This Is My Home Now: The Life of a 13-Year-Old in a Subway Converted into an Air Raid Shelter in Kharkiv | ground report

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Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, was under enemy attack from the very beginning of the Russian invasion. The relentless Russian shelling has caused most of the 1.5 million residents to flee. No neighborhood in Kharkiv was spared: schools and hospitals were destroyed, residential buildings were reduced to rubble. Since most of the city is uninhabitable, those who stayed behind have retreated underground.

Hundreds of people are currently sitting in a Kharkiv subway station that has been turned into an air raid shelter in anticipation of a Russian attack on Ukraine. India Today learned that many of them have not ventured out of their underground refuge for the past two months.

Kharkiv residents living in a metro station turned bomb shelter (Photo: India Today)

For Kharkiv residents sheltering in the subway, this is their life now. One worked quietly on his laptop while another, wrapped in a blanket, took a nap while Russian troops bombarded the city with bombs and artillery.

READ | From the Warzone: Ukrainian forces confront a Russian attack to save Kharkiv amid a rain of missiles

In contrast to the chaos outside, everything in the shelter is planned and has its own place. Food, water and other supplies are next to one pillar, the children’s library and reading shelves for adults are next to another. Everyone knows in which wagon the perishable goods are stored.

Rations and supplies stored at a Kharkiv metro station turned bomb shelter (Photo: India Today)

As the India Today team walked down the platform of the silent subway station, a 13-year-old boy named Alex walked up to us. Alex said he arrived at the shelter with his family almost 69 days ago. The subway is now his school and playground.

“This is my home now. I’ve been living here for two months. I skate all day and I learn. I want to go home. I’m not afraid, I’m optimistic,” he said in halting English, determined to spread his message around the world.

Alex’s mother Irene told India Today that five days ago she went to her house to get some things only to find it in ruins. “Luckily we moved here,” she says.

Irene pointed to a corner and showed us where Alex takes his classes and how he spends his time. “He’s busy sketching and studying all day, there are online classes,” she added.

Around 90 percent of Ukraine’s schools have been operating since the outbreak of war on February 24, offering classes online, a testament to the country’s population’s steadfastness.

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