From the very start, it's clear that Alina and her friend, Malyen (Archie Renaux), had a tumultuous childhood. Growing up in an orphanage, the pair eventually became soldiers together and face many instances of xenophobia. Considered to be a grisha — or a person who practices "small sciences" and has magical powers — Alina and other grishas are frequently the focus of hurtful comments based on their background.
According to an elder educator we meet later in the series, grishas have a long history of being persecuted. At one point, Alina is introduced to another woman who whispers "you stink of the orphanage, half-breed" into her ear. These conversations may prompt older children to ask relevant follow-up questions about xenophobia even after they stop watching.