The school on the frontline of the war in Ukraine

School No 58 in Donetsk bears the scars of war – as do its pupils and teachers. We followed them for a year.
Published in Al Jazeera and Bergens Tidende.

Donetsk, eastern Ukraine – It is Wednesday, May 4, 2016, and five grade 11 boys run gleefully on to the football field next to the school. In their right hand, they each carry a gun, in their left, a hand grenade.

It is the last period and the older pupils have a class in defence, patriotism and discipline. The guns they are using today are made of wood, but later they will practise with the real thing. At School No 58, the war is no game of pretend.

“Maybe the classes will inspire them to join the army when they graduate,” says teacher Alexey Ivanov.

He nods towards the teenage boys. They have swapped their school uniforms for camouflage print T-shirts.

One of the boys butts his weapon against his classmate’s. Another has picked a dandelion and placed it in the muzzle of his rifle.

“Act your age, boys. Fall in line,” says Alexey.

It's monday 4th of May 2015, the teachers of the school met to clean up broken glass. The day before it was heavy shelling in Kievskaja. No one was killed in the attack, according to the OSCE. Photo by: Kyrre Lien

It’s monday 4th of May 2015, the teachers of the school met to clean up broken glass. The day before it was heavy shelling in Kievskaja. No one was killed in the attack, according to the OSCE.
Photo by: Kyrre Lien

It's monday 4th of May 2015, the teachers of the school met to clean up broken glass. The day before it was heavy shelling in Kievskaja. No one was killed in the attack, according to the OSCE. Photo by: Kyrre Lien

It’s monday 4th of May 2015, the teachers of the school met to clean up broken glass. The day before it was heavy shelling in Kievskaja. No one was killed in the attack, according to the OSCE.
Photo by: Kyrre Lien

It is a recess at school number 58. Since the school is located in Kievskaja which is a few kilometers from the front line, the school has been exposed to shelling. Photo by: Kyrre Lien

It is a recess at school number 58. Since the school is located in Kievskaja which is a few kilometers from the front line, the school has been exposed to shelling.
Photo by: Kyrre Lien

Outdoor school lesson on the 4th of May. Since the school is located in Kievskaja which is a few kilometers from the front line, the school has been subjected to shelling since the war in eastern Ukraine broke out in spring 2014. Photo by: Kyrre Lien

Outdoor school lesson on the 4th of May. Since the school is located in Kievskaja which is a few kilometers from the front line, the school has been subjected to shelling since the war in eastern Ukraine broke out in spring 2014.
Photo by: Kyrre Lien

Parts of the neighborhood near school number 58 is bombed and destroyed when we visited it in December 2015. Photo by: Kyrre Lien

Parts of the neighborhood near school number 58 is bombed and destroyed when we visited it in December 2015.
Photo by: Kyrre Lien

Christmas at school number 58. Photo by: Kyrre Lien

Christmas at school number 58.
Photo by: Kyrre Lien

Diana lives with her family in Makeevka, on the outskirts of Donetsk. Here both roads and streetlights have seen better days. Photo by: Kyrre Lien

Diana lives with her family in Makeevka, on the outskirts of Donetsk. Here both roads and streetlights have seen better days.
Photo by: Kyrre Lien

Veterans Day is celebrated on 4th of May 2016 at school number 58.  Photo by: Kyrre Lien

Veterans Day is celebrated on 4th of May 2016 at school number 58.
Photo by: Kyrre Lien

Militarytraining for kids on the 4th of May 2016 at school number 58. They learn to take on the gas mask, throw grenades and use of weapons, although these weapons are only copies. Since the school is located in Kievskaja which is a few kilometers from the front line, the school has been subjected to shelling since the war in eastern Ukraine broke out in spring 2014. Photo by: Kyrre Lien

Militarytraining for kids on the 4th of May 2016 at school number 58. They learn to take on the gas mask, throw grenades and use of weapons, although these weapons are only copies. Since the school is located in Kievskaja which is a few kilometers from the front line, the school has been subjected to shelling since the war in eastern Ukraine broke out in spring 2014.
Photo by: Kyrre Lien

Militarytraining for kids on the 4th of May 2016 at school number 58. They learn to take on the gas mask, throw grenades and use of weapons, although these weapons are only copies. Since the school is located in Kievskaja which is a few kilometers from the front line, the school has been subjected to shelling since the war in eastern Ukraine broke out in spring 2014. Photo by: Kyrre Lien

Militarytraining for kids on the 4th of May 2016 at school number 58. They learn to take on the gas mask, throw grenades and use of weapons, although these weapons are only copies. Since the school is located in Kievskaja which is a few kilometers from the front line, the school has been subjected to shelling since the war in eastern Ukraine broke out in spring 2014.
Photo by: Kyrre Lien

