Teenage voices from inside Ukraine's war
Image Credit: Mathias Reding on Pexels
The war in Ukraine began in February, and it's still happening. We see it on the news every day - Russian bombs destroying Ukrainian cities, forcing people to run for their lives. Watch the below video if you want a brief summary of what's going on...
Most men are not allowed to leave the country - they have to stay and fight, and defend their country. Some women stay and do this too, but the majority have to leave their homes with their children and elderly relatives, and take refuge in other countries, hundreds of miles from home, and try to keep the family going.
But what about teenagers? What does war mean for them? We wanted to share a few stories with you...
Students from Kyiv discuss the future
As reported on theconversation.com, a teacher from central Kyiv (the capital city of Ukraine) asked her students to write essays on what the war looks like for them, and what they'll do when the war ends. Here are some of their comments:
"Today the situation in our country is very difficult, and we understand that we did not appreciate our everyday life, our meetings with friends, and even a simple walk. … After all these circumstances, your views on life have changed, you begin to appreciate what was common and boring for you. After the war, we will all be completely different people!”
“When I come back home the first thing that I would do is play the piano. I will play as long as I can. After this, I will water my plants.”
"I dream of eating sushi, this is my favourite dish, so I’ll eat them all week. And of course I still want to go to university in Ukraine and live in Ukraine with my friends and relative."
Having read these quotes it made us try harder to appreciate the small things in life.
So today, no matter what you're up to, enjoy your day and enjoy the simple things, even if this is just a walk around the block, because young people in Ukraine would love to be able to enjoy that.
A 15-year old on life in Mariupol
A recent article in The Guardian told the story of Yegor, who is 15 years old. Yegor lived in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which has been one of the worst affected cities in the war, with Russian shells and bombs almost destroying the entire city. Yegor moved into the city to be closer to his grandparents.
"On 2 March we lost electricity, water and communication. The generators stopped working and even the air raid sirens failed. Three days later the heating was turned off and we began to get very cold. We all slept in the same bed, trying to stay warm"
"One day I heard a cluster bomb fall about 20 metres from me and explode. The Russians say they only hit military targets, but the many corpses on the streets told a different story."
These sound like stories from the past, but this is happening now, and this isn't an adult speaking either - this is a teenager, living without heating, without electricity, avoiding bombs and trying to stay alive. It's a million miles from the life we are living here in the UK, and a reminder of how blessed we are to have the simple things we have.
TikTok in a warzone
The days of grainy black and white footage of war are long gone - advances in technology mean that platforms such as TikTok and Instagram, and video streaming platforms such as YouTube, are bringing us into the bunkers of Ukrainians in the heart of the conflict zone.
For audiences around the world, they offer a real-time look inside a war. It’s intensely personal documentation — families huddled together with little food or clothing, others at work with rockets flashing and sirens blaring as they speak.
Forbes.com told the story of Veronica. Before the war, she had filled her free time pursuing jazz and hip-hop dance and her love of music, while studying in 10th Grade (or year 11 here in the UK). Now Veronica is using TikTok nearly every day to answer questions from foreigners, discuss the risks of staying in Kyiv and receive support from a community of followers.
“It’s allowing us to do our part in spreading the right information from people that are relatable humans that are on the ground. It’s definitely provided us with a way to distract ourselves and get a sense of hope from around the world. That definitely helps us a lot, even being in this horrible situation.”
Social media is another thing we take for granted. We filter our photos and carefully select the ones which look the best, but for those like Veronica there is no filter which can make things better. This is social media being used in the rawest, realest way possible.
Teens fighting for their country
This sounds unthinkable, but some of the soldiers fighting Russian troops on the front line are themselves teenagers. A BBC News article from near the start of the war tells us about a group who have been given three days basic training and then sent to the front line.
"Some of them were wearing knee pads that looked too small, as if they had come with skateboards on their 12th birthdays. A few had sleeping bags. One had a yoga mat. When they waited outside for the bus that was going to be taking them to the training base, they looked like friends on the way to a festival - apart from the guns"
One of them said "I got used to my gun. I learned how to shoot and how to act in the battle, also many other things that will be very crucial in the fight with the Russians."
It is important to stay informed on what is going on in situations like the one in Ukraine at the moment, as it helps us to know where the need is and what we can do to help.
Music bringing hope
You may have seen this video go viral a few weeks ago. Have a watch before you read the next part...
What you've just listened to is 94 violinists, in 29 countries, playing a beautiful Ukrainian folk song. It was all arranged by Kerenza Peacock, a British violinist who says:
"I befriended some young violinists in Ukraine via Instagram and discovered some were in basement shelters but had their violins. So I asked colleagues across the world to accompany them in harmony. And I got sent videos from 94 violinists in 29 countries in 48 hours!! An astonishing collaboration forming an international violin choir of support for Ukraine"
Illia, who is the first violinist we see in the video, was filming from a bunker in Ukraine, as were many in the video. He had to film his take for the video between bombing raids, as he could not hear himself playing properly.
"Sadly some violinists are currently having to think about how to arm themselves, and hiding in bomb shelters instead of playing Beethoven or bluegrass. Some more Ukrainians wanted to take part, but now have guns in their hands instead of violins", says Kerenza.
Imagine not being able to do the thing you love - that might be music but it might be something else, maybe sport or fashion or craft - because you're having to focus on staying alive, or fighting for your country. This video also shows us that even in the darkest places, music brings hope.