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Inside Ukraine: The girls and women of Borodyanka share harrowing experience after the siege

The 24th of February 2022 was a day Nina, Oksana and Olena* will never forget.

“I woke up hearing the bombs dropped in our small village located near Borodyanka,” Nina said with sadness. Along with her family, they listened in horror and fear that Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, was being attacked.

When the Russian armoured tanks started to fill the streets of their small village, and heard people getting killed, they feared for their safety, but they cannot do anything. For one month, Nina said they endured and suffered.

Oksana was told by her mother that school has been closed because of the attacks. “It was a terrible time. During my visit with our next-door neighbours, we were all crying,” she shared.

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Nina, Oksana and Olena's lives drastically changed after their villages were occupied for more than a month. 

 

She said she learned the realities of life at a young age which she once took for granted. “Our safety was a priority. We were prepared to do what they tell us to protect our lives,” Alina added.

Olena was very quiet and hardly smiled. The stress of her village’s occupation is still etched deep in her face. It was a 15-year-old face that saw too much. 

“We never took the news of the attack seriously and were on our way to another village when the explosions started”, she said. Many of them did not even imagine the atrocities could happen in their peaceful villages.

She added, “It was good we left because a rocket has landed and destroyed our house”, she said. It was the house where she was born and grew up with.

It was a terrible time. During my visit with our next-door neighbours, we were all crying.

The recent findings of the UN-organised human rights investigation in Ukraine revealed the “large number of executions in 16 towns and settlements," many of which were endured by children like Nina, Oksana and Olena.

When asked if there is any silver lining she learned from the harrowing experience, the three girls said, “The whole world now knows what the Ukrainian courage looks like.”

Tatiana, a teacher and psychologist, whose office was destroyed by the shelling in Borodyanka, expressed worry about what the children and adults went through during the occupation.

“The psycho-social support for these children is very crucial at this time and should continue,” she implored.

Valentyna, the head of Borodyanka’s Technical School showed the damages sustained by the school that used to be active supporting 300 students. “We closed down but re-opened with limited facilities as many got destroyed. We are just beginning to re-build.”

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Through the harrowing experience, the girls said they are all proud that the world learned of the Ukrainian courage.

 

A Ministry of Education report through Save Schools stated that 1,601 educational institutions “suffered from the bombings and shelling,” and over 300 completely damaged.

World Vision supports a local partner ‘Girls’ in providing psycho-social support to the children in Borodyanka. Katya, the project coordinator, expressed thanks for the continued support they receive from organisations like World Vision to continue the crucial work, especially for women and girls.

The recent UN Women policy paper has highlighted the devastating impact of the Ukraine was on women and girls that highlight critical issues “further endangering women’s and girls’ physical and mental health.

World Vision's No Peace of Mind report has earlier warned of the looming mental health crisis that could impact the children now and in the future. The report further stated that at least 45 percent of parents have expressed their worry about it.

World Vision's response to the Ukraine crisis has reached over 334,000 in Georgia, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine through the support of 38 partners. Among these were a total of 124,648 children, at least 61,908 are girls, and 141,615 are women.

Note: All names were changed to protect the children's identity.

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By Cecil Laguardia, Communications Director I Photos by Gabriel Caccamo, Content Specialist