Militarytraining for kids on the 4th of May 2016 at school number 58. They learn to take on the gas mask, throw grenades and use of weapons, although these weapons are only copies. Since the school is located in Kievskaja which is a few kilometers from the front line, the school has been subjected to shelling since the war in eastern Ukraine broke out in spring 2014. Photo by: Kyrre Lien

Militarytraining for kids on the 4th of May 2016 at school number 58. They learn to take on the gas mask, throw grenades and use of weapons, although these weapons are only copies. Since the school is located in Kievskaja which is a few kilometers from the front line, the school has been subjected to shelling since the war in eastern Ukraine broke out in spring 2014.
Photo by: Kyrre Lien

Militarytraining for kids on the 4th of May 2016 at school number 58. They learn to take on the gas mask, throw grenades and use of weapons, although these weapons are only copies. Since the school is located in Kievskaja which is a few kilometers from the front line, the school has been subjected to shelling since the war in eastern Ukraine broke out in spring 2014. Photo by: Kyrre Lien

Militarytraining for kids on the 4th of May 2016 at school number 58. They learn to take on the gas mask, throw grenades and use of weapons, although these weapons are only copies. Since the school is located in Kievskaja which is a few kilometers from the front line, the school has been subjected to shelling since the war in eastern Ukraine broke out in spring 2014.
Photo by: Kyrre Lien


Death is waiting in Donetsk

More soldiers are killed in Eastern Ukraine each passing day, but no one knows how many, in total, who are killed in the war. This is the story about why Oleg, Mikhail and Roma gave their lives to a rebel republic.

DONETSK, EASTERN-UKRAINE:
Text: Per Christian Selmer-Anderssen
Photos: Kyrre Lien

Olga Fedorovsky is guided towards the open casket by two men dressed in black. They give her water from a half-empty, green plastic bottle. She drinks as if it was oxygen. A muffled scream. Sobbing that is drowned out by hyperventilation. We are attending the funeral of Oleg Fedorovsky. A day earlier, they buried his good friend Maksim. The day after, we’ll attend the funeral of their good friend Roma. Only 24 hours after the death of Roma and Maksim, Olegs heart stopped beating. “Killed by a sniper”, someone says. Other than that, no one is talking about what happened to Oleg. The priest places a loaf of bread on the coffin. He has a grizzled, weathered face — and is the most terrifying person in the heavily armed funeral procession.

– We have different paths in life, and some have shorter paths than others. Soldiers go directly to God, says the priest.

Olga kisses her husband’s pale face for the last time. He wears a white ribbon on his head, which partly covers the bandages over his left temple. The grizzled priest motions the grave diggers, who put out their cigarettes before they shut the coffin.
Oleg is then lowered into the ground for the last time.

Olga’s screams mix with the howls of her son: A heavy-set 19 year-old who is standing next to the procession, sobbing with increasing intensity. His friends are standing on the side-lines, looking a bit uncomfortable. They are smoking, and their gazes are fixed on the peat in front of them.
Ina Layevska, a woman in uniform, with long, pitch-black hair, unholsters her gun and approaches the field. Some twenty soldiers follow her.
They will fire their weapons in salute as a last goodbye to Oleg.

– I don’t have time to stop crying over one soldier before we lose the next, says Ina Layevska.

It is Ina’s job to deliver the news to the widow when a soldier is killed. She is also the one who has invited us to the funeral.
In the Vostok Batallion she is simply known by the nickname “Mom”.
After the funeral, she joins the other soldiers on the army bus.
They are heading back to the front lines.
(…)

The whole feature in Norwegian:

And here in Roads & Kingdom in English.

 

DONETSK, EASTERN-UKRAINE 09.05.2016 A destroyed highway on the outskirts of Donetsk.

DONETSK, EASTERN-UKRAINE 09.05.2016 A destroyed highway on the outskirts of Donetsk.

DONETSK, EASTERN-UKRAINE 03.05.2016 Oleg is about to be digged into the deep. How he died is not talked about at the funeral service. Foto: Kyrre Lien

DONETSK, EASTERN-UKRAINE 03.05.2016 Oleg is about to be digged into the deep. How he died is not talked about at the funeral service. Foto: Kyrre Lien

DONETSK, EASTERN-UKRAINE 06.05.2016 Oleg Fedorovsky leaves two sons, one father in law and a wife. "What is this war good for?" his father-in-law, Alexander sobs.

DONETSK, EASTERN-UKRAINE 06.05.2016 Oleg Fedorovsky leaves two sons, one father in law and a wife. “What is this war good for?” his father-in-law, Alexander sobs.

