Teens: Love and War

Ukraine's teens coming of age at a time of war

Teens: Love and War Birthdays, friends and blossoming romances. These are normal aspects of being a teenager – but when war hits, life is turned upside down. What is it like to be on the brink of adulthood in the middle of a conflict?
16 year-old Oleksii, from Kharkiv, has always dreamt of being an actor. When Russia invaded, his life was completely shaken. A year on from Russia’s retreat, he still feels terrified. Despite his ambitions, he worries about the re-opening of the local theatre: what if the Russians “find about it and decide to send a missile here?” Oleksii is not alone in his stress. “UNICEF estimates that one and a half million Ukrainian children are now at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions.” Many Ukrainian teenagers are now forced to take on the heavy burdens of war. Some, like 18 year-old Artem, have joined the army. An estimated 17,000 Ukrainian soldiers have already been killed in action, some as young as 18. “Death, and injury, blood and all that, I can say that for me, it changed me a lot. I was a child before, and the war has totally changed me.” he says. But this hasn’t stopped his blossoming relationship with his girlfriend Yaryna. Due to the war, this is not a typical teenage romance, but Artem says “she respects my choice, respects it and is proud.”

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