window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);} gtag('js', new Date()); gtag('config', 'G-XZCLKHW56X'); N°27 - After laughter - Ereb

N°27 – After laughter


Kyiv, 5th June,
Just like everyone else in the hospital, we have our daily routine. We meet in the morning, we have a coffee together and we chat –it’s important to “tune in” to each other’s moods, especially now as the Russian attacks continue. After that, we enter the hospital and get changed. For a clown, getting changed is not just taking off clothes and putting on new ones, it’s a metamorphosis.

Then we start the warm-up to leave all the negative experiences and emotions behind us and relax all the tense muscles in our body. We also dance some crazy dances, to remember how to be funny. We need to be completely energised once we enter the children’s rooms.

Once we are in the ward, we ask the head nurse to give us a list of kids that we can visit that day –some of them might be in a serious condition and can’t have visitors. Then we take a walk along the corridors, to give them a little hint: clowns are in the building!

We visit each child individually. We never gather them all together in one room because each one is in a different physical and emotional state. We improvise, everything depends on the spark that the child gives us. There are days when some kids don’t want us to enter their rooms –and in which case we don’t. We are the only people they can say “no” to in the hospital. They can’t say “no” to treatment, to eating at specific hours, to being examined –but they can say “no” to a clown and we respect that. Because for that short moment, the child doesn’t just feel like an object of medical attention, but like a human being.

Five years ago my father got cancer and I accompanied him on that journey: the treatment, the surgery –four of them I think– the illness coming back. It was very difficult for me and I realised how important the emotional element is during a serious, tiring treatment. I supported my dad and he supported me; we laughed and joked, and I could see with my own eyes how those little moments of life cleared the air.

During that difficult period, I was desperately looking for something that would make me feel alive again. I saw an online advert for a charity that helped children with cancer, which was opening a school for hospital clowns. Since I had some experience with clowning and with cancer, after my dad’s illness, I decided to give it a go. I had zero expectations, but I got so into it that before I knew it, I was at the hospital volunteering every week.

The Russian invasion changed everything. Not just my work, but my whole life. My team left Kyiv, and I was the only one left. On the 24th February 2022, I made the promise to myself that I would stay, no matter what, I would not leave the kids in the hospital. They, too, were scared. It is my job and my mission to do everything to help them.

For instance, there was this boy called Andruysha. He had been living in the hospital for four years, waiting for a kidney transplant. After the full-scale invasion, we lived together in the hospital basement and we became friends. He was there completely alone, without his parents, a 10-year-old boy. When they finally found a donor and gave him the surgery, there was so much hope. We even threw him a goodbye party! In the middle of a war, it was such a poignant symbol of life, of the struggle for life. But his body rejected the organ and Andruysha died. It was a huge blow for me. But at least those years in the hospital were full of adventures, concerts, and workshops. His life, even if it was short, was full of childhood and love. And he stays in my heart.

Another turning point for me was when we started receiving ambulances with the first victims of war. Before the invasion, we worked with cancer patients, it was very different. These are the kids that Russia tried to kill, the kids who have lost limbs, the kids who have lost their parents, who have fled their homes in the middle of the shelling. There is no rulebook on how to work with these kids, so I had to learn everything as I went along, for example, to stop using balloons, because when they pop, it could trigger a lot of the children.

The relationship with these kids is different, too. Usually, when I leave the hospital, I take off my costume, my red nose, and I leave it all there. With children who are victims of war, I remember every name, every story, I dream about them. I can’t forget them.

I also dream of this war ending. I cannot dream of anything else while cities are crumbling around me, my loved ones are dying and children are suffering. I want Europeans to understand that this is not some far-away war; if Ukraine doesn’t stop Russia now, they will go even further. I want everyone to understand the price we are paying to allow other children in Europe to have a childhood.


Olga is 35 years old and lives in Kyiv, Ukraine. She has been working as a clown in hospitals in Kyiv for more than five years. In March 2023, with her colleague Marina she co-founded an NGO called БУП. With the Italian organisation Soccorso Clowns, under the mentorship of her teacher, Vladimir Olshansky, they teach clowns all over Europe.

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