A café in Ukraine works to help people displaced by the war In western Ukraine, far from the front lines, Ruslana Mygalyuk hires a clown to give children a night of laughter and fun. She doesn't plan to make a profit this year at her seasonal café.

There's nowhere in Ukraine to hide from the war. This café tries to help people cope

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The vast displacement and movement of people around Ukraine amid the Russian invasion includes children bearing the stresses of war. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley found one person in western Ukraine, displaced himself, trying to lighten their burden. He's known as Igor the Clown.


IGOR KONCHAROV: (Non-English language spoken).

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: There's a special live performance at this vine-covered, open-air cafe in Chernivtsi's Taras Shevchenko Park. Igor the Clown has come to put on a show for the children. Bouncing around in a three-piece red suit, frizzy wig and straw top hat, Igor asks the kids where they're from.

KONCHAROV: (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: (Non-English language spoken).

KONCHAROV: (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: (Non-English language spoken).

KONCHAROV: (Non-English language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: Hands shoot up - Donetsk, Mykolaiv. Many are from the current war hotspots. Ruslana Mygalyuk owns the seasonal cafe Lito, or Summer Cafe, and hired clown Igor for the children.

RUSLANA MYGALYUK: Because they have stress. They listen, like, bomb - like, you know, very, like, bad emotion. Now we want to make nice emotion. And now they feeling like life is continuing.

BEARDSLEY: Mygalyuk has employed some of the children's parents in her cafe. She won't make a profit this summer, she says, but that's OK.

KONCHAROV: (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: (Non-English language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: Igor engages the children. There is frenetic dancing, jokes and candy. Do you know how to say your country's name in English for our special guests, he asked them, referring to me.



BEARDSLEY: The kids draw pictures and belt out patriotic folk songs.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: (Singing in non-English language).

BEARDSLEY: At one point, he asks them about their dreams.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #3: (Non-English language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: "I dreamed we beat the Russians," says a tiny girl.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: After the show, clown Igor Koncharov tells me it hurts to hear such things from children. He himself is from Lysychansk, the last holdout town in the Luhansk region that fell to the Russians last week.

KONCHAROV: My little town, Lysychansk - destroyed town. My town is fire now.

BEARDSLEY: He fled three months ago when the water, electricity and gas were cut. Before the war started in 2014, Koncharov worked as a clown during the summer season in Crimea.

KONCHAROV: Then, Crimea was our country - 10 years, all the summer.


BEARDSLEY: The parents are invited to come waltz with their children. Oksana Mykhailenko is here with her young son and invites us to sit with people from across Ukraine.

OKSANA MYKHAILENKO: (Non-English language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: Mykhailenko, a doctor from near Mariupol, says people refuse to cooperate with the occupiers. But she says the Russians are threatening to take their kids from them if they don't put them in school with the new Russian teachers.

MYKHAILENKO: (Through interpreter) And my youngest son - he's 6, and this year he enters school. So I decided that he needs to have a happy childhood, quiet childhood, safe childhood. That's why I left.

BEARDSLEY: Mykhailenko says Igor the Clown made her son so happy, and today, for the first time, she feels like she's home again. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Chernivtsi, Ukraine.

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