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AP PHOTOS: Kids reflect on war at bombed school in Ukraine


CHERNIHIV, Ukraine (AP) — Like youngsters all over the place, returning to high school in Ukraine comes with the thrill of reconnecting with pals blended with a terror of academics’ calls for.

The youngsters of college No. 21 now share a distinct frequent expertise amid Russia’s war: Each pupil has grow to be acquainted with the sound of an air raid siren and might distinguish between the sounds of anti-aircraft weapons and cruise missiles.

The varsity, within the northern metropolis of Chernihiv, has been shut down after struggling intensive injury from Russian bombardment. When faculties open Thursday, its youngsters will likely be scattered to wherever school rooms can be found. Their outdated playground continues to be an everyday assembly level, however the video games they play have modified: Imaginary military checkpoints have changed conceal and search. Imitating the sound and affect of rockets is a well-liked new pastime.

A lot of Chernihiv and surrounding villages about 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Kyiv had been devastated by intense artillery shelling within the early levels of the warfare. When the Russians retreated, they left behind 133 broken faculties within the area and 11 others destroyed.

Polina Burenko, 11, sometimes comes to high school No. 21. Collectively together with her greatest good friend, she likes to discover what’s left of the life she had earlier than the invasion.

“What I’m most sorry about is that it’ll by no means be the identical,” she says, trying up on the second-floor classroom the place she used to take a seat. The gutted proper aspect of the college is above a bomb shelter the place civilians hid from Russian aerial bombardment.

Polina not too long ago returned to town after her household had fled the nation in a lethal escape that she says will all the time hang-out her.

“After we had been leaving, the Russians shot at our automobile and killed the motive force. He was an in depth good friend of our household,” she says, her voice quiet however her face betraying the trauma she nonetheless feels. “I don’t perceive why Russia desires our lands. It’s such an enormous nation.”

Youngsters go to the college for various causes: Some out of curiosity, others to get well objects from the particles to make use of for his or her video games ‒ all fearlessly navigating by the broken school rooms, stepping on the damaged glass and over torn textbooks.

“After I first got here right here after the college was bombed, I used to be actually scared. However then I simply acquired used to it,” says 16-year-old Valeria Pyscholka.

The scholars had been relocated to close by faculties. However Valeria is nervous concerning the transfer in her commencement 12 months: “I solely studied right here for a 12 months, nevertheless it was the primary college the place I felt accepted,” she mentioned.

The warfare adopted attendance disruptions over two years due to the pandemic, throughout which many college students switched to on-line studying.

“I don’t need to keep at residence anymore. I need to really feel the environment of my commencement 12 months. I miss it,” says Khrystyna Ignatova, 16. She’s keen to hitch a brand new college and and says she desires to place the final six months of warfare behind her.

“What occurred is a tragedy. I already cried out about all the things I misplaced. I miss my college, my pals, and the academics. However there will likely be a brand new college, new academics and pals. Life has to go on,” Khrystyna says, standing in entrance of the ruins of her old fashioned.

After spending one month hiding in a basement shelter, her greatest concern is that Russian troops could return.

“Typically, when the air raid sirens sound, I begin panicking. It looks like I’m in a fog, and terrifying recollections pop up in my thoughts,” she says.

To beat her concern, she says she’s ditching on-line courses: “I need to see my classmates friends in individual and never on the display screen of my telephone.”

There may be at the moment no plan or price range for the reconstruction of college No. 21. Authorities say the Chernihiv area suffered $380 million in losses in training infrastructure. The precedence is to take a position the cash in partially broken faculties, the place speedy restoration is taken into account doable.

Anna Stupak, 9, feels unhappy when she enters her empty outdated classroom and sees the damaged furnishings. Her blissful first recollections of college are actually tainted by the destruction.

“Each time I enter the classroom, I keep in mind the way it was” says Anna, recalling with satisfaction when her instructor first referred to as her as much as the blackboard.

“I’ll miss the children from my class. And I’m unhappy that the college is broken, it’s scary now to take a look at the home windows. I’ve by no means seen such a horrible factor in my life.”

Most youngsters from No. 21 don’t betray any emotions of hatred — frequent amongst many grownup Ukrainians — towards Russian forces which might be nonetheless waging warfare within the east of the nation. However 11-year-old Ivan Humenko admits to feeling some anger.

“I really feel offended after I go to right here,” he says. “It’s a resentment that the Russians destroyed my college.”


Observe AP’s protection of the warfare in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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