A special event took place in Douglas last weekend to help families displaced by the war in Ukraine.

The Rucksack Project is an initiative run by Children and War UK which aims to help children to recover from trauma resulting from war, conflict, disaster and other catastrophic events.

The charity’s work has come into sharper focus since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February of last year which has resulted in the deaths of more than 65,000 and displaced more than 14 million residents.

Rucksack is a children’s picture novel by Di Redmond designed to help Ukrainian children and families work through anxiety and war trauma. It tells the story of a boy who ‘leaves with a bag of memories’, fleeing war with only the contents of his backpack.

The book was illustrated by Lilia Martynyuk, a Ukrainian still living in Zaporizhzhia in the southeast of the country under constant threat of bombardment by Russian forces.

The Isle of Man has welcomed a large number of Ukrainians over the last 15 months, many of whom attend Cafe Lingo at Promenade Methodist Church in Douglas which supports newcomers to the Isle of Man whose native language is not English.

In collaboration with Isle of Man Government’s Ukraine support team, Cafe Lingo invited Ukrainian families to the church on Sunday afternoon where the children - aged between five and 12 - enjoyed a reading of the book by its author, the iconic children’s books writer Di Redmond via Zoom.

Redmond has written more than 200 children’s books, including Bob the Builder, Postman Pat and Fireman Sam.

Martynyuk also joined in the session via Zoom from Ukraine, while Liuba Kot - who herself is a displaced Ukrainian and now works as a teaching assistant in Isle of Man schools - translated the book for the children.

Each child was given a copy of the Rucksack book, along with a therapy booklet with key anxiety-reducing exercises to work through with their parents.

At the same time, the parents spoke with members of the Children and War UK: Professor William Yule of King’s College London and Professor Dennis Ougrin, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at Queen Mary University of London.

The event was a resounding success and afterwards Liuba said: ‘It’s definitely been emotional. So much of the book correlated with my personal experiences and those of people that I know, plus the Ukrainian children that I work with as a teaching assistant.

‘It’s a beautiful story that can be suitable for all ages of primary school children. This for me wasn’t perennially a translating experience, but helping the community which is what Cafe Lingo is all about.

‘I left my mum and sister in Ukraine on the first day of the full-scale invasion. Since I started working at the Department of Education, I’ve heard children talking about their experiences and then you see so much footage online about what people put in their rucksacks.

‘The whole rucksack image has become quite crucial because, even a few days before the invasion, there were rumours of people being asked to pack their emergency rucksack - that would mean paperwork and documents, essentials, as well as medication.

‘That raised the question: how could you fit your whole life into a rucksack?’

l To find out more about the Rucksack Project, visit the charity’s website www.rucksackproject.co.uk

For details about Cafe Lingo and its free language classes and events, contact Karen Norton on 458340 or follow the ‘Cafe Lingo - Isle of Man’ page on Facebook.