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    Posted February 16, 2015 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Ukraine unrest

    MaiaKiev and 14 other iReporters contributed to Open Story: Ukraine crisis as it unfolds
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    Childhood Stolen by War

    “Do you miss school”, I asked 9-year old Maxim this trick question. Most nine-year-olds I know would say they are happy to have an extended school break. Maxim doesn’t return my smile. He just nods and his eyes fill with tears. I awkwardly keep trying to lighten up our conversation. “You must miss your friends. Surely you are not eager to go back to classes?” Maxim told me that he did miss studying. His school was destroyed by shelling of their city last month. He and his family spent a few weeks in a cold, dark basement of their house hiding from bullets and explosions. When volunteers came to evacuate them his young sister had to be dragged from under the bed where she had been hiding almost all the time because even in the underground of the basement they could hear loud thumps of missiles ploughing their city.

    Every trip to war zone seems to break our hearts in new ways. In December and January our hearts were broken for abandoned, starving elderly when we were able to bring food to their homes. Then we made it to Peski and Opytnoye, towns close to the line between Ukrainian army and pro-Russian terrorists and our hearts were broken for those who were forced out of their homes into underground of bomb shelters by constant shelling. During Christmas and New Year we tried to bring a spirit of celebration to kids in war zone. This time we were in a few refugee camps. Inside of the walls of each camp there was a lot of pain. Every life was a story of losses. There were so many kids here! The youngest refugee was 10 days old! War stole a lot from these kids. It stole their homes with toys, books, favorite pillows and blankets. War stole their friends - it's hard to listen to a kid telling how his best friend was killed during shelling. War stole their health - it's even harder to listen to a mother telling details of her son crawling home from a playground with shrapnel in his side, his clothes soaked in his blood. War stole kids' belief in safety. Kids in a very simple childish way explain to us the differences in sounds of types of artillery – “Grads sound like leaves whispering in the wind". We came to the first camp early in the morning. Many kids were still asleep. Looking at these small warm bundles - some sleeping on the floor, some in beds, I wanted to force words "sweet dreams" into my head but those words wouldn't fit... I was hoping that at least in their sleep they would dream of a peaceful happy life, not of the horrors of war, of hunger and cold, of their parents' panic and evacuation under fire.

    It’s been almost two days since the “cease-fire” has been announced. People welcomed the silence of weapons with great joy! But in some places that silence didn’t last even an hour! Unfortunately the cease-fire exists only on paper. Pro-Russian terrorists and Russian army continue attacking Ukrainian towns and villages, robbing our kids of homes, families, friends, childhood…
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