Donetsk Citizens Ask, Will School Open in the Fall?

Smoke rises over Donetsk city on July 27, 2014 Photograph by Bulent Kilic/AFP via Getty Images

Normal life in Donetsk, Ukraine, has almost stopped. Problems with the water began a few weeks ago, when rockets damaged the aqueduct that supplied this city of a million people. Now residents of Donetsk have running water only a few hours a day. If the reservoir for Donetsk dries up, the city will be in a severe crisis.

The situation in the city became more perilous after the troops of Igor Strelkov, a separatist leader, entered Donetsk. He left Sloviansk on July 5 after Ukrainian Army troops drove out the separatist militias. Strelkov has promised to turn Donetsk into a fortress that will repel Ukrainian forces.

The battle has already started on the outskirts of Donetsk. As a result of the shelling, several people were killed in the western and northern parts of the city, where the Ukrainian army is trying to advance. Militants fire from residential areas, so fighting them without incurring civilian casualties is almost impossible.

People are trying to leave. Shops in the city center are closed. Restaurants, cafes, and banks are not functioning. All the biggest malls, such as Donetsk City mall and Green Plaza, are closed too. Business owners try to remove items from the shops or hide their inventory in warehouses, because small shops throughout the city are plundered regularly. On July 23, the Varus supermarket, which stayed open despite all the problems, was robbed.

The question of school is looming large. The academic year in Donetsk cannot start this September if the war continues. City universities won’t have students for the first semester. “We don’t know if school in Donetsk will start on Sept. 1. So far, nothing is clear. If nothing changes, the school year will not start,” says Oksana Solojova, a teacher at school No. 16 in Donetsk.

Donetsk citizens are trying to get their children out of the city because of the war. Some parents are already looking for schools in other regions.

While the war drags on, schools can be dangerous places. Several in Donetsk, Lugansk, and other cities have already been damaged by shells. On July 21, in Donetsk, artillery shells fell near school No. 51, ​​which is located near the airport. On July 23, blasts damaged two schools, No. 105 and No. 110, in Petrovsky district on the western outskirts of the city.

In Lugansk, explosions damaged several schools. During the shelling of school No. 51, ​​in the Southern quarter, the explosion decapitated a worker. “The school where my child studies was hit by a Grad rocket, and the upper floor was destroyed,” says the mother of Oksana Voznjuk. “Now we’ve moved to Kiev and are looking for a new school there. But we left our documents in Lugansk.”

Donetsk’s universities need students. “Usually we accept applications until August, but this year the deadline has been extended to Sept. 15,” says Galina Rabush, associate professor at Donetsk National Technical University. “We had hoped that the war would be quick. But only a few people applied, and in July the applications stopped coming. Applicants prefer to go to other cities.”

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