Eleventh-grade graduating students of School No.134 in Kharkiv danced a sombre waltz against the backdrop of the ruins of their school. [In Ukrainian schools, the graduating class traditionally dances a waltz in front of the entire school as students hear the bell being rung for the "last" time. This custom has been disrupted this year by the war – ed.]
The school was the site of heavy fighting between the Russian forces and the Ukrainian defenders. On 27 February, around 30 Russian occupation soldiers entered the school; they were later killed by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
— Ukrainska Pravda in English (@pravda_eng) June 6, 2022
The graduating class performed their waltz on 5 June. Around a third of the students gathered for this occasion. According to Suspilne, a Ukrainian media outlet, other students have not yet been able to return to Kharkiv.
Hlib Opashnian, one of the graduating students, said that his family lives 50 metres away from the school. He watched the school being destroyed before his eyes.
"I heard the shooting and together with my dad we went up to the first floor of our house. I was afraid – a shell fragment flew over our house and hit the neighbours’ house.
I’m glad that the invaders met their death here. But today is my graduation, and I’m glad to be graduating," Opashian said.
Olena Mosolova, a geography teacher from School No.134, whose daughter is also graduating this year, said that the last waltz is an opportunity to at least somehow recreate the atmosphere of the "last bell" for the students.
"We had imagined a different ‘last bell’ for our kids, but it is what it is, and we want to have a celebration for the kids. I come here everyday, it keeps pulling me back," Mosolova said.
Fighters from the Kraken unit – which defended the school from the Russian troops – came to greet the graduates.
Kostyantyn Nemichev, a Kraken fighter, said that the school was the Russian occupiers’ last outpost.
"The Russian occupiers held their positions here and tried to do everything they could to ensure Kharkiv’s destruction, but together with other units we pushed the Russian army 20 kilometres out of the city.
We will rebuild Kharkiv, we will definitely win, and we will have peace and a new life after the war," Nemichev said.