Constant missile barrages mean that schools have been closed in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. Students in the city, lying just 20 kilometers from the Russian border, are learning remotely or underground.
A Russian missile hit a Kharkiv school a few weeks ago. But this did not mean that school was out, instead it just moved – to the subway.
Ukraine celebrated its Day of Unity on Monday. The two thousand students of the subway school sang the national anthem to mark the occasion.
"I asked my adult acquaintances about the significance of the people's unity. No one knew to give a concrete answer and everyone had to do a lot of explaining. But the kids who came to school today said it is the will to be together," teacher at the subway school Olena Kruchina said.
The classrooms are located in five Kharkiv subway stations. They are the securest bomb shelters in town.
"The kids are not bothered at all about having to study in the subway. For them, it's their school, their classroom. It is nice, clean, quiet and above all safe here. We have everything we need. We can dream, draw, sing and dance together here. It's no different than going to an ordinary school," Kruchina said.
Kharkiv is home to over 100,000 schoolchildren, while not all of them can fit in the subway. That is why the city has started building new underground schools.
"I hope that we can open our first underground school in March. It is meant for 450 students, and we could teach 900 children in two shifts. It will help solve a part of the problem. Such schools will be opened in every one of Kharkiv's nine districts. We are gradually building them," Mayor Ihor Terekhov said.
Kharkiv has been under near-constant Russian bombardment in the past month. While the suburbs were initially targeted, missiles now primarily fall in the city center.
"We estimate the damage done to the city to be around $10 billion. Vital infrastructure and entire districts have been damaged – North Saltovka, Piatykhatky etc. as well as the building we're in," Terekhov said.
Repair work needs to be carried out irrespective of the danger of being hit again at any moment.
"Kharkiv currently has 150,000 people without a roof over their heads. We cannot just wait and need to act. The war poses threats, of course, but we cannot just sit on our hands," the mayor remarked.
Editor: Marko Tooming