Wearing a stunning red dress in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv among the ruins of her school, Valaray, a 16-year-old student, testified on the BBC for the first time. “This was not about me at all.”
Under normal circumstances, Valaray would go to the prom with her classmates at this time. But there is no longer a school in Kharkov: the building has been in ruins for months. Valaray and her friends decide to put on their best clothes and dance to the pieces that were their daily home moments before.
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Days after the photos garnered much media attention around the world, Valaray vouches for the BBC. “I never thought these photos would be shared in this way. It wasn’t about me either, I just wanted to draw attention to the situation. We are very proud of our heroes.”
Meanwhile, the bombing continues. “It was very noisy last night. Since the first day of the war here is very terrifying.”
“Half of my class has already fled abroad. Some live underground, but now some kind of normal life is starting again.” When the school can reopen, Valaray does not know.