“Trying to distract from the war.” The story of a schoolgirl who organized a “kindergarten” in her yard after the occupation

“Trying to distract from the war.”  The story of a schoolgirl who organized a “kindergarten” in her yard after the occupation


Daria Kucherenko is an 11th grade student, lives in the village of Pechenygi, takes care of extracurricular education for children and actively volunteers.

During the full-scale invasion, Daria organized art therapy classes for children and practiced with them in the yard of her own house.

The girl talks about her experience helping children and her dream of creating an educational space in the special project of the UP “Victory Generation”, dedicated to children from the de-occupied territories.

The project was initiated by the GoGlobal educational foundation, which generates, pilots and scales projects for teachers, schoolchildren and young people.

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Pechenegy is a small village near Kharkiv. This place has been in the news since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, because it almost immediately came under the control of Russian troops.

With the beginning of hostilities, people tried to leave for other villages.

It so happened that crossing the dam in Pecheneg on foot was the only way to evacuate from the occupied territories of the Kharkiv region. This unofficial corridor quickly became known as the “road of life”.

Crossing the road was difficult and dangerous: occupiers at checkpoints, chaotic shelling. Despite everything, up to a thousand people entered Ukrainian territory through the dam every week.

Daria Kucherenko’s family also met the beginning of a full-scale invasion in their native village.

Daria Kucherenko is an 11th grade student. Photo: Sasha Maslov

The first days

Daria, like many other Ukrainians, was skeptical of rumors about the war. Therefore, on the night of February 24, she was preparing for the test in English at the boarding school.

This is how she remembers that same morning:

“We were in the boarding school, reading, sleeping, and at 5 in the morning I heard loud explosions. At first, they didn’t understand what happened, but a little later my classmate came running and shouted: “Girls, the war has started…”

The children went down to the bomb shelter. Daria says that all this time the schoolchildren were without contact with their relatives, because their phones were taken away at night.

“In the morning, we were given phones, we started calling our relatives… I remember how my classmate’s dad said that the war had started. It was a military family, so we all understood that the situation was serious.

Later, we were all taken home. It was a very stressful trip, because we saw how everything around exploded, flew, fell…

Then, when I got home, I saw that a lot of enemy equipment was passing through our village. The brain refused to accept such a reality. I was sure that this was all for a couple of days,” – Daria recalls.

Classes with children

Daria still remembers the first days of the full-scale invasion:

“I constantly heard explosions and flights in all directions. Several times it came very close. We didn’t go out for a walk because it was scary, and when we went out one day, a cluster shell exploded over our heads.

During active hostilities, almost nothing worked in the village, there was not enough food, water…”

After the occupation, life returned to Pechenegs, but Daria was worried that there were no extracurricular activities for children in the village.

“There were also teenagers of my age in the village, as well as many children. I live in a private house, I have a large yard – and I decided to invite children to extracurricular activities.

At first it was a very small group. My neighbors came to the yard with their children, and I conducted creative courses for them: we did art therapy, made origami, I told them stories, tried to distract them from the war and give them positive emotions.” Daria recalls.

Gradually, there were more and more children: word of mouth radio was working and real groups began to form.

“Also, my mother, who cooks well, joined this activity – that’s why we almost had a kindergarten.

We played “board games”, treated the children with goodies and gave them to their parents for at least a couple of hours a day of free time.

I really liked doing it, and I was especially pleased that none of my “wards” were ever capricious or threw tantrums. Therefore, I consider this project a complete success!” – adds the schoolgirl.

Volunteer activity

Daria actively volunteered almost from the beginning of the invasion.

“I joined the volunteer activity in the summer of 2022, when humanitarian aid began to be packed in our lyceum – says the girl. – Later, she learned about the project “Active position of the region through the eyes of children” and became interested in creating her own social projects.

My dream is to create a cool social space for young people in our village, where we could come and work on realizing our dreams.

So far, I have not received support from the local authorities, but I do not lose hope and believe that everything is possible. After all, good ideas must be implemented!”

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The #ПоколенияПеремогы project was created in video, photo and text format. Famous photographer Sasha Maslov worked on photo stories of teenagers, whose works are regularly published by publications such as The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Newyorker, Guardian, Wall Street Journal Magazine and others. His lens captured not only touching moments, but also the power that pulsates in the heart of every child talent

Text: Yana Altukhova



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