She looks straight at me. Her smile like Mona Lisa’s. Her eyes are kind, but intense. As if they are challenging me: “I am here. What are you going to do about it?”
The girl in the photo lives in the rubble left after the Russian Army has rolled through her village, destroying what they can. The Russians started the job of making her life intolerable. Now winter follows suit. Homes are left without roofs; communities are left without electricity. Torn-down walls give wind and snow free range. Where there are walls, the windows are broken. The apocalyptic world left for her is not a place a child should have to live in.
She wanders the streets of what once was her village. Following her is her dog. Gone is the school. Gone is the market. Gone is the grocery store. Gone are most of her friends and neighbors. She is still here, with her dog and a handful of others. They are the ones that could not, would not, leave.
The rumble of explosions can be heard close by. Another missile fired. Another bomb exploded. A life lost, perhaps. Maybe it was a young Ukrainian soldier fighting for the existence of his country. A young father, an athlete, a teacher? Or maybe it was a Russian soldier, fighting a war he doesn’t understand.
The sound of explosions is so common she doesn’t flicker. Next time the missile might hit closer. Maybe it will hit her. The missiles fired often hit children. They care not that they kill the innocents. When adults wage war, children perish (Elie Wiesel).
She looks at me and her entire being says to me: “I am here. What are you going to do about it?”
I am not making this up. This is a true story. The girl on this photo is real, and the war she has to endure every day is real. She lives in what is left of the village Lyman, South-Eastern Ukraine. She lives there, and has lost almost everything except her dog and her coat, stained with the dust of exploded buildings and broken lives.
She is the face of this war. She is the face—one of the faces—that motivates me to go to work every day. She didn’t choose this, but is forced to live with the results of Russian brutality every day. She will likely be living with these consequences for the rest of her life, even if the war ends and she survives. I cannot ignore her.
Please join me in my efforts to give her and others like her hope, love and a future. To learn about how we help her, please read how we are helping. And finally, here's a special thanks to you generous poeple who make this work with children in war zones possible.
Hanna is from Kharkiv. Last week, she went back to her war-torn home.
When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out, ‘Stop!’