“We went to school to get her spare shoes and heavy shelling started,” says Olena’s mother Liudmyla.

“She got upset and said she was never going to go back to school.”

Seven-year-old Olena lives in Kharkiv, Ukraine, which has been under constant attack since the beginning of the war in February 2022.  

Shelling and missiles have destroyed homes, schools and hospitals. Portions of the city, the second largest in country, have no running water, electricity, or access to food. More than 8 million people are now internally displaced across the country. 

The war in Ukraine is having a profound impact on children like Olena. She is one of at least 15,000 people who have been sheltering in the city’s underground metro stations for months.    

You can help send life-saving supplies to children and families in need. Make a tax-deductible donation to UNICEF Australia before 30 June.

Seven-year-old Olena stands in the doorway of a train car on the platform of a subway station in Kharkiv, where she and her family are sheltering from the conflict above. © UNICEF/UN0634451/Gilbertson

“Olena was so scared of the bombing,” says Liudmyla. “And I knew if we’d stayed in the apartment then she’d get really stressed and have psychological problems, so we came down here.”  

“Now she doesn’t cry at night, and she’s got friends here.”

For children affected by conflict, school is critical. It provides them with a safe space, and a semblance of normality in the most difficult of times. Education can also be a lifeline – connecting children and their parents to essential health and psychosocial services. 

But how do you learn when you’re sheltering from war in an underground train station?  

UNICEF is working to reach as many children as possible in Ukraine with education, no matter what:
  • UNICEF-supported volunteers have set up spaces where teachers, psychologists and sports instructors play and engage children on a regular basis in dozens of Kharkiv metro stations like this one.   
  • Nearly 250,000 children have benefited from education supplies provided by our teams to shelters, metro stations and other locations hosting displaced children.   

Your tax-deductible donation can be a lifeline for the children and families like Olena’s. Please donate now to send life-saving supplies and keep children learning.  

Left, Dmytro, 12, does homework in a subway station in Kharkiv, where they are sheltering and right, Viktoriia (centre), nine, participates in an English language class. © UNICEF/UN0634327/Gilbertson VII Photo, © UNICEF/UN0634265/Gilbertson VII Photo

Our support extends across the borders to neighbouring countries. More than 6.5 million people have fled Ukraine, finding safety in Romania, the Republic of Moldova, Hungary and more.  

UNICEF is supporting governments to include children in national school systems, along with alternative education pathways including digital learning. 

Until few weeks ago, Anastasiia was teaching English at a school in Odessa, Ukraine. Now she is doing the same, but at a school in Romania for refugee children.  

Our teams have sent several School-In-A-Box kits, as well as sport kits and backpacks. Anastasiia’s students Sofiya and Liza fled the war together, leaving their families behind in Odessa. While they wait to return home, they attend school.  

The girls received bags with school supplies, which contain notebooks, coloured pencils, and a painting pallet. Sofiya and Liza like their new school and said their favourite subjects are Math and English. 

How will my donation help support children in Ukraine? 

  • With $90 you could deliver 16 cans of therapeutic milk to children at risk of malnutrition. 
  • With $144 you could provide two emergency first aid kits containing life-saving medical supplies such as medicine, gauze, gloves and other items for injured children and families.
  • With $255 you could deliver an early childhood kit with supplies for 50 children with no home or school.
Left, Anastasiia a teacher who fled the war, holds a box of teaching supplies from UNICEF to help her students in Romania, and right, Sofiya and Liza at school with their new backpacks. © UNICEF/UN0622381/Holerga, © UNICEF/UN0622408/Holerga

Despite the devastation, UNICEF is there when children need us most and we will not leave.  

Thanks to generous people like you, our teams in Ukraine and neighbouring countries continue to reach children and families with education, health care, psychosocial support, clean water and protection. 

But the road to recovery will be very long and we urgently need your help.  

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