DONETSK, EASTERN-UKRAINE 03.05.2016 Oleg is about to be digged into the deep. How he died is not talked about at the funeral service.

DONETSK, EASTERN-UKRAINE 03.05.2016 Oleg is about to be digged into the deep. How he died is not talked about at the funeral service.

DONETSK, EASTERN-UKRAINE 05.05.2016 After each funeral of a soldier, the comrades fire a salute. There have been many salutes the last months.

DONETSK, EASTERN-UKRAINE 05.05.2016 After each funeral of a soldier, the comrades fire a salute. There have been many salutes the last months.

DONETSK, EASTERN-UKRAINE 06.05.2016 Romas two boys, Nazar (5) and Danil (8), do not really understand that their father is killed. Their mother tells us that Roma worked so much, that he did not have much time for his sons.

DONETSK, EASTERN-UKRAINE 06.05.2016 Romas two boys, Nazar (5) and Danil (8), do not really understand that their father is killed. Their mother tells us that Roma worked so much, that he did not have much time for his sons.

DONETSK, EASTERN-UKRAINE 07.05.2016 Marina Zhulykov lost her husband Roman when he was killed as a soldier on the rebels side. Now she is taking care of her two small sons and the almost-finished house.

DONETSK, EASTERN-UKRAINE 07.05.2016 Marina Zhulykov lost her husband Roman when he was killed as a soldier on the rebels side. Now she is taking care of her two small sons and the almost-finished house.

DONETSK, EASTERN-UKRAINE 07.05.2016 Ljuba fought in the war together with her "war husband" Maksim. Now he is dead, while her children are sent to the grandmother. Even though many in the battalion thinks about quitting the army, she will continue fighting.

DONETSK, EASTERN-UKRAINE 07.05.2016 Ljuba fought in the war together with her “war husband” Maksim. Now he is dead, while her children are sent to the grandmother. Even though many in the battalion thinks about quitting the army, she will continue fighting.

DONETSK, EASTERN-UKRAINE 05.05.2016 A few minutes after Roma is has been lowered into the ground, the soldiers are heading back to the front. As the war has escalated there are no time for remorse.

DONETSK, EASTERN-UKRAINE 05.05.2016 A few minutes after Roma is has been lowered into the ground, the soldiers are heading back to the front. As the war has escalated there are no time for remorse.

DONETSK, EASTERN-UKRAINE 07.05.2016 The rebels are training for Victory Day in Donetsk. But cigarette breaks are more frequent than orders.

DONETSK, EASTERN-UKRAINE 07.05.2016 The rebels are training for Victory Day in Donetsk. But cigarette breaks are more frequent than orders.

DONETSK, EASTERN-UKRAINE 27.04.2016 At graveyard number 16 in Donetsk the 14 newly digged graves tell their own story about the ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine.

DONETSK, EASTERN-UKRAINE 27.04.2016 At graveyard number 16 in Donetsk the 14 newly digged graves tell their own story about the ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine.


After July 22

Five years has pasted since the unthinkable massacre that struck Norway in 2011.
This summer I’ve been working on a big feature where we met up with 13 survivors and relatives after the attack, and hearing who they are today and how the day changed them.
In the feature we used cinemagraphs when we did the portraits.

See the feature here.

sissel-stenberg lisbeth-royneland

Liv Tørres befant seg i Regjeringskvartalet da bomben gikk av. Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Liv Tørres befant seg i Regjeringskvartalet da bomben gikk av.
Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

See also these photos from the terror attack on July 22. 


Sandra Lyng Haugen

Artist Sandra Lyng Haugen photographed for VG.

Sandra Lyng Haugen er aktuell med ny singel. Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Sandra Lyng Haugen er aktuell med ny singel.
Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Sandra Lyng Haugen er aktuell med ny singel. Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Sandra Lyng Haugen er aktuell med ny singel.
Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG


Terror in Nice and massacre in Munich.

