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Kristin Davis on how her 'emotional' journey to meet Ukraine’s refugees has influenced the way she parents

The actress and Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, visited Ukraine's refugees in Chisinau, in the Republic of Moldova

Kristin Davis attends the 16th annual CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute
Sophie Hamilton
Parenting Editor
9 October 2023
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When the invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, actress Kristin Davis was in her home in Los Angeles watching the devastating reports of women and children leaving their homes and crossing the country's borders in search of safety.

A little more than a year later, Kristin visited the area herself in her role as the Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency – and the “incredibly emotional” trip to visit Ukraine's refugees had a lasting effect on her. 

It gave her a new perspective when she returned home to her daughter, Gemma Rose, age 12, and her son, Wilson, five.

WATCH: Five ways to help in the Ukrainian crisis

“I feel very personally involved,” says the actress, who is best known for hit TV shows Sex and the City and And Just Like That.

"But I also feel kind of guilty when I come home to my beautiful house and my beautiful children. We're so lucky that we're not going through this. You have to really be thankful," Kristin tells HELLO!

The star spoke to us in detail about the moving trip – and revealed how it has influenced the important conversations she has at home with her own children about kindness and self-love.

Kristin Davis meets Ukrainian refugee, nine-year-old Masha © UNHCR/Jordi Matas
Kristin Davis meets Ukrainian refugee, nine-year-old Masha

Kristin visited Chisinau, in the Republic of Moldova, where Moldovans have welcomed Ukrainian refugees into their communities with open arms.

"I'm looking at the news in a whole different way [now],” adds Kristin. “And I'm worried about the US's support – will our support continue, and the international support?

Meeting Ukrainian refugees

During her visit to Moldova, Kristin visited a community centre supporting vulnerable women and children. 

“I don't think I've ever been to a host community where they are accepting the refugees with such incredible warmth. It was so inspiring and moving to see,” she says.

"You read about something in the news, and you have some idea of what's happening, but to actually meet the people and hear their incredibly vivid and horrible, horrible stories about what happened to them that forced them to leave.”

As a parent, Kristin found the visit to Moldova especially hard-hitting and emotional. 

“What people go through you just can't take in really,” she says. "One woman, Anhelina, is 20 years old. She was telling us that her grandfather and her father had to stay behind and fight though they'd never shot a gun. It's mind-blowing."

Ukrainian refugee and activist Anhelina works at the Community Center 151
© UNHCR/Jordi Matas
Ukrainian refugee and activist Anhelina works at the Community Center 151

Since February 2022, more than 6 million refugees from Ukraine have crossed borders into neighbouring countries and beyond, with over 905,000 refugees and third-country nationals entering Moldova.

Around 117,000 refugees have chosen to stay in the country, which has a population of just 2.7 million and limited resources.

"Everyone I met just talked about wanting to go home,” says the 58-year-old star.

“Even though Moldova is a safe place and they're so thankful - most of these women are on their own with their children trying to figure out what's going to happen next, and they were all hopeful that they would go back sooner. The fact that they haven't gone back is like this trauma over and over again."

While saddened by the stories she heard, the actress was heartened by the Moldovans' welcome. 

"They are giving things up; they are making sacrifices to accept these people and really open their arms and their services, everything that goes with living in a community. So, it's beautiful at the same time as it was tragic."

Kristin Davis meets the President of the Republic of Moldova Maia Sandu and Ukrainian refugee women at the Community Center 151© UNHCR/Jordi Matas
Kristin Davis meets the President of the Republic of Moldova Maia Sandu and Ukrainian refugee women at the Community Center 151

Teaching kindness at home

Kristin explains to her children about the work she does with the refugee agency.

"I can talk to the 12-year-old a little bit more. My five-year-old knows, and I just went to his school open house last night, and he had drawn a picture of our house and talked about how his favourite time is when we're at home, which is so cute."

 Of the parenting dilemma regarding what to tell them about the Ukrainian conflict, Kristin says: "You don't know how much to say. It's an interesting thing."

Kristin Davis with her children© Instagram
Kristin Davis with her children

Kindness is also an important subject - being the centre of Kristin's role within the organisation - and the star feels very strongly about teaching it at home: "You have to start from the beginning with kindness. It's not easy though.

"It's interesting. I think on the one hand, kids definitely have an innate kind of empathy and kindness, but I also feel like they're growing, so sometimes they are very focused on, 'Well what do I need right now?' And that's not wrong, right?

"But I think the challenge in parenting is how to advocate. Yes, you do need to take care of yourself. Sometimes we have conversations, and they'll ask: 'Do you love yourself the most, or us the most?' As Mom, I say, 'You, I love you the most!' But you want to say: 'But you should love you the most. You need to take care of you.' Kindness starts with you being kind to yourself, right?”

She adds: “I don't think anyone ever said that to me when I was a kid. But how can you be kind to others if you're not being kind to yourself?

"Kids are under so much pressure today to be perfect and to achieve. That can lead to a perfectionist's negative self-talk, which isn't going to really help them in the long run or help us, or anybody. So, I try to counteract that."

Sarah Ferguson giving the award to Kristin Davis© Adam Ihse/TT/Shutterstock
Sarah Ferguson Duchess of York hands over "The Perfect World Foundation Award" to Kristin Davis

Last month Kristin was also honoured for her work at The Perfect World Foundation Award ceremony in Sweden, when she received her prize from Sarah, Duchess of York - and she was struck by the royal's kind nature.

"She is amazing!" beams Kristin. "It's amazing when you've seen someone in the news but never met them, and when you do, they are so very interesting and yet really making such an effort to be kind to everyone in the room. It's impressive."

Kindness towards refugees

On the subject of kindness, Kristin says of refugees: “I think one thing for sure to reiterate is that no one chooses to be a refugee.

"People politicise refugees and that's unfortunate because no one is choosing that. No one is choosing to flee their home. It's something that they absolutely have to do for the safety of themselves and their children.

"No one deserves kindness more than a refugee because they've had to leave everything. They only have the clothes they are wearing; they might only have themselves and not their parents."

Kristin Davis, meets Ukrainian refugee children at the NGO, AVE Copiii, which promotes children's right© UNHCR/Jordi Matas
Kristin Davis meets Ukrainian refugee children at the NGO, AVE Copiii, which promotes children's rights

Kindness towards refugees doesn't cost a thing, says Kristin – it's "just a mindshift".

The star adds: "These people are in the worst situation that they could ever be in. Kindness in your heart toward them is important."

The important work of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency

Kristin has supported UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, since 2014, travelling to countries such as Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and South Africa. Heartbreakingly, there are cases of children having to flee conflict by themselves.

She has seen this first hand: "It's always really shocking. Unaccompanied children, we call them, because they've had to flee.

"Sometimes they don't know for sure if their parents are still alive. One of the things that UNHCR does is try to find their parents and reunite them if possible or try to take care of them and find a host family for them."

Kristin Davis meets Ukrainian refugee children Masha and Damir © UNHCR/Jordi Matas
Kristin Davis meets Ukrainian refugee children Masha and Damir

How can we help? UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency is calling on the international community to provide support for the refugee response and host communities, in order to ensure their inclusion until it is safe for them to return home.

Kristin suggests: "If you hear that someone took in a refugee or there's a refugee living near you, and you just want to say hello: tiny things matter so much… being greeted pleasantly in the neighbourhood or at school, taking them some school supplies or some food, something small. I don't think it takes a lot to help a refugee feel more welcome."

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