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Ukrainian Refugees Laugh with Gusto at Clown Shows in Poland

Ukrainian Refugees Laugh with Gusto at Clown Shows in Poland

You may have wondered how a clown show for Ukrainian refugees in Poland (or anywhere) removes the stress, fear, and uncertainty of displacement.

But that’s actually not the goal.

The goal of a CWB clown show is to offer moments of laughter.

This Smile Roundup post showcases moments of laughter experienced by communities of Ukrainian refugees in Poland, where CWB toured this past October.

Dig in to get a big dose of warm fuzzies while gaining insight into the value of a moment of laughter.

We’ll start with the story of Anya, a 9-year-old girl who came to a CWB show in Poland.

When Bombs Fell, Ukrainian Kids Became Refugees

The day before Russia invaded Ukraine, Anya* was going to school, playing with her friends, and living without fear.

When the bombing started, everything changed in Anya’s world. She had to leave home with her family to seek safety. But her father couldn’t go with them because of the federal policy that all men aged 18-60 had to remain in Ukraine.

Anya’s real name is not used here.

Anya, a Ukrainian refugee living in Poland, delights at a clown show..

Half of all Ukrainian children, aged 0-18, left their country during the first month of war.

In Poland, Anya misses the normalcy of her life in Ukraine.

She has made new friends, but her mom knows the stress of war and displacement has been as difficult for her as it’s been for the rest of the family.

It’s hard for the family to relax. It feels like a heavy cloud is hanging over them.

At the Ukrainian Refugee Center, Mouths Dropped and Eyes Grew Wide

Anya lit up when the clowns came to her resettlement center. She was engaged throughout the show — so much so that the clowns knew right away that they’d invite her on stage.

The clown’s instincts were spot-on. Anya was an energetic and joyful performer. She leapt into the air, spun in circles, and played with the clowns.

Anya got to be the star of the show. She said, “I am so happy. I can’t remember the last time I was this happy.”

Ukrainian refugee girl shows her strength at a clown show in Poland.
A Ukrainian refugee girl leaps into the air at a clown show in Poland.

Anya’s moment of joy is now a memory she can look back on as a time when she celebrated life amid the challenges of displacement. This will help her build resilience so that she can keep going — until she’s able to return home.

What’s the value of a moment of laughter in your life? 

Does laughter elevate your mood and lead to more positive experiences?

Do you seek moments of laughter during your day?

Science tells us that laughter has a ripple effect on our physical and mental health. We even wrote a blog post about the power of laughter.

“It is that faith in the ripple effect. I think about a kids’ show I saw when I was a child, and still remember 20 years later.”

– Naomi Shafer, Executive Director, Clowns Without Borders


Photographer John Rudoff took the following photos in a school for Ukrainian children living in Poland.

I can’t believe you all came here for us. I feel I am important and that my kids are important because there was an effort made to make a connection.

– Ukrainian refugee, mother of two

girls clapping

These children have the right to freedom and the right to laugh. They don’t have any fault for the political situation in their country.

– Alex Pizano

clown with a ukelele with a group of kids

Everyone in a family needs healing. Everyone needs a moment of rest — not thinking about why they’re displaced.

– Olivia Sblendorio

girl with hair sticking up

Everyone in a family needs healing. Everyone needs a moment of rest — not thinking about why they’re displaced.

– Olivia Sblendorio

Woman next to kids in a clown shirt

Ukrainian refugee audiences in Warsaw, Lublin, and surrounding towns experienced 16 magical shows (that’s 1305 people in attendance!) produced and performed by CWB artists Olivia Sblendorio (United States), Alex Pizano (Mexico), and Moi de Tiana (Spain).

Our partner was Payasos Sin Fronteras Spain. Asia Reczek managed logistics, Olga Szczudlarka provided translation services, and John Rudoff was our photographer.

Here’s a quick video that will add some sunshine to your day!

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