How friendly Lithuania helped restore a lyceum in Borodianka

How friendly Lithuania helped restore a lyceum in Borodianka

Lithuania funded a radical renovation of the facility where the Russian military set up its headquarters, hospital and… torture chamber two years ago

In Borodianka, Kyiv Oblast, a grand opening ceremony was held for the restored large school building that took a 70 per cent damage from the enemy in 2022. Two years ago, during the temporary occupation of the settlement, the Rascists set up their headquarters, hospital and torture chamber in it… Nowadays, large photos from the endless weeks of de-occupation are the only reminders of the horrors of the destruction.

Ukrinform attended the opening of the rebuilt Lithuanian-Ukrainian Lyceum No. 1 in Borodianka — a settlement that became famous worldwide for the photo of the Shevchenko Monument with a bullet hole in its head and the invincible Cockerel holding on to the kitchen wall in a house destroyed by a Russian missile. Today, the people of Borodianka recall the recent horrible past, while sharing a firm belief in our victory.


Borodianka is 60 km away from Kyiv. This is a road through Irpin, Bucha, Hostomel — communities, the mention of which after February-March 2022 brings tears to many people’s eyes. Now, two years later, when the March trees are still bare, the elegant European cottages and high-rise buildings with broken windows and ceilings destroyed by explosions are particularly visible along the road.

Turning onto the long Tsentralna Street in Borodianka, the route of the invaders’ armoured convoys, the number of damaged buildings is heart-breaking. Along this line, the majority of communal and government institutions were located, some of which were completely destroyed by the Russian military. More than 3,000 local residents have had their houses ruined or damaged. During the 2022 hostilities, the Borodianka Settlement Community suffered significant losses: 2,234 facilities were destroyed in full or in part, including 80 tenement houses and 2,116 private houses. But the enemy never subdued the residents of Borodianka. The Ukrainian military liberated the settlement on 1 April 2022.

At first, following an unsuccessful landing at the Hostomel Airfield, the invaders attempted to capture Borodianka on the third day of the full-scale war. Naturally, there was no red-carpet reception for them; instead, their armoured personnel carriers were set on fire and their lorries captured.

On 28 February, the invaders advanced on Tsentralna Street once more, losing their equipment again. Of course, the aggressors became furious, destroying everything around them. On 2 March, they bombed high-rise buildings and riddled the Shevchenko Monument with bullets…

The Lyceum No. 1 is located farther behind the now world-famous bust of Shevchenko. Today, it is a 3-storey stylish white building with grey and red “speckles”. Tiles of white and grey shades are laid neatly around it.

The dark silhouette of the court building gutted by fire from Russian shelling is visible across the street. A construction site is located close to it. Locals say that a music school once stood there, now entirely destroyed by Russian shelling. When asked, what it was like during the occupation, locals give almost identical answers: “Scary. As soon as we found out that their tanks, APCs, IFVs, Ural or KamAZ lorries were coming, we would hide in our houses and basements.” They point to the ruins of a shop on the other side of the street — an IFV drove into it and burned down there.


Two years ago, the Borodianka Lyceum was taken over by the invaders. The large premises and surrounding area offered the enemy an opportunity to dig in and set up their headquarters. Furthermore, a hospital and… a torture chamber were installed in the building — following the liberation, each of these areas was identified by the traces and objects left behind. On the football field near the school, the invaders ploughed the letter V with a tractor…

We talked to the lyceum students. “I saw everything — Russian tanks, missiles, planes, helicopters,” says Artem Petrovskyi. “In the first days of the occupation, I would hide in our basement together with my parents and two younger sisters.” The eleventh-former lives 2 km from the lyceum, “near the old school.” They left Borodianka on 3 March, avoiding knocked-out tanks and active enemy weapons.

As soon as they came back after the de-occupation, Artem immediately went to see his lyceum. “There were trenches there, lots of them. Everything was broken. There were lots of cartridge cases lying around,” recalls the boy. “Later, when the school was about to be rebuilt, I helped to remove and clean the old floor boarding in the classrooms.”

Together with her parents and brother, the eleventh-former Diana Hresko also left Borodianka in the first days of the occupation. “It is one thing to follow online what is going on in the settlement. But to come and see it is a quite different thing. When I looked at the ruins, tears came to my eyes,” she says.

Rostyslav Baklai, now also an eleventh-former, lived through the occupation in the settlement. “There were incoming missiles and shells every day and every night. You fall asleep and hear explosions, you wake up and hear explosions,” Rostyslav recalls.

“This is my home school; I was a first-former there. My children used to go to it. And when the first houses in Borodianka were bombed on 1 March 2022, my children asked me, ‘Why?’” Iryna Zakharchenko, the acting chairperson of the settlement’s council, is overwhelmed by emotions. “To this day, I cannot find the words to explain how things that are happening in this country could take place in a civilised, modern world and what the Russian Federation is doing to our children and our people. When I was five, my grandfather, sitting in the kitchen, said, ‘My little one, the most important thing is that there should be no war.’ I could never imagine that war would become the horrendous reality that we live in.”


