Ordinary Ukrainians have been hailed for their heroism since Russia’s full-scale invasion. “There are no small matters in a great war,” Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy affirmed in an emotional New Year’s address. “Each of us is a fighter,” Zelenskyy stated. “Each of us is the basis of defense.”

Listing the tools of war — ship’s helms, steering wheels, weapons, scalpels — Zelenskyy ended with an unexpected inclusion: the teacher’s pointer. This passing remark highlights an often hidden front in Ukraine’s defensive struggle — the fight by countless teachers and parents to keep more than 8 million children educated, even as their worlds have been thrown into upheaval.

Like Ukraine’s stunning resistance itself, local educators are rising to the occasion despite enormous challenges. Viral videos show teachers continuing to instruct their small pupils in bomb shelters during active bombardments, or conducting lessons inside a post office after schools lose electricity. Gas stations and grocery stores, powered by generators long after homes and schools lose power, are being transformed into hubs for filming virtual lessons.

One Kyiv teacher spent hours crouching on a snowy sidewalk outside a store, determined to finish sharing the day’s homework assignment despite rolling blackouts. Other teachers now bring their pets for online lessons, lifting spirits and providing psychological support. Many teachers, like Popova, comfort their students despite their own traumatic losses.

Between that first invasion and the second in February 2022, armed conflict with Russia internally displaced 1.5 million Ukrainians and damaged 740 schools. I have analyzed the impact of this warfare on children for trauma healing since Russia’s invasion began nine years ago. Still, these earlier challenges pale in comparison with what the Ukrainian educational system faces today.

Russia’s nationwide offensive against Ukraine in early 2022 led to the largest refugee flows in Europe since World War II. In the weeks following the invasion, nearly 16 million Ukrainians were driven from their homes to seek refuge abroad and elsewhere in Ukraine. Many of these were women and children, exacting a heavy toll on Ukraine’s female-majority teaching corps, as well as their students.

Read the full article about the impact of the war in Ukraine on students by Kristina Hook at The 74.