Months after the September ceasefire, shelling still occurs along the frontline in eastern Ukraine. Amongst the most vulnerable populations are school children attending schools near the front line.
Schools in many areas were closed for many months after they were shelled and damaged in the fighting. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been providing schools with materials to repair the damage so that children can restart their studies this winter.
Sofia, a first grade student living in the village of Sakhanka in opposition-controlled territory near Mariupol, has a huge smile on her face as she rings a bell marking the beginning of the school year. The school was damaged in April when a shell crashed through the roof and ceiling, making it impossible for the children to study there.
“Everyone was frightened, when they started shooting. Everyone thought someone had dropped a hammer. But it was shelling,” says Sofia.
The school reopened on December 2nd. The plaster was still wet in some places, but the children were eager to get back to school after extended summer holidays.
On the other side of the frontline in Marinka, Gafar, a first grade student at School No. 2 is happy to be back in class.
Gafar remembers the shelling over the summer, which forced him and his family to take refuge in their cellar.
“It sometimes went on all night long. We used to sit for 14 hours in the cellar,“says Gafar’s mother. Their courtyard still bears the scars of where a shell landed earlier this year.
The ICRC helped repair his school and installed water barrels to ensure the whole community has supplies of safe drinking water.
“Each school is different, each school has its own problem and ICRC works on a case-by-case basis on both sides of the frontline,” says Emmanuelle Birraux, protection coordinator for the ICRC delegation in Ukraine.
The ICRC is repairing damaged schools, supporting first aid training for teachers and helping them with mine risk education.
The humanitarian organization also delivers other humanitarian aid to conflict affected communities on both sides of the frontline.
Location: Various (Sakhanka and Marinka)
Format: H264 mov, HD
Production: John Wendle
Camera: Canon 5D MkIII
Sound: Russian and English
ICRC ref: AV410N
Date: Various (November 2015 – December 2015)
Copyright: ICRC access all, credit for still photos as stated below
00:00 Sofia, a first grade student, rings a bell marking the beginning of the school year.
00:06 SOUNDBITE (in Russian) Oksana Samarskaya, Director of Sakhanka School:
Today we have a joyful day. We are returning to our school so that we can begin the full education.
00:16 SOUNDBITE (in Russian) Oleg Morgun, Novoazovsk district administration (Head of district):
We are thankful to these real friends, for their invaluable help, for providing us with construction materials. Of course, we are very thankful to those in this village who participated in repairing process.
00:36 ICRC delegates accepting letter of appreciation from Novoazovsk district administration Oleg Morgun (Head of district).
00:39 SOUNDBITE (in English) Ariane Bauer, Head of ICRC office in Donetsk:
As was said already a couple of times today, a school is a place for education, is a place for a new generation, and in that terms, it is also a place for new hope to come.
00:52 Sofia, a first grade student, rings a bell marking the beginning of the school year.
00:55 Sofia practicing writing.
00:59 Sofia practicing writing, close up.
01:06 Sofia taking her work up to her teacher.
01:15 SOUNDBITE (in Russian) Ludmila, Teacher at Sakhanka School:
At the 26th of April, everyone remembers that date clearly, a shell hit the school. The roof was completely destroyed and the ceiling was damaged on the second floor. The windows were all broken. When the weather was bad, the rain ran right into the building. It was April. So, teaching the children was not possible.
01:38 Picture of hole in the roof from where the shell hit.
01:45 SOUNDBITE (in Russian) Sofia:
On the first floor, it was all open, the hole. (Points at where the hole was in the ceiling/roof.)
01:50 Sofia says, “overhead” and points at the patch of ceiling where the hole was blasted by the shell and fixed by the ICRC. Footage pans from Sofia, pointing to repaired patch.
02:04 SOUNDBITE (in Russian) Sofia:
When shooting was started, then everyone was frightened, when they started shooting. Everyone thought someone dropped a hammer. That’s what they thought. Or a sledge-hammer. But that was shooting. Then, when there wasn’t war, everything was really good, because no one was shooting. It was very peaceful, no one needed to go into the basements to hide.
02:32 SOUNDBITE (in Russian) Sofia:
Here are holes from shrapnel. One, two, three, four, five. Five times. (She says, pointing at holes in a piece of siding covering a window.)
02:42 Children at School No. 2 in Marinka counting “…two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.” Gafar siting at the first desk. A teacher walking through students, checking their work: “Correct. Correct. We cross four triangles out. One, two, three and four – cross out”
02:58 SOUNDBITE (in Russian) Natalia Subunik, Teacher at School No. 2 in Marinka
They are afraid. When there was an artillery training exercise we went and hid in the basement. It was also frightening. They thought it was a real barrage, but it was a training exercise. Yes, afraid. They’re still little. They’re children. Grownups are afraid, and so are the little ones.
03:16 Gafar leaving school with his mother, walking home. Gafar walking past the church in the center of Marinka with his mother, walking home from school. Gafar and his mom, Natalia, entering their house.
03:34 SOUNDBITE (in Russian) Natalia showing holes in the walls of her kitchen caused when a shell landed in her courtyard:
The glass is also broken, from a piece of shrapnel. The door was like this (opens door), open, the glass was hit by shrapnel.
03:43 Shrapnel damage in the wall of the kitchen.
03:49 Close up of shrapnel damage in wall.
03:56 SOUNDBITE (in Russian)
Gafar: One guy came to me and said that there will be shooting today. And I thought…
Natalia: You didn’t believe him
Gafar: Me. No. I thought I wouldn’t tell mom. And then, boom!
04:08 SOUNDBITE (in Russian)
Natalia: 10PM, I was outside with my mom. That’s when everything happened.
Gafar: And I shouted, “Mom!!!”
Natalia: Yes, you had just been in the house and I was in the courtyard.
Gafar: I was standing near the door.
Natalia: The light went immediately out. And all hell broke loose. The first shell hit. Of course it was very frightening.
04:29 Natalia and Gafar leaving the house to walk to their root cellar/basement.
04:33 Natalia and Gafar walking down the stairs into their root cellar/basement.
04:40 SOUNDBITE (in Russian)
Natalia: It sometimes went on all night long. We used to sit for 14 hours in the cellar.
04:44 Chairs they were sitting on in the root cellar. Natalia and Gafar walking up the steps of the root cellar.
04:57 SOUNDBITE (in Russian) Lyudmila Panchenko, Director of School No. 2 in Marinka:
Everyone waits for help from the Red Cross. When we see the ICRC’s trucks, everyone immediately feels relief. People think: now the Red Cross has come and all their problems will be sorted out.
05:08 Men carry boxes of humanitarian aid from a truck into a storage room at a distribution center in Krasnohorivka. People in Krasnohorivka wait in line for humanitarian aid boxes.
05:25 SOUNDBITE (in Russian) Lyudmila Panchenko, Director of School No. 2 in Marinka:
The Red Cross gave us the water barrels and installed them together with our city council so that it could be used by the people of our town, so they could get water.
05:44 They can be easily used by the population of our town to get water.
05:52 ICRC water barrels installed in the foyer of School No. 2 in the center of Marinka with parents and students walking past.
5:58 Close up of water barrel and ICRC sticker on barrel.
06:00 A young student pours herself a drink of water from the barrel and drinks.
06:03 Young students run down the hallway.