The photos show the sorry state into which the school built in 1971, where generations of children studied and grew up, had been brought by the Russian invaders within a month. Each photo is commented on by Andrii Bondar, teacher of PE and “Defence of Ukraine”, who has worked at the Lyceum for more than 20 years. (He left the temporarily occupied Borodianka on 4 March 2022 and returned on 9 April, following its de-occupation. The house he lives in, which is 200 metres away from the bombed-out area, miraculously survived. Even the teacher’s flat remained unlooted — the Russian military only made it to the third entrance).

“All the windows in the Lyceum were smashed. The Russian language classroom burned down,” says Andrii. “The biology classroom was also ruined, the roof collapsed. In the English classroom, the occupiers had their meals, leaving mountains of rubbish, as they did everywhere else, and in the middle, they left a pile of faeces that stank horribly, despite the wind blowing through the window frames. They wrote ‘Buryatia was here’ and ‘Banderites are done’ all over the walls. They shot at plasma screens and portraits of Ukrainian figures. They stole all the training rifles and swords from the safe in the ‘armoury’…”

The Russians had been shelling the Lyceum’s premises since 26 February 2022, says Headmistress Inna Romaniuk. After that, the invaders quartered at the school. Everything was destroyed and looted, from smart boards to a modern cafeteria. Wooden desks were chopped down and used to heat the stoves.

“A torture chamber was here; there was a lot of blood that could not be cleaned. We had to dismantle everything,” the woman says, quoting Lina Kostenko about the “clamour of a predatory horde.” “They left drip stands in the corridors and halls, which gives reason to believe that the invaders had their hospital here.”


When Ukrainian defenders liberated Borodianka on 1 April, everyone — teachers, parents and children — came here to put the place in order. Many foreign delegations visited — from the UK, Spain, Turkey, Italy…

“Everyone was sympathetic. The building sustained a roughly 70 per cent damage from missiles and bombs. But its structure survived. It was saved by a park of almost half-century-old trees planted in front of the school,” says the school’s headmistress. “Sometime in October, Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, the Speaker of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, came to visit. After we talked, I was approached by Valdemaras Sarapinas, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Lithuania to Ukraine, who said that they would rebuild our institution.”

And they kept their word. Almost EUR 8 million came from the friendly nation’s Fund for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid. Taiwan’s mission in Lithuania contributed EUR 1.8 million for indoor equipment, furniture and outdoor infrastructure. A new shelter, unique for Ukraine, has been built next to the educational building.

“Our school has changed for the better beyond recognition,” comments Inna Romaniuk, Headmistress of the Borodianka Lyceum No. 1, which was recently named the Lithuanian-Ukrainian school in gratitude to the country that invested in the reconstruction. “It has become the advanced innovative European educational institution now. We are very grateful to our Lithuanian friends for the environment created for the education and development of our children.”

The building has been fully modernised. Upon entering the lyceum, one finds him/herself in the atrium — a two-storey space where the platform below can serve as a stage, with eight rows of seats for the audience going up. In fact, the grand opening of the restored institution took place here.

Classrooms and laboratories have modern furniture, interactive panels and computer equipment. Relaxation areas on each floor bring delight with their vivid colouring.

“Children’s education is not merely about knowledge and marks. We are investing in a safe future,” said Inga Černiuk, Chancellor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania and Chairperson of the Fund for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid, at the opening of the reconstructed Borodianka Lyceum. She noted that we must use all our opportunities to prevent the search for shelter instead of morning coffee or the routine of replacing broken windows from becoming the new normal.

Restoration of the Borodianka Lyceum by Lithuania symbolises faith in Ukraine’s future, said Aušrinė Armonaitė, Minister of the Economy and Innovation of the Republic of Lithuania. She emphasised that supporting Ukraine’s reconstruction efforts was a priority for her country.

Valdemaras Sarapinas, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Lithuania to Ukraine, told Ukrinform: “Since the full-scale war began, Lithuania’s government support for Ukraine has exceeded 1 billion euros in military and humanitarian aid. Our priorities include education (schools and kindergartens) and rehabilitation centres for Ukrainian defenders.”

Residents of Borodianka, which survived the terrible and brutal Russian occupation, demonstrate their faith in Ukraine’s victory and recovery by the fact that, before the full-scale war, 604 students studied at the Lyceum No. 1, and now they are 623. “We intend to live here,” say adults and children alike.

Valentyna Samchenko, Kyiv — Borodianka

Photos by Volodymyr Tarasov

While citing and using any materials on the Internet, links to the website not lower than the first paragraph are mandatory. In addition, citing the translated materials of foreign media outlets is possible only if there is a link to the website and the website of a foreign media outlet. Materials marked as "Advertisement" or with a disclaimer reading "The material has been posted in accordance with Part 3 of Article 9 of the Law of Ukraine "On Advertising" No. 270/96-VR of July 3, 1996 and the Law of Ukraine "On the Media" No. 2849-Х of March 31, 2023 and on the basis of an agreement/invoice.

© 2015-2024 Ukrinform. All rights reserved.

Extended searchHide extended search
By period: