In May 2023, a Russian airstrike on a Ukrainian school caused horror for one village.
Every bomb dropped in this terrible war affects countless families. The devastation caused by the destruction of this one school resulted in the death of several people, and caused fear and uncertainty for an entire community.
Our team recently visited the village to hear first-hand accounts of those affected – some of whom had lost loved ones.
Mykhaila’s husband was killed in the school bombing.
“My husband, Oleksander, was the headmaster of the school. He worked at the school his whole life after he graduated from University, he had only been headmaster for one year when he was killed. His father helped build the school, it was his life in these walls. He loved his job."
He was 50 when he was killed by an airstrike on 13th May 2023. He was trapped under rubble for nine hours before being rescued, and died two months later in hospital. After this devastating event, Mykhaila left the place she had called home since she was five years old.
There were 136 children who attended the school of all ages.
Because of the destruction, they’re all now taught online, but desperately want to return to school.
Mykhaila is one of the many, many people in Ukraine whose loved ones have been taken from them in this terrible war.
Olena is from the same village, and now lives with her husband's parents after their home was destroyed. She has recently started working with MAG as part of our community liaison team.
“Our home was in a large village called Zelenyi Hai – which means the green forest – but it was swept away in the war. Our lives were also swept away.”
She still hears updates from people she knows who stayed behind in her village. Almost every day the devastating news reaches her that someone else she knows has been killed.
“Aircraft bombed the school where people were sheltering in the basement. The Headmaster and Deputy Headmaster were killed in the rubble, and three people who were passing the school were also killed.”
Her house is in ruins. She had just finished decorating and re-painting the walls when the war broke out.
“Losing our homes is a heavy feeling. It is a very heavy feeling.”
She was a local councillor before the war, and now uses her new skills to teach children lessons to keep them safe. She encourages them to go home and talk to their parents about the dangers, so they will know too.
Thanks to the quick thinking of her daughters, Khrystyna survived the school bombing that same day.
“I live here with my family. On the day of the attack, myself, my husband and my daughters ran to the school for safety. My daughters saved our life. Iryna, who is 26 years old, saved us. We wanted to stay at home but our kids insisted."
"We hid in the school basement and got buried under the rubble when it was bombed. If we had stayed at home, I would not be here. We were buried for two hours, it was then that the teacher was killed. The fragmentation from the strike went through the basement."
"Everyone was scared, everyone was hiding."
"I just hoped to get out from under the rubble alive. I was very scared, the main thing is we stayed alive. I’m happy I’m alive and my children are alive, that is the main thing.”
“These are lessons for life, not just for childhood.”
Isai is a Headteacher at a different school in the same area of Ukraine.
His students now have to learn remotely given the threats nearby: “There are air alerts all the time”
The children at his school now receive risk education lessons, so they can understand how to stay safe.
“Risk education is very useful and important for us. We also share the information with parents too and during summer vacations the teachers go through risk education courses, so they know what to do if a threat is found.”
He tells the children before their risk education sessions: “Everything you see and hear today will be important to you. The most important thing is dealing with explosive items in a safe way and knowing who to tell if you find anything. Your safety is the most important thing, so please listen as hard as you can.”
Photos by Julia Kochetova.
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