Comic Dom Joly calls for Ukrainian children to be supported

The comic recently visited the city of Mykolaiv which have been subjected to shelling and missile attacks as a Save The Children ambassador.

Naomi Clarke
Tuesday 20 June 2023 00:01 BST
Dom Joly sits for a portrait in a bomb shelter Ukraine (Simon Edmunds/Save The Children/PA)
Dom Joly sits for a portrait in a bomb shelter Ukraine (Simon Edmunds/Save The Children/PA)

Comedian Dom Joly has called for support for children who are being mentally and physically impacted in Ukraine, saying: “Whatever your views on conflicts… they are not to blame.”

The comic and Save The Children ambassador, who grew up in Beirut during Lebanon’s civil war, recently visited the city of Mykolaiv and surrounding villages which have been subjected to shelling and missile attacks.

Joly documented his time meeting families who are trying to rebuild their homes, school and communities after surviving months of intensive fighting in their hometowns.

He told the PA news agency: “Whatever your views on conflicts, who’s right, who’s wrong, what the political rightness is of the whole situation, kids certainly didn’t ask to be in that situation.

“They are not to blame and they’re not making any choices in that.

“And I think they’re also the most vulnerable.”

Having previously visited eastern Ukraine in 2018 with the charity, he admitted he “didn’t quite realise how challenging it would be” this time round.

Joly noted that he found the impact on mental health was a “massive issue” from just witnessing the children in these affected areas.

“We met kids that had been literally standing on train stations with shells landing around them, not knowing whether their mother had survived,” he recalled.

“But apart from anything else, the fact that you’ve had to leave your house, you leave all your friends, you move to a new area, you have no schooling.

“So just even the fact that kids spent a vast amount of time in shelters at the moment underground in Ukraine, they do most of their education online, so it’s very isolating.”

One of the initiatives he explored which tackles this is a mobile digital learning centre which moves between villages to give children the opportunity to learn and play with friends.

He explained that the impact on children physically can also be greater as they can require more medical attention while recovering from certain injuries due to their growth rate so in the case of prosthetics they may need multiple of them as they develop.

While in Ukraine, he documented these experiences through video diaries to try to capture the daily life people in the war-torn country have to survive each day including how they rely on an air raid app to alert them to danger.

He recalled: “One of the first things I did was three in the morning, I suddenly get woken up by the air raid sirens outside, which is a visceral sound.

“You’re completely in deep sleep, and you’re up, you’re stumbling around, and then you try to go down into the shelter, and you sit in the shelter for two hours till the app tells you can go back up and back, you go out and try and go to sleep, and then it happens again.

“I tried to capture that, not for shock value, but just as this is a daily routine for people.

“And honestly, people get to the stage where they ignore the alerts because you can’t be in that state of heightened tension, which makes it even worse, so people just don’t go and then a missile hits that apartment block, and they get killed.

“It’s a really strange existence.”

Having grown up during Lebanon’s civil war, Joly feels he can empathise with what the children are experiencing and understands the impact it has had on his life long term.

The comic added that at times he tried to bring some light to the harrowing situations for those affected, saying: “Strangely, humour is a really good way to cope.

“Certainly in Lebanon and in Ukraine, there’s a very black humour.

“And comedies were massively important in that it is a way of expressing your deepest fears, your anxieties, and it’s also just a release.

“You need to laugh and however bad a situation is there are still funny moments.”

The video diaries are being launched ahead of the Ukraine recovery conference being held in London between June 21 to 23 which will be attended by political leaders to discuss rebuilding the country after the war.

Save The Children plans to campaign for children’s needs to be at the front and centre of this plan.

Reflecting on the message he would like his videos to convey, Joly said: “I hope people will get the fact that this conflict is not going away, it hasn’t been forgotten, it’s still a massive thing.

“It’s in the middle of Europe and it’s continuing, and that kids every single day have been really affected by that.”

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in