A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas.
Schoolchildren across most of Ukraine mark the first day of classes with patriotic performances and gifts of flowers for their teachers.
But, unlike in the capital, authorities say over 900 schools in the rebel-held, war-torn east are still closed because of fighting.
Kyiv's mayor, former boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, says about 4,500 children of refugees from the east are in the city's schools this year. “The biggest disaster is that right now lots of children are in the fighting zones and kids cannot go to school. I can say one thing: No war should cost the tear of a child,” he said.
To support Ukraine's troops, many classes collect donations for the injured says 11th grade student Victoria Odusanvo. “Because they were helping our country, they were trying to help us, to protect us. And, I think it's just good that we can help them with this money,” she stated.
They also feature classes on patriotism, says principle of German Language School 149, Olena Zaplotinska. “After the first lesson, 'Ukraine United', students with their teacher go to the military hospital to be introduced to those soldiers having treatment there,” he said.
Students and others are flooding hospitals with donations, says border guard hospital chief Col. Michail Karnaukh. “Now, I feel like they are living here. They are coming almost every day,” he said.
Ukrainian border guard Stanislav Zvarko suffered burns across his back, knees and hands when his vehicle was hit by an anti-tank missile. “It is really pleasant that they are coming and not forgetting. And, we always remember about them. We are always happy every time they visit,” he added.
Hospital staff say, short of funds, they depend on the donations to buy better quality, imported uniforms and safety equipment.
Border guards receive a brand new set after they are released to active duty with hopes it will prevent them from coming back.