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As the ongoing Russian invasion forces Ukrainian children underground (often quite literally, as a means of avoiding the shelling), some teachers are able to keep up with their instruction — reaching students remotely even while war rages.
Speaking to NBC News, a 22-year-old teacher in Ukraine named Aleksandra recently said that she and other teachers “just understood that we had a lot of energy to do something for the world — just, like, to be involved in a common victory.”
So they continued teaching, despite the considerable hurdles, Aleksandra said.
“Today, a few of my kids during the lesson, they just, like, went to a window and told me, ‘Sorry, we have to go to a shelter. It’s dangerous outside. It bombs there,'” Alexandra told NBC News . “I just, like, stop breath. It’s not normal lesson. It’s not normal.”
NBC reports that some other educators who have fled Ukraine are also continuing to teach students remotely — though, they note, accessing the internet can prove a challenge for the children, and teachers can go days without hearing from them at all.
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“We have kids who disappear for four or five days at a time, and then they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m safe. I’ve crossed this border,'” an instructor named Lindsey, who fled the capital of Kyiv with her family, told NBC. “It’s really unnerving, the not knowing for several days when you don’t know where people are.”
Speaking to her own young children (ages 3, 5 and 7) has made her realize that the normalcy and routine that school provides is much-needed among the students displaced by war, Lindsey said.
We’ve had conversations with our kids and ask them, ‘Do you want to go back to your school next year? What is your opinion?’ And they want to go back. They want to go home,” she told NBC. “So do my husband and I. We plan to return to Kyiv when this is all over and help rebuild the city — rebuild our community — so we can continue doing what we were doing there: Teaching.”
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Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues after their forces launched a large-scale invasion on Feb. 24 — the first major land conflict in Europe in decades.
Details of the fighting change by the day, but hundreds of civilians have already been reported dead or wounded, including children. Millions of Ukrainians have also fled, the United Nations says.
“You don’t know where to go, where to run, who you have to call. This is just panic,” Liliya Marynchak, a 45-year-old teacher in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, told PEOPLE of the moment her city was bombed — one of numerous accounts of bombardment by the Russians.
The invasion, ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, has drawn condemnation around the world and severe economic sanctions against Russia.
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With NATO forces massing in the region around Ukraine, various countries have also pledged aid or military support to the resistance. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for peace talks — so far unsuccessful — while urging his country to fight back.
Putin insists Ukraine has historic ties to Russia and he is acting in the best security interests of his country. Zelenskyy vowed not to bend.
“Nobody is going to break us, we’re strong, we’re Ukrainians,” he told the European Union in a speech in the early days of the fighting, adding, “Life will win over death. And light will win over darkness .”
The Russian attack on Ukraine is an evolving story, with information changing quickly. Follow PEOPLE’s complete coverage of the war hereincluding stories from citizens on the ground and ways to help.