(15) Mykolaiv, Ukraine

I’m thankful for those who support us.We just want to go back to study.

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In Mykolaiv, there is a lyceum with approximately 200 students. One of them is Lidia Nemliy (15). We meet with her and Larysa Shalar, the principal, in front of the white building. A lyceum Larysa has helped build, run, and lead for the past 30 years. It is a place where she has taken care of her children, as she calls them, and has contributed to provide them a better future.

Online for 3 years

Immediately, you can see clear marks from the war. The windows are gone and covered with wood, there are visible holes on the walls from shrapnel, and in several places in the schoolyard, you can see how mortar shells have damaged the hard asphalt.


Today, all classes are conducted online. Lidia has only physically attended classes for about one month in the past three years. First, COVID-19 arrived, and then the war, which meant that all students in Ukraine were sent home with the start of Putin’s war.


Three major strikes near the lyceum from Russian bombings have damaged the buildings to such an extent that it has not yet reopened. Over 100 windows, several doors and ceilings, pipes, and rooms were severely damaged by the shockwaves. Only recently, electricity and water were restored, and they are in the process of renovating the lyceum’s shelters. They need to be able to withstand the ongoing threat and ensure that the children are not killed while they are being teached. This is yet another reason why the school has not reopened.

The shelter

With Lidia following closely behind, Larysa takes us down to the basement to show us the shelter rooms while explaining, “When the war started, the lyceum’s basements were used as shelters for the residents in the neighborhood. The Russians were about to take over Mykolaiv. I was convinced they would kill us all.” People sat in the overcrowded basement for days, including several students from the lyceum with their families.


“I miss them. I feel sad and angry. It’s lonely. It shouldn’t be like this.”

As we walk around and observe the damaged buildings, Lidia explains, “For three years, I have only seen my classmates in an online classroom. I miss them. I feel sad and angry. It’s lonely. It shouldn’t be like this.”


We turn around a corner, and right behind the lyceum, we can see one of the buildings that was hit by a missile. An elderly man in a wheelchair was killed on the spot. He couldn’t make it to a shelter.


Today, Lidia is fighting alongside her principal Larysa to find someone who will support them with the approximately €200,000 needed to reopen the school so that the students can be together again.

The destroyed primary school

We conclude the tour at Lidia’s lyceum and say goodbye to Larysa. Before parting with Lidia, she wants to show us the primary school she attended until a couple of years ago. We drive 900 meters down the street and walk through a residential area.


The school has been hit by four Russian missiles. Five staff members were killed that day. Previously, 1,000 students attended the school. Today, the place is cordoned off as a site of war crimes to be investigated. There will not be a school here again. It will be demolished once the investigation is completed. It may take a long time as new crimes against Ukraine are committed every day.


We bid farewell to Lidia. She concludes by saying, “I am grateful to those who support us. We just want to go to study.”


The city of Mykolaiv in Ukraine is Denmark’s friendship town. When the war ends, Denmark has committed to helping rebuild Mykolaiv. We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone. Our hope is that with this exhibition, we can find a sponsor or partner who can help Lidia and Larisa reopen the lyceum in Mykolaiv.

If you are the right person or if you know someone, please contact or call Martin Thaulow at +45 2675 3176.

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Portraits & stories by Martin Thaulow
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Voices of the future

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