Ukrainian teens rebuilding their lives after war: From shattered dreams to new beginnings | Russia-Ukraine conflict


Two years ago, Ukrainian teenagers were living typical teenage lives – making friends, falling in love, and exploring new experiences, just like teens around the world. However, their normalcy was disrupted by the Russian invasion that began on February 24, 2022.
Many young Ukrainians were forced to flee their homes, leaving behind their friends and schools, and start anew in a foreign country. Tens of thousands found themselves in neighboring Poland, joining the millions of refugees seeking safety in other European nations. A World Bank study estimates that almost six million Ukrainians now live displaced outside of their homeland.
While some have adjusted to their new lives, others face ongoing struggles with anxiety, anger, and sadness, uncertain of their future and the possibility of returning to Ukraine.
Marharyta Chykalova, who left Kherson with her mother to escape the violence, found solace in theatre classes in Poland, where she could express herself and connect with others. Despite feeling lonely at times, she has found a sense of home on the stage.
In Poland, around 165,000 Ukrainian teenagers have sought refuge, finding support and connection at places like Blue Trainers, a community space where they can socialize and play games with peers from both Ukraine and Poland.
For some, like Andrii Nonka and Dariia Vynohradova from Kharkiv, finding solace in sports or new friendships has helped them navigate the challenges of displacement. While Andrii remains torn between Poland and Ukraine, seeing opportunities for a future in technology, Dariia has made the decision to stay in Poland, citing the destruction in her hometown as a reason to not return.


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