‘Bang, bang’: Children live and play near Ukraine front line

Children play in a park as air raids go off, in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, July 14, 2022. It’s well known that many of the residents of eastern Ukraine who refuse to heed authorities’ calls to flee are older ones. It’s jarring, then, to explore the streets of communities close to the front line and spot children. Unlike the adults who decide to stay, the children have their fate tied to the wishes of their parents. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
A girl plays in a park as air raids go off, in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, July 14, 2022. It’s well known that many of the residents of eastern Ukraine who refuse to heed authorities’ calls to flee are older ones. It’s jarring, then, to explore the streets of communities close to the front line and spot children. Unlike the adults who decide to stay, the children have their fate tied to the wishes of their parents. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
Children play in a park as air raids go off, in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, July 14, 2022. It’s well known that many of the residents of eastern Ukraine who refuse to heed authorities’ calls to flee are older ones. It’s jarring, then, to explore the streets of communities close to the front line and spot children. Unlike the adults who decide to stay, the children have their fate tied to the wishes of their parents. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
The playground of an abandoned school, in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, July 14, 2022. It’s well known that many of the residents of eastern Ukraine who refuse to heed authorities’ calls to flee are older ones. It’s jarring, then, to explore the streets of communities close to the front line and spot children. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
Children play in a park as air raids go off, in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, July 14, 2022. It’s well known that many of the residents of eastern Ukraine who refuse to heed authorities’ calls to flee are older ones. It’s jarring, then, to explore the streets of communities close to the front line and spot children. Unlike the adults who decide to stay, the children have their fate tied to the wishes of their parents. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
A girl runs in a playground in a park as air raids go off, in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, July 14, 2022. It’s well known that many of the residents of eastern Ukraine who refuse to heed authorities’ calls to flee are older ones. It’s jarring, then, to explore the streets of communities close to the front line and spot children. Unlike the adults who decide to stay, the children have their fate tied to the wishes of their parents. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
The playground of an abandoned school, in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, July 14, 2022. It’s well known that many of the residents of eastern Ukraine who refuse to heed authorities’ calls to flee are older ones. It’s jarring, then, to explore the streets of communities close to the front line and spot children. Unlike the adults who decide to stay, the children have their fate tied to the wishes of their parents. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
Children play on the merry-go-round as air raids go off, in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, July 14, 2022. It’s well known that many of the residents of eastern Ukraine who refuse to heed authorities’ calls to flee are older ones. It’s jarring, then, to explore the streets of communities close to the front line and spot children. Unlike the adults who decide to stay, the children have their fate tied to the wishes of their parents. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
Parents Dmytro Roslyakov, and Karyna Ponomarenko, sit with their daughter 5-year-old Anhelina, in a playground as air raids go off, in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, July 14, 2022. It’s well known that many of the residents of eastern Ukraine who refuse to heed authorities’ calls to flee are older ones. It’s jarring, then, to explore the streets of communities close to the front line and spot children. Unlike the adults who decide to stay, the children have their fate tied to the wishes of their parents. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
Parents Dmytro Roslyakov, and Karyna Ponomarenko, walk with their 5-year-old daughter Anhelina, in a park as air raids go off, in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, July 14, 2022. It’s well known that many of the residents of eastern Ukraine who refuse to heed authorities’ calls to flee are older ones. It’s jarring, then, to explore the streets of communities close to the front line and spot children. Unlike the adults who decide to stay, the children have their fate tied to the wishes of their parents. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

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Russia Ukraine War

Children play in a park as air raids go off, in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, July 14, 2022. It’s well known that many of the residents of eastern Ukraine who refuse to heed authorities’ calls to flee are older ones. It’s jarring, then, to explore the streets of communities close to the front line and spot children. Unlike the adults who decide to stay, the children have their fate tied to the wishes of their parents. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)ASSOCIATED PRESSCARA ANNASat, 16 July 2022, 2:17 pm

KRAMATORSK, Ukraine (AP) — The children flicker like ghosts on the empty playgrounds in weedy courtyards deep in a city whose residents have been told to get out now.

Six-year-old Tania has no more playmates left on her street in the eastern Ukraine city of Kramatorsk. She sits on a bench only steps away from the city’s train station that was attacked by Russia in April, killing more than 50 people who had gathered there to evacuate. The remnants of a rocket from that attack bore the inscription in Russian: “For the children.”

Tania and her parents aren’t afraid to stay. In the shade near the now-closed station, they enjoy whatever quiet remains between the booms of outgoing artillery trying to keep out Russian forces.

“The bombs land all over the country. It’s doesn’t make sense to escape,” said Tania’s father, Oleksandr Rokytianskyi.

Chatting to herself while settling in with a lavish box of colored markers, Tania added, “Bang, bang!”

It’s not unusual for older residents of eastern Ukraine to refuse to heed calls to evacuate to safer places elsewhere in the country. What’s jarring, however, is to see children — even a baby stroller — near the front line. It is unknown how many remain as the Russians press their offensive in the region.

Children cannot escape the war, even in cities considered safe. Tania’s parents spoke on the day a Russian missile struck Vinnytsia, far from the front in central Ukraine, killing 23 people including three children — a 4-year-old girl named Liza Dmytrieva and two boys aged 7 and 8.

Children who remain close to the fighting have their fates tied to that of their parents, and the dangers can be unexpected.

Outside a hospital, 18-year-old Sasha sits smoking with a 15-year-old friend. Sasha’s right arm is bandaged, and he peers at the world from blackened eyes. He has scrapes all over after being struck while crossing the street by one of the military vehicles rumbling through the region.

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