Last weekend I covered the terrible attack in Nice when a man rammed his truck into a crowd celebrating the national day in France, killing 84.
This week I was sent to Munich to cover the massacre when a 18 year old man killed nine. Here are some pictures:

Ni personer er drept og flere såret etter at en gjerningsmann løsnet skudd i München i Tyskland fredag kveld.  Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Ni personer er drept og flere såret etter at en gjerningsmann løsnet skudd i München i Tyskland fredag kveld.
Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Ni personer er drept og flere såret etter at en gjerningsmann løsnet skudd i München i Tyskland fredag kveld.  Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Ni personer er drept og flere såret etter at en gjerningsmann løsnet skudd i München i Tyskland fredag kveld.
Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Ni personer er drept og flere såret etter at en gjerningsmann løsnet skudd i München i Tyskland fredag kveld. Familien sørger og legger ned blomster for kosovoalbanske Armela Segashi (14).  Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Ni personer er drept og flere såret etter at en gjerningsmann løsnet skudd i München i Tyskland fredag kveld. Familien sørger og legger ned blomster for kosovoalbanske Armela Segashi (14).
Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Mat og gjenstander ligger igjen inne på McDonalds på kjøpesenteret etter at folk måtte flykte da skytingen begynte.  Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Mat og gjenstander ligger igjen inne på McDonalds på kjøpesenteret etter at folk måtte flykte da skytingen begynte.
Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Lørdag ettermiddag fjernet politiet gjenstander som ble lagt igjen da mennesker måtte flykte bort fra skytingen.  Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Lørdag ettermiddag fjernet politiet gjenstander som ble lagt igjen da mennesker måtte flykte bort fra skytingen.
Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Ni personer er drept og flere såret etter at en gjerningsmann løsnet skudd i München i Tyskland fredag kveld.  Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Ni personer er drept og flere såret etter at en gjerningsmann løsnet skudd i München i Tyskland fredag kveld.
Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Tayfun Balikay viser frem gaten hvor gjerningsmannen skal ha skutt seg selv.  Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Tayfun Balikay viser frem gaten hvor gjerningsmannen skal ha skutt seg selv.
Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Det ble ampert ved åstedet da ulike grupperinger begynte å rope til hverandre. Politiet måtte skille bråkmakerne.  Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Det ble ampert ved åstedet da ulike grupperinger begynte å rope til hverandre. Politiet måtte skille bråkmakerne.
Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Familien sørger og legger ned blomster for kosovoalbanske Armela Segashi (14).  Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Familien sørger og legger ned blomster for kosovoalbanske Armela Segashi (14).
Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

84 mennesker er drept og over hundre er skadet etter at en lastebil kjørte ned en stor folkemengde på promenaden i Nice i Frankrike.  Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

84 mennesker er drept og over hundre er skadet etter at en lastebil kjørte ned en stor folkemengde på promenaden i Nice i Frankrike.
Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

84 mennesker er drept og over hundre er skadet etter at en lastebil kjørte ned en stor folkemengde på promenaden i Nice i Frankrike.  Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

84 mennesker er drept og over hundre er skadet etter at en lastebil kjørte ned en stor folkemengde på promenaden i Nice i Frankrike.
Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Lørdag morgen er promenaden åpnet, og folk er tilbake på strendene og i gatene, tross blodspor på promenaden. 84 mennesker er drept og over hundre er skadet etter at en lastebil kjørte ned en stor folkemengde på promenaden i Nice i Frankrike.  Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Lørdag morgen er promenaden åpnet, og folk er tilbake på strendene og i gatene, tross blodspor på promenaden. 84 mennesker er drept og over hundre er skadet etter at en lastebil kjørte ned en stor folkemengde på promenaden i Nice i Frankrike.
Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Bryan De Hen ble skada i angrepet torsdag kveld. Her hjelpes han av en vakt fra sykehuset.   Foto: Kyrre Lien / VG

Bryan De Hen ble skada i angrepet torsdag kveld. Her hjelpes han av en vakt fra sykehuset.
Foto: Kyrre Lien / VG

Datter: nisrine raissi (24) og mor Haiy raissi. Nisirine ble skadet i angrepet. Foto: Kyrre Lien / VG

Datter: nisrine raissi (24) og mor Haiy raissi. Nisirine ble skadet i angrepet. Foto: Kyrre Lien / VG

84 mennesker er drept og over hundre er skadet etter at en lastebil kjørte ned en stor folkemengde på promenaden i Nice i Frankrike.  Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

84 mennesker er drept og over hundre er skadet etter at en lastebil kjørte ned en stor folkemengde på promenaden i Nice i Frankrike.
Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

 Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG


Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Natalia Valentie barna Alexandre og Dimitri er tilbake på stranda. Lørdag morgen er promenaden åpnet, og folk er tilbake på strendene og i gatene, tross blodspor på promenaden. 84 mennesker er drept og over hundre er skadet etter at en lastebil kjørte ned en stor folkemengde på promenaden i Nice i Frankrike.  Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG

Natalia Valentie barna Alexandre og Dimitri er tilbake på stranda.
Lørdag morgen er promenaden åpnet, og folk er tilbake på strendene og i gatene, tross blodspor på promenaden. 84 mennesker er drept og over hundre er skadet etter at en lastebil kjørte ned en stor folkemengde på promenaden i Nice i Frankrike.
Foto: Kyrre Lien, VG