouds are spread across the walls. On one floor, a mountain waterfall flows behind the reception desk. In the bone marrow transplant unit, a mural of a whale swimming through rainbow-colored seas extends across the end of one hallway.

“We want to create a beautiful world for our children,” Ms. Magerramova added.

They are the creations of Angela Dmitrenko, an artist who had been painting scenes at the hospital since before the war. But now, she said, her work has taken on new meaning.

“We want to create a space not to just allow children to heal physically but to also heal mentally,” Ms. Dmitrenko, 38, said.

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