(KIEV) — In some ways, 14-year-old Dasha Pivtoratska is like other children her age. She wants to become a choreographer, she shares videos via TikTok and she lights up when she talks about her pets.
But having encountered the Russian invasion of her hometown in Ukraine, a village near Kiev named Katyuzhanka, Dasha has suffered loss and experienced trauma that sets her apart from other children her age.
The war in Ukraine has affected children in profound and incalculable ways. Three million children inside the country and more than 2 million children living as refugees are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to UNICEF.
The agency has also reported that nearly 1,000 children have been killed or injured during the course of the war, which will reach its six-month mark on Wednesday.
Dasha was traveling in the car with her father, driving home, when Russian soldiers opened fire on their vehicle.
“The first shots hit the gas tank, then the windshield,” Dasha told ABC News reporter Britt Clennett. “My dad started to pull back, we went back to the road, and [from] there they started shooting from everywhere.”
Dasha described watching the tanks approach, like a “column,” and how her dad tried to escape the Russian forces by driving in reverse down the street.
The car caught on fire, and Dasha described being told to leave the car. She ran to another car and that’s when she was shot, she said.
She was hit by bullets in her arm and her thigh, and tried to crawl away, apparently making noise that alerted Russian soldiers to her presence.
“About ten minutes later they walked over to me,” she said. “They kicked me in the leg and apparently [thought] that I was already dead. And then they left.”
“I understood almost nothing. It was a shock,” she said. “There was no feeling of pain. Everything was numb.”
She was eventually rescued by her grandfather, and at some point realized that her father had been killed.
“I loved him very, very much,” she said, adding that she had recently been growing closer to him. “I spent a lot of time with him,” she said. “We talked on different topics. He was the only one with whom I could talk. Only he could support me that much.”
Dasha would eventually have surgery on her bullet wounds, and is currently undergoing rehabilitation for her hip. Sometimes the leg hurts, she said, and it impacts her movement.
Regardless, she continues to dream of working as a choreographer, studying choreography in school after ninth grade and then teaching it.
The pain from the bullet wounds is minor compared to the anguish of losing a family member.
“It’s hard of course,” she said during the interview. “But you can’t do anything.”
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