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Award-Winning Documentary Follows 9-Year Old Ukrainian Refugee’s First Steps

Olek and Vita stand posing for the camera with Rosa sitting in a stroller between them.
Best friends Oleksandra, Rosa and Vita in Znam’yanka, Ukraine
When We Get Home documentary poster.

The award-winning documentary "When We Get Home" by Kathleen Shriver and Walking Films is a poignant exploration of the profound impact of war on marginalized communities, with a particular focus on individuals with intellectual disabilities. By focusing on three orphan refugees from the war in Ukraine, the vulnerabilities of these individuals become starkly apparent, as limited access to resources, disruptions in essential services, and the breakdown of support systems exacerbate their challenges.

The film tells the story of Rosa, a young Ukrainian girl who is one of 300 million people in the world living with an intellectual disability. At nine years old, Rosa became a refugee. At nine years old, Rosa did not have the ability to speak or walk, but, at nine years old, Rosa fled her country, alongside 28 other individuals with severe and profound intellectual disabilities (ID). They found refuge in the southern Polish town of Krasnobród.

Trailer: When We Get Home
Over 8 million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their country in the aftermath of the Russian invasion. This is the story of 29 orphans with intellectual disabilities from Znam'yanka, Ukraine, who boarded a bus and drove for three days and three nights until they crossed the border into Poland to seek safety.Directed by Kathleen ShriverProduced by Ziad Zafar & Kathleen Shriver

The film follows Rosa's journey of finding refuge and of learning to speak and walk in Krasnobród, with the help of her best friends, Vita and Oleksandra. Oleksandra narrates the film, bringing us into a very intimate story of their journey.

When We Get Home tells a story of humanity, bringing our audience closer to all of the very complex, very real, and human dimensions of war. It demonstrates the remarkable transformation of Rosa through friendship, perseverance, and hope. It demonstrates the remarkable transformation of a community through the support of Special Olympics Unified with Refugees programming, and the way in which Special Olympics services can change the lives of individuals with ID and communities alike.

Through Olek’s words, the nonverbal language of Rosa and Vita, and Shriver’s storytelling, we are reminded of the the story of countless refugees with ID: isolation, agony, separation, marginalization and the potential for connection, inclusion, drastic and necessary change, and quite literally—life. The film is an account of the way in which individual acts can translate into transformed lives, and how the work of Special Olympics transcends borders for those who need it most. In ways big and small, Rosa’s story represents the most prolific of athletic achievements, and the transformative ability of Special Olympics to create real, tangible, positive change in partnership with the development community.

Filmmaker Kathleen Shriver sits outside in front of a building with Rosa and other
refugees around them.
Kathleen and Rosa in Krasnobród, Poland.

When We Get Home” has been entered into several independent film festivals, receiving acknowledgment from several that are listed below the article. Check back for updates.


  • Platinum Award, Best Documentary Short, Independent Shorts Award 2024
  • Honorable Mention, Documentary Short, Cal Film Festival 2024
  • Outstanding Achievement, Documentary Short, Indie Film Fest 2024

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