Ukraine War: School Freezes After Nine Months of Terror Being Used as a Bomb Shelter | world news

In a classroom in southern Ukraine, the date written on the blackboard still reads February 23.

It was the day before the beginning of the Russian occupation – and the last time the children of the village of Snihurivka could attend their school.

Rows of tables and chairs stand empty, frozen in time.

A pair of discarded small shoes, a drawstring garment bag, and the odd pencil provide the only clues to the daily, school-like hustle and bustle that once filled this building.

Instead, there has been nothing but fear for the past nine months as the building has become a ready-made bomb shelter for local residents.

Staff may finally consider reopening to students after a major Ukrainian counteroffensive operation retook the village in the Nikolaev region from the Russians more than two weeks ago, the assistant principal said.

“Honestly, we cried when we were released,” said 52-year-old Irina Zaveryuhina. “We could all breathe easier.”

He showed Sky News how airstrikes smashed many of the school’s windows in the early days of the war.

But the building includes a vast basement that provides a vital shelter for nearly 400 adults and children from missiles and rockets.

The school was not used until the day before the Russian invasion

Some came only at night. Others remained underground throughout the entire period from the beginning of the invasion until the arrival of Ukrainian forces. When Sky News arrived at the school on Thursday, the last two guests barely dared to go home.

A row of cots, one with a stuffed animal, can still be seen in the darkness lining the wall of the great underground room. There is also a dirty bowl on the side.

There is no light, so the only way to see was the flashlight on our cell phones.

The teachers hope to reopen the school

Ms. Zaveryuhina spent the first weeks of the war helping out in the basement from 8 a.m. to 8 a.m. every other day until the village fell under Russian control on March 19.

He stopped visiting at that time, but many still used it.

When asked how she felt about returning to the shelter, she replied, “Honestly, I don’t know how to describe how I feel. I wish people would never live in basements again. Some families and children were also very scared. it was a nightmare.”

The basement of the school served as a shelter
The basement of the school served as a shelter

The teacher described how the local population was defiant despite the hardships of the Russian occupation, with people often daring to raise the Ukrainian flag overnight on a flagpole outside the school – only for the Russians to shoot it down the next day.

Now that the Russian forces are gone, teachers are turning their attention to repairing the school’s damage, restoring electricity and getting children back to class.

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The school usually houses about 350 students aged between 6 and 17, although Ms Zaveriuhina believes fewer than 50 are still in the village because many families have fled.

He hopes they will come back. Meanwhile, teachers distributed many books to parents to teach their children at home. The lack of internet and electricity means that remote online learning is particularly difficult.

“Everything will be fine as soon as everyone gets back here. We hope so,” he said.

Lydia Varaksa's kitchen was destroyed by ammunition
Lydia Varaksa’s kitchen was destroyed by ammunition

Down the road from the school is another example of resilience and survival.

Lidiia Varaksa, 82, fell and hit her head on a table a few weeks ago when a round exploded outside her small bungalow, shattering the open kitchen and leaving pustules on the walls and pipes.

“That was my fridge,” he said, pointing to the remains of the broken door. “Everything is touched.”

He lives alone, except for the dog, and his two sons are unknown.

Lydia Varaksa did not hear about her two adult sons
Lydia Varaksa has not heard from her two sons

Wrapping her hair in a mustard yellow scarf, she said she wasn’t sure she would be able to repair her home and worried about winter approaching because she still had no electricity for heat and light.

“How do I feel? I walk around and cry. I can’t do anything else,” she said.

But he does not give up.

“When the Ukrainian forces came here, people started coming out of their basements.

“I think if I could continue to live like this until the end of my life, it could be like that.

“It fell and fell apart [home], It doesn’t bother me. I want to live in peace until the end of my life.”

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