In just a few weeks. The dreams and lives of many Ukrainian young people have been completely destroyed. But they continue to fight for their future and that of their country.
Veronika, 19, says: “The months before the war were the best of my life. I was in the second year of university. But the thing that gave my life real meaning was playing ice hockey. It was what I woke up to every morning. On 23 February, our coach told me about plans to create a women’s hockey team to try and reach the professional league. I went to bed so happy, looking forward to the next day. At 5.30 in the morning, there was a huge explosion. My bed was shaking from the shock waves.
My mother came into our bedroom and told us to get out; we had no idea what was going on. We sat together in a corner of the kitchen waiting for it to end but the bombing only got worse. Five hours later we got up and ran to the basement.
As soon as I entered the basement, I realized that my life as I knew it was over. Hockey, work, friends, a guy I was very much in love with, all these things ended that day. That’s probably why I don’t feel anything anymore: no fear, no pain, no anger, no will to live. I feel as if I died at 5:30 am on February 24th.”
Kateryna recalls: “We didn’t immediately realize that Russian planes were dropping bombs. They weren’t in my video games. This was real life. We had only mouldy bread to eat. “
Victor, Alexandra and some other people were hiding in a warehouse in Mariupol, a place of hunger, thirst and cold. There was a market nearby and so, while the bombs were still falling Victor and Alexandra go to look for the remains of vegetables among the rubble and the burning cars. “We were risking our lives for rotten vegetables,” commented Victor. “At least, the people hiding in the warehouse had something to eat. We left the city on March 16th. As we drove through Mariupol, the only things still standing were ruins, destroyed buildings and craters left by missiles. Black smoke hovered everywhere. We decided to leave without knowing where the ‘green corridor’ was because no one in Mariupol knew; we found ourselves in a huge movement of people trying to leave.
Oleksandr comments: “Who is responsible for all this? Who will apologize? Who will give me my stolen life back? Just like my hometown, I have the feeling that I no longer exist. I have severe skin problems due to a lack of hygiene and the dust in the basement means that I am always short of breath. I no longer have any liking for food.”
The young boys and girls, gathered in a Kiev basement and wearing their school attire, ought to be in their classroom studying history, but instead have to bear the brunt of the conflict that, for more than a month, has kept the whole world in suspense. They have to use their social media not for fun but to beg the world community to help them not to die under the bombs. They are there, calm but fearful, working with their computers, asking for their cries to be shared on the social media: “We do not want to live in fear but we want to stay here: please stop the war”.
Valentyna, a third-year student of computer science at the University of Kiev: “Some of our friends are out there with weapons in hand to fight, we are here with our social networks trying to fight in a different way. Twitter, like all social media channels, is a source of information for many practical indications on how to organize life in these hours. For example, we try to give advice on how to screen windows to prevent them from being shattered by the shock wave of bombs. “
Vasyl, a philosophy student in Kiev: “We are afraid, after having spent months and months suffering from Covid. Two years that destroyed our life like more than anything else, now this absurd war. And to think that every year I went to visit my aunt in Belgorod in Russia. I have many friends in that city. And now … “From a small window, Irina looks at the deserted street of Kharkiv. She says: “Even in the darkest moments there must always be a ray of sunshine” and she concludes “The most powerful force we have is hope, we are struggling to stop this conflict. We are human beings. We want to live free “. (C.C.)