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Growing up in the midst of conflict

How to plan the future when you’re young and Ukrainian? Two years after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Maksim still lives in Kyiv despite the daily bomb alerts. Mariya fled to Brussels in the aftermath of the invasion, joining the millions of displaced Ukrainians seeking refuge across Europe. In interviews with ENTR, both explained their very different daily lives, mixed with fears and hopes.

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It’s the night of February 24, 2022. Maksim, 23, will never forget: “Two explosions woke me up. At 5am my father called me, and said: ‘Maksim, I love you, I hug you tightly, please come back home, I’m leaving’. That is, he left to go to the front line to protect us.”

That day, Europe woke up to a war as Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine, sparking the worst conflict on the continent since World War II. 

The memory is different for Mariya, a 21-year-old Ukrainian: “I didn’t believe it at first, I thought it was a joke. I remember it was like in the movies, when you go to the living room and you see everybody sitting on the couch, you look at the TV and you see different parts of your country being bombed.”

The lives of the two Kyiv-based students were turned upside down. In the aftermath of the invasion, they had to decide whether to stay or leave the country. Mariya fled to Brussels, leaving the life she knew behind. Maksim stayed in Kyiv, to care for the family his father left to fight on the front line.  

“It’s hard here because most of my friends have gone abroad,” says Maksim. “You think about how others are resting, living their wonderful life, travelling, while you just sit in a cage, afraid to be killed there.”

As the two-year mark of Russia’s war in Ukraine approached, ENTR met Maksim and Mariya to learn what it’s like to grow up in the midst of war.

ENTR is a digital space for open discussion about what really matters, what holds us back and what connects us all.

ENTR exists in 6 languages: English, French, German, Polish, Romanian and Portuguese.

This story originally appeared on France24

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