At the beginning of the full-scale invasion, schoolchildren of the rural Gruzhchanska Gymnasium experienced complete isolation from the outside world. The village had neither electricity nor telephone communication, and stores were not delivering products, while pharmacies lacked medicines. At that time, they had to suspend classes, and the basement of their school became a shelter for locals and evacuees.

For many weeks, they hid from enemy shelling despite the lack of amenities: the premises were damp and poorly ventilated. After the liberation of Kyiv region, the basement began to be used as a shelter for schoolchildren and teachers during air raid alerts. To make their stay in the shelter comfortable, repairs were carried out.

The shelter was organized through the collaboration of Ukrposhta and KSE Foundation – this is the fourth jointly renovated shelter. All the work was done thanks to Ukrainians who purchased the charitable postage stamp “PTN PNH!”. The shelter was arranged as part of the nationwide program “ZAHYSTOK: Safe Education,” initiated by the KSE Foundation.

“Our country is in circumstances where it is forced to adapt educational institutions to the realities of war. The safety of our children is a top priority, as well as comfortable shelters where they will feel cozy. Ukrposhta helps the state overcome challenging periods of war, so donations from postage stamps go towards the implementation of charitable projects, which are currently extremely important and necessary,” says Igor Smelyansky, CEO of Ukrposhta.

In the shelter:

  • Concrete floor screed has been poured,
  • Plumbing pipes have been replaced,
  • Ventilation has been installed,
  • Lighting has been installed,
  • Toilet rooms have been arranged,
  • Fire doors have been installed on main and spare exits,
  • Benches for seating and beanbag chairs have been purchased.

Also, KSE Foundation renovated the sanitary facilities in the gymnasium itself – the school toilets were damaged and lacked partitions, so, according to the director Maya Romanova, the children were ashamed to use them. Now, thanks to the support of Ukrposhta, the restrooms have been updated.

“Before the renovation, a lot of dust would rise in the shelter, so we all came out of there ‘gray.’ The plumbing pipes were rusty, there was no ventilation at all, and the lighting was insufficient. And when there was heavy rain, puddles would appear on the floor. We hoped that they would make a shelter for us, but we didn’t believe it until the end. I still can’t believe that such high-quality repairs were done in our hopeless premises,” says Maya Romanova, the gymnasium’s director.

One hundred students attend the gymnasium, and now they have the opportunity to return to in-person learning. The shelter renovation also allowed the school to enroll students from the support school in the neighboring village of Bishiv – as that educational institution was destroyed by the enemy.

Basement premise before the start of repair work

“Since the pandemic, the parents of our students realized that online learning is not effective because children are accustomed to listening to the teacher live, interacting. Now we have such a shelter that allows us to conduct lessons in person. And this is very important for the psychological state – especially for our children, whose parents are currently on the front lines, or those who have moved to us from temporarily occupied territories. Psychologists work with them; these are group sessions, the idea of which is collective healing, so that students feel comfortable in the group and know how to support each other,” the director explains.

To set up the shelter and quickly bring the children back to school, in August, students from the Kyiv School of Economics gathered for a community workday and helped clear the basement premises. They disassembled and removed all old furniture, cleaned dozens of kilograms of trash, performed basic demolition work, and completely cleared an area of almost 150 square meters. A month later, thanks to Ukrposhta, the shelter became a shelter for children.

KSE Foundation works daily to support people and the development of an innovative Ukraine through education, thanks to contributors and partners.