Europe

AP PHOTOS: Romania, Santa aid kids of dead, wounded soldiers

  • In this Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016 photo, a man wearing a Santa Claus outfit speaks to 19 month old Maya during a Christmas show for children of Romanian military families, in Bucharest, Romania. This month’s Christmas party at the grand Palace of the National Military Circle in Bucharest brought together the sons and daughters of Romanian soldiers who were slain or wounded while on peacekeeping missions overseas. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

    In this Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016 photo, a man wearing a Santa Claus outfit speaks to 19 month old Maya during a Christmas show for children of Romanian military families, in Bucharest, Romania. This month’s Christmas party at the grand Palace of the National Military Circle in Bucharest brought together the sons and daughters of Romanian soldiers who were slain or wounded while on peacekeeping missions overseas. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016 photo taken with a slow shutter speed, 3 year old Nicole pushes her present box, after a Christmas show for children of Romanian military families, in Bucharest, Romania. Romania's defense ministry has laid on a Christmas show for dozens of Romanian children whose fathers were killed or injured serving in international peacekeeping missions at the National Military Circle, a grand 19th-century building in downtown Bucharest. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

    In this Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016 photo taken with a slow shutter speed, 3 year old Nicole pushes her present box, after a Christmas show for children of Romanian military families, in Bucharest, Romania. Romania's defense ministry has laid on a Christmas show for dozens of Romanian children whose fathers were killed or injured serving in international peacekeeping missions at the National Military Circle, a grand 19th-century building in downtown Bucharest. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016 photo, a boy, his face painted with a Spiderman mask, stands behind chairs during a Christmas show for children of Romanian military families, in Bucharest, Romania. Romania's defense ministry laid on a Christmas show at the National Military Circle, a grand 19th-century building in downtown Bucharest, for dozens of Romanian children whose fathers were killed or injured serving in international peacekeeping missions. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

    In this Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016 photo, a boy, his face painted with a Spiderman mask, stands behind chairs during a Christmas show for children of Romanian military families, in Bucharest, Romania. Romania's defense ministry laid on a Christmas show at the National Military Circle, a grand 19th-century building in downtown Bucharest, for dozens of Romanian children whose fathers were killed or injured serving in international peacekeeping missions. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)  (The Associated Press)

The children have lost their fathers or seen them come home bearing terrible wounds of war.

But for at least one day, Romania's defense ministry and Santa Claus were able to bring fleeting smiles to the faces of all.

This month's Christmas party at the grand Palace of the National Military Circle in Bucharest brought together the sons and daughters of Romanian soldiers who were slain or wounded while on peacekeeping missions overseas. The defense ministry says Romania has lost 28 soldiers, all but three of them while on duty in Afghanistan, and another 160 have been wounded.

The Dec. 13 gathering of about 50 children, accompanied by their mothers, relatives or other adult minders, involved the unwrapping of surprises and jovial chats involving Santa and a fairy princess.

Older children had their faces painted, while many babies and toddlers came dressed up as mini-Santas or as one of his elves.

Some kids fought make-believe gun battles with balloon toys, while others turned the large-scale packages left under the Christmas tree into carpet-racing playthings of their own.

It all proved too exciting for at least one boy who ended up snoozing soundly on that same carpet.

This selection of images from the day captures the fun, beauty and lingering sadness displayed by some of the young ones.