The future of every nation lies with its youth. They are a great asset to each society, and with their sincere nature, they are also its building blocks. For this very reason, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founding father of the Turkish Republic, allocated the date May 19, 1919 – a turning point for the nation – to the youth who would carry Turkey forward. To Atatürk, the youth was associated with innovation and creativity. Welcomed by Turkey, busloads of Ukrainian youth have found safety in the country, which is providing them with the peaceful space needed to try to forget the pain of the ongoing war. They arrived with accompanying staff at orphanages in Antalya through an effort organized by the Yunus Emre Institute (YEE) under the coordination of the Antalya Provincial Directorate of Family and Social Services and in cooperation with the International Civil Society Support and Development Association (STD) within the scope of the Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day on May 19. Ukrainian children brought from war-torn country celebrate May 19, Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day, Antalya, Turkey, May 19, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Yunus Emre Institute) The holiday was marked with great enthusiasm across the country, however, the young people brought from the war-torn country joining in on the celebrations was undoubtedly noteworthy. Demonstrating its real meaning, the holiday showed how universal and embracing it is by putting smiles on the faces of the war-weary Ukrainian youth. They celebrated the holiday with enthusiasm and enjoyed the day away from their daily troubles. I have to say that seeing the joy in those kids’ eyes made me feel proud. Even though I couldn’t communicate with them as they don’t speak English or Turkish, some of them were hugging me without even knowing me and inviting me to play ball. Body language alone was enough to communicate. Daily Sabah’s Buse Keskin with Ukrainian children on the occasion of May 19, Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day, Antalya, Turkey, May 19, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Buse Keskin) Not even the heavy rain could dampen the excitement of the youth during the event! Through the initiative of Turkish first lady Emine Erdoğan and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s wife Olena Zelenska, children in Ukraine who were staying in orphanages were brought to Turkey and given accommodation in hotels in Antalya. During the celebration, the Ukrainian youth emphasized the importance of world peace through the paintings they made. Emir Rustamov (R), consul of Ukraine in Antalya, and his wife deliver their opening speech on the occasion of May 19, Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day, Antalya, Turkey, May 19, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Yunus Emre Institute) The young people who painted the world they dreamed of said that they enjoyed the event very much. Thanks to the occasion organized by the YEE, the young people had the opportunity to attend a variety of workshops on clay sculpting, martial arts, T-shirt painting and ceramics run by a Ukrainian artist. They were also treated to a three-dimensional tour of Turkey using augmented virtual reality glasses and shot arrows in the traditional Turkish archery workshop hosted by the Archers Foundation. The Ukrainian youth also notably volunteered to collect garbage from Antalya’s beaches and organized a nature-friendly event to raise environmental awareness. Attending the celebration, Ukraine’s Consul-General in Antalya Emir Rustamov gave the opening speech on the special day. Celebrating the Turkish national holiday, Rustamov stated that in the future, he wants to celebrate the holiday both in Turkey and Ukraine. Also noting other holidays, he talked about Vyshyvanka, a day that aims to preserve Ukrainian folk traditions. Ukrainian children brought from the war-torn country celebrated May 19, Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day, Antalya, Turkey, May 19, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Yunus Emre Institute) He also expressed his hope on this special day that peace is quickly restored in his country. Traditional embroidered Vyshyvanka shirts, which are believed to help drive away evil and all types of negative energy as a talisman, continue to hold great cultural importance, especially during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The fact that Rustamov and his wife attended the event wearing these shirts is a great indication of this. Speaking to Daily Sabah, Bilal Çelik, a social worker from the Provincial Directorate of Family and Social Services, outlined the situation in Antalya. “The children arrived in Antalya on March 27, 2022. After the first convoy reached Ukraine, a total of eight caravans full of children came here. There are approximately 1,000 children in need of protection in the incoming convoys. We provide support to these children who were brought with their caregivers in Ukraine,” he explained. Ukrainian children brought from the war-torn country celebrate May 19, Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day, Antalya, Turkey, May 19, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Yunus Emre Institute) Stressing the importance of helping the children recover from the trauma of war, Çelik said: “Just like the other national holidays in Turkey, we organize such social events with these children to heal their war wounds and trauma. Today, on May 19, Atatürk Commemoration, Youth and Sports Day, we also planned activities for them to have fun. We are doing these activities here today with the Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay) and YEE under the coordination of the Ministry of Family and Social Services. Throughout the process, we, as the Ministry of Family, will support these children with psychosocial activities aimed at healing their psychological damage.” Many Ukrainians have expressed their gratitude to Turkey for embracing them, and one cannot help but feel proud to take part in this event organized by the YEE, the Turkish Red Crescent and the Ministry of Family and Social Services. It was truly an event meant to help spread cheer among children who have suffered amid the ongoing violent conflict.