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Syrian refugee children play at a school in Damascus on August 23, 2012.
Syrian refugee children play at a school in Damascus on August 23, 2012.
Alia Ahmad

DAMASCUS — Nada, a teacher, starts her classes by asking her third-grade students to express their feelings. She is trained to deal with children who exhibit signs of trauma after living in a war zone for over two years. The school where Nada works is located in the relatively safe neighborhood of Sahnaya, in southern Damascus, but as in the rest of Syria, war is never out of mind.

On the first day of the school year, Nada distributes “face cards” to her class of mostly nine-year-olds, all showing different emotions. She asks them to pick the face that best describes their feelings. She chooses the smiling face, explaining that she is happy to meet them.

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Russia

When Mom Believes Putin: A Russian Family Torn Apart Over Ukraine Invasion

Sisters Rante and Satu Vodich fled Russia because they could no longer bear to live under Putin — but their mother believes state propaganda about the war. Her daughters are building a new life for themselves in Georgia.

A mother and her daughter on a barricade in Kyiv

Steffi Unsleber

TBILISI — On a gloomy afternoon in May, Rante Vodich gets the keys to her new home. A week earlier, the 27-year-old found this wooden shed in Tbilisi, with a corrugated iron roof and ramshackle bathroom. The shed next door houses an old bed covered in dust. Vodich refers to the place as a “studio” and pays $300 per month in rent. She says finding the studio is the best thing that’s happened to her since she came to Georgia. It is her hope for the future.

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Her younger sister Satu Vodich is around 400 kilometers further west, in the city of Batumi on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, surrounded by Russian tourists, Ukrainian flags, skyscrapers with sea views and the run-down homes of local residents.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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