Children in Ukraine deal with daily mine danger
Children like eight-year-old Vladyslav are paying a deadly price for the war in Ukraine
Last fall, three eight-year-old boys found a shell cartridge at a railroad crossing in Lyman, Ukraine. At first, they thought the shiny metal object was a toy. Then, it exploded.
Two of the boys managed to flee, but a fragment of the cartridge hit Vladyslav in the shoulder. He froze, terrified, in pain and unable to move his right arm.
“There was a big explosion”
"My friends and I were playing and saw a tank,” recalls Vladyslav. “We came closer and saw a small cartridge, so we lit a fire to throw it in. And it exploded.”
His story is a reminder of the danger posed by landmines and other explosive remnants of war in Ukraine, where the devastating war continues. In many cases, children pick up explosive items, such as hand grenades and fuses, because they confuse them with toys.
"There was a big explosion, and I was hit by shrapnel,” says Vladyslav. “I was bleeding and could not feel my arm. I was concussed, so I ran to the outpatient clinic for help.”
The shrapnel has left has a round scar and small fragment in the boy's shoulder.
"At the hospital, I underwent surgery,” he continues. “The doctors tried to pull out the fragment but they didn't succeed, so it was left inside."
Today, he can move his arm freely and feels no pain. But he still has a fear of explosives.
"From now, I know that I shouldn't touch such objects,” says Vladyslav. “I should keep away from them and, if I see something like them, I have to tell my parents and call 101.”
After more than nine years of fighting in the east of the country and over a year since the full-scale war began on 24 February, Ukraine is now one of the most mine contaminated countries in the world. Nearly 30% of the territory of Ukraine may be contaminated with explosive ordnance or mines. Many have been killed or injured, with some left with lifelong disabilities.
“For over a year we haven’t had electricity and heating,” she says. “We have to go to the forest for firewood, and we constantly come across mines and tripwires.”
At the playground, Vladyslav picks up a piece of white and red tape* and asks his mother: "What does this mean? Is it about mines?" Natalia sighs – even here, sappers have had to check for explosives, as the area has been hit by shelling.
Today, she does not let her son go anywhere alone. In the morning, she takes him to the educational center that was opened in the city to replace the destroyed school, and afterwards, she takes him to her job at the store where she works as a saleswoman. Their home still has no electricity or water. In the evenings, she and her son light their home with candles.
"I help my mom to carry firewood for the stove, which we cook on,” says Vladyslav. “I also help to carry water collected from the well. We still have planes flying overhead. I wave at those that don't drop bombs, but I have to run and hide in the basement from those that do.”
* White and red tapes are used to warn of mine danger.