(Lviv) Arranged in a row, 109 strollers and baskets of babies are lined up in the market square of Lviv, an attempt for the inhabitants of this western Ukrainian city to mourn three weeks after the start of the conflict against Russia.
One hundred and nine is the number of children killed in Ukraine since February 24, the day when Russia launched an offensive on the territory of its neighbor.
On Lviv’s market square, there are car seats for babies or strollers, all placed side by side, a few meters from a statue covered with corrugated iron, just to protect it from Russian strikes.
Katerina Bandjanova, 28, walks past and peeks, her under-one-year-old daughter Solomia herself in a stroller.
For a while, it’s the only occupied stroller in the space.
“I feel a lot of pain,” she told AFP, tears in her eye. “Pain for the future of the country, because these children are the future of Ukraine”.
“When the Russians kill our children, they kill the future of our country, its heart and its spirit,” she continues.
Right next to it, a printed sign still indicates the number “108”.
But it didn’t take long for the balance sheet to be updated, upwards. A marker has since crossed out the number 8 to replace it with 9.
Children in the line of sight
Since the start of the Russian “special military operation” three weeks ago, there have been several strikes against civilian targets harboring children.
Last week, a maternity and pediatric hospital in Mariupol was hit by a Russian strike, injuring 17 people.
As recently as Wednesday, a theater in the same besieged port was the target of heavy Russian strikes, causing no deaths at this stage according to an initial report from the city council.
But “hundreds” of people “are still under the rubble”, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The Ukrainian authorities estimate that 439 educational establishments have been damaged since the beginning of the war, including 63 completely destroyed.
Many families have been forced into exile, often leaving the East of the country, prey to violent fighting, for the West, relatively spared.
The city of Lviv, usually home to 700,000 people, has for several days swelled with refugees seeking respite or hoping to reach the Polish border, 75 kilometers away.
Business analyst Katerina left her apartment near Boryspil, Kyiv’s main airport, for fear of being targeted.
But on Friday morning, Russian “missiles” hit the Lviv airport district, as if the war was pursuing it.
“At night, when you hear the air raid sirens, you wake up,” she says. “Every little noise can make you flinch”.
“Maybe I need to take my children even further,” she concludes.