Tens of thousands of Ukrainian children still do not have the opportunity to return to their schools for lessons due to the lack of shelters. Thousands are forced to hide from air attacks in basements, which are not suitable for long-term stay.

The charity fund KSE Foundation, which has been setting up shelters in educational institutions of Ukraine since last year, documented the children of two such schools in the middle of unsuitable basements, where they are forced to hide in times of alarm.

The exhibition “Children of shelters” is a photo documentation of an excursion conducted by schoolchildren and a group of preschoolers for the KSE Foundation. Dressed in embroidered shirts for Vyshyvanka Day, the children descended into the basements of their educational institutions to show us the place that should become a safe haven for them. They led us through dark corridors with sandy floor, talked to us about the flute class and the school roof destroyed by an enemy shell.

All photos featured in the exhibition are available at the end of this post.

The photo exhibition was presented at the Kyiv School of Economics for Children’s Day. The photos show students and pupils of two rural schools: Makovyshchanska Gymnasium (Kyiv region) and Brusylivska Art School (Zhytomyr region).

“The basements, in the middle of which the children are in these photos, are dark and damp rooms, with fungus on the walls and ceiling and a layer of sand on the floor. They are cluttered, poorly ventilated, remnants of plaster are falling from the walls. We will turn these basements into comfortable shelters”, – says KSE Foundation director Svitlana Denysenko.

In particular, the premises will be cleaned of fungus, a concrete screed will be poured on the floor, sewerage and ventilation will be installed, a gap and waterproofing will be implemented, because one of these basements floods during rainstorms, the electrical system will be replaced and bright lighting will be made, and soft benches will be acquired. 

“It is important for us to make the shelter not only safe, but also bright and comfortable – so that children experience as little discomfort as possible during stressful situations when they have to hide from enemy attacks. Many children of these schools have witnessed hostilities, some have lost relatives or are waiting for their parents to return from the frontline – we have to give them a sense of security”, – says Svitlana Denysenko.

To equip shelters in these two rural schools, the KSE Foundation launched a fund-raising campaign #ThreadOfProtection for Vyshyvanka Day – the collection of 720,000 UAH needed to complete the repairs in both institutions is ongoing. However, the already collected funds made it possible to start work at the Brusyliv Art School.

“We have chosen as a symbol of this collection the thread with which our ancestors carried ornaments through time that protect us today. With each stitch, the ordinary thread turned the shirt into a charm. Just as all Ukrainians today, with every small but good deed, every decision and every contribution, bring victory closer and protect those around them”, – says Svitlana Denysenko.

#ThreadOfProtection found its continuation in the design of the photo exhibition. A red thread connects the photographs of children, how they themselves are connected by a common story of childhood during the war.

Photographer: Serhii Halushka

Everyone can help save 250 students of these schools. You can make a contribution for arranging shelters here

History of Makovyshchanska Gymnasium

History of the Brusyliv Art School