Today, there are almost nobody in the country who has not been affected by the war in one way or another. This especially affects children who, while they may not show their pain, they, like us, understand everything. Sometimes even more… 

A month ago, after the wreckage of a Russian UAV fell on the ninth floor of a building in Kyiv, I went there to film the aftermath. There I met a family that had moved from of Orihiv, in the Zaporizhzhia region, a city close to the front line. They had slept in their car and found, after the explosions, that debris had fallen into their apartment and the firefighters’ work had flooded the apartment. 7-year-old Arseniy, who was walking next to his parents, told me with a look of devastation: “There was an explosion. I was scared. But I have already heard them before. That's why I wasn't really scared.”

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There are Ukrainian children who can tell by the sounds of a weapon in flight or exploding what type of weapon the Russians are firing at us. Homeless children. Children who have been left without families. Children who hate Russia almost from birth and above all dream of peace…

Karina Aripova, 11 years old

I met her during a peaceful rally of relatives of missing servicemen in early April this year. Karina stood next to a poster saying: "Bring the heroes home!". Her mother, Katya, held the poster, under the inscription of which was a photo of Kirill Aripov. Karina’s father who they had last heard from on September 6.

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"I came for dad. I miss him very much. If he could hear me, I would tell him that I love him very much. I would really like to hug him ..." Karina told me then and burst into tears. We hugged. And I left so that the girl could calm down.

Karina's mother says that she did not hide anything from her daughter, so the little one already knew that her father was missing in those first days. However, she declared absolutely confidently and unquestionably that her father is alive, I know that he is alive.

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Today is Karina's last day at school. She is entering the sixth grade. Her father has been absent for a whole year of study. She has so much to tell him, the girl notes. She has grown several centimeters, a new note of which has appeared in her diary. 

"I really like to draw. Now I'm drawing victory. I really want peace... When dad comes back, I will first hug him for a very long time, and then show him all the books I have read during this time. And the pictures ... I’ve drawn a lot of pictures since he was gone," Karina told me a few days ago.

Every morning, as soon as she wakes up, the girl says "hello" to her father. Every night before going to bed, says "goodnight". This has already become the main rite and tradition. Even when everyone gives up and faith disappears, Karina repeats: Dad is alive!

The girl's mother says that she herself is sometimes surprised at how strong and mature her little daughter has become. On Karina's phone there is a "parental control" program. Since December, the app has started receiving notifications that her father is looking for the girl's phone.

"Without any extra emotions, she brought her phone to me and quite calmly and confidently said: mom, dad is alive, I told you that ..." - recalls Karina's mother Katya. 

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But despite her confidence and faith, recently the girl has become very nervous because of the events taking place around her. She has become especially afraid of the constant shelling of the capital. 

"I forbid her to watch or read the news, but it is clear that she still knows what, where and how. She has become very emotional lately. Even a year ago, during the shelling, she was not as scared as she is now. And when the siren starts sounding, Karina keeps saying: they freed us ... from a normal life."

The girl herself says that she is more afraid for her relatives, because she sees their pain. And above all, she dreams that in the sixth grade, her father Kyrylo led her on the line. She does not show her weakness to anyone, because now she needs to be strong. 

Since February 24, 2022, Russia has killed 485 Ukrainian children and injured more than a thousand.

Thousands of children in Ukraine are victims of Russian aggression. Children in whose homes the war came. Children who, despite the pain, still continue to smile and believe in peace. As adults, we will never understand them. The only thing we can do is everything to protect from being killed. So that Russia does not take them abroad. So that missiles do not fly over their heads. So that they do not lose their relatives. So that the terrible word "war" becomes a distant memory.

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