Best friends strive to help children shaken by war
Childhood friends Yura, 16, and Vitia, 17, have been volunteering to help local and displaced children near Kharkiv.
On 23 February. 17-year-old Vitia and 16-year-old Yura stayed up late, watching war movies in their dormitory at the Kharkiv College of Arts in Saltivka. They had no idea that a real war would descend on Kharkiv the next morning.
Yura woke up first, to the sounds of explosions. Together with another friend, the pair decided to go home to Zmiiv. But their journey was treacherous – on the way to the subway, a missile exploded just a kilometre away from them.
Springing into action
For the first few days after arriving in Zmiiv, Yura and Vitia could only sit in their homes, numb with fear and shock. Then, one day, on a short trip out for food, the childhood friends discovered the Youth of Zmiiv District NGO, which distributed humanitarian aid. Very quickly, they realized they wanted to help.
For the next few months, Yura and Vitia unloaded and distributed humanitarian aid. Through the UNICEF project ‘Together. Meeting Point’, they have also been helping to organize events for local and displaced children.
In the basement of a former hair salon, the two friends helped at a centre set up to provide classes in art therapy, mine safety and English. They even organize field lectures for children from the neighbouring villages.
They have noticed how much the children have changed. "Those who left the occupied territories or regions where active military operations are taking place stand out in particular,” Yura observes. “Compared to their peers, they look older and think like adults."
For the new academic year, Yura has enrolled at the Kyiv University of Culture and Arts to pursue higher education as an actor. Vitia has returned to study at college. But their friendship – and their volunteering – endures.