Ukrainian children begin new school year in the shadow of a months-long war that edges closer and closer to home. Mana Rabiee reports.
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The first day of classes at School No. 66.
This is the industrial city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine.
All the trappings of back-to-school...
but bubbling just below the surface, tensions are high.
Last week, pro-Russian rebels fighting the government took a major town less than an hour's drive away.
They're threatening this strategic port city and residents are bracing for the rebel advance.
(SOUNDBITE) (Ukrainian) YEAR-11 STUDENT, MARIA MALYAR, SAYING:
"We don't even know what can happen tomorrow. So it is very difficult to plan anything for the future."
(SOUNDBITE) (English) YEAR-11 STUDENT, MYKHAILO SUKHAREV, SAYING:
"We want to say to all the other children of the world that we really want to have a peaceful life, like you have."
Ukraine's Education Ministry says all the schools where military action is underway are closed.
Less than half the schools in Donetsk and Luhansk, where rebels have their strongholds, are open.
At this Slaviansk school, officials say dozens of children failed to show up for the first day of class.
Their families can't be reached...suggesting they've fled.
In the capitol Kiev, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk brought his daughter to school and vowed to defend the country for these future generations.
(SOUNDBITE) (Ukrainian) UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER, ARSENY YATSENIUK, SAYING:
"The first of September ceremony was not held in every school. There is not a peaceful sky in every part of Ukraine. We must fight for a peaceful sky. The whole of Ukraine, a huge joint Ukrainian people's front, must fight for a peaceful sky."
Last week, Ukraine appeared close to crushing the months-long rebellion in the east.
But that was before rebels opened a new front to the south on the coastline, pushing the war ever closer to Mariupol.
The children here open up their new schoolbooks, as their nation's history is being written outside their classroom windows.
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