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How to help Ukraine after two years of war

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Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, has been in a state of stress for the last two years. Located only about 20 miles from the border of Russia, the city has lived under attack and threat of attack since the Russian invasion began in February 2022.

UNICEF says Kharkiv, known as a cultural and education center in Ukraine and home to around 1.4 million people, now has only two schools open for students. One is a makeshift operation in the city’s metro stations, the other is a Soviet-era anti-radiation shelter.

UNICEF spokesperson, James Elder, is currently in Kharkiv where he says childhood has been replaced by a “state of fear and state of uncertainty.”

“They had two years of COVID and now two years of war. The two teenage girls I just spoke with were back in school for a week over four years,” Elder told CNN. “There is a massive toll being taken here on mental health.”

Since the war began on February 24, 2022, the UNHCR has recorded almost 6.5 million refugees from Ukraine globally. For those still living in the country, the constant bombardment is a strain both physically and mentally – especially on children.

“You really can feel the wounds are everywhere, because of their isolation, lack of socialization, because the attacks keep coming,” Elder said. “There’s this sort of psychological scarring that is really evident after two years of war.”

Elder tried to sum up the mood of the Ukrainians he’s met in a few words –

“Fear, isolation and resilience.”

Pupils of the first grade attend a lesson in a classroom set up in a subway station in Kharkiv. - Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images

Pupils of the first grade attend a lesson in a classroom set up in a subway station in Kharkiv. – Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images

Longing for peace

Organizations like UNICEF are providing psychologists and counseling, but Elder says that more help is needed. The need for basic health care, safe drinking water and financial stress are also adding to people’s anxiety.

Through it all, however, Elder still sees a lot of resilience and determination.

“Freedom is a word I hear regularly.”

Despite the attacks and threats of attacks, he sees Ukrainians focused on rebuilding efforts, sometimes within hours of the damage taking place.

“There is this immense sense of community in terms of lending a hand, counseling, volunteering. Everyone I meet is working in some way in the evenings – volunteering in some capacity, be it in a laborious way of helping in reconstruction or be it in counseling or looking after children while other friends are doing things.”

After two years of war, fatigue is taking its toll on Ukrainians and other crises have grabbed the world’s attention, but Elder says that the people remain “unrelenting.”

“They don’t imagine anything other than living here, at some point, peacefully. There is no flexibility on that. They are utterly, utterly determined to ensure their own peace and freedom.”

How to help

Since the invasion, CNN audiences have donated over $8 million to help the people of Ukraine. As the war now enters its third year, assistance is still needed.

You can donate with the form below, or by clicking here.

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