Polina Sydorenko, a 19-year-old Ukrainian student, was brimming with both hope and trepidation when she returned to Kyiv in late August, after five months sheltering from the war as a refugee in Italy. Yet her plans to pick up the pieces of her disrupted life at a prestigious university in Kyiv were depressingly shortlived.
Just weeks after her return, the veneer of normality that had been temporarily restored to the capital was shattered as Russia launched new missile attacks on key Ukrainian cities and critical civilian infrastructure — the most serious since the war began. The university where she studied drama shut down again. Sydorenko fled back to Italy, bringing another close student friend with her.