( CNN) April 27, 2016: We wake up early and travel by gondola for three hours from Kharkiv, a city in east Ukraine, toward the zone worst affected by the conflict in the country. Miles of pitch-black, fruitful farmland strain long and flat outside the window, framed by vivid dark-green grass and whiffs of trees. It is difficult to imagine that we could be approaching a conflict zone.
We arrived here School 13 in Slavyansk, one of the first academies to be hit during the fighting. One quiet springtime date, a shell disintegrated into the roof of the school theater. A generation of children who had never known struggle were suddenly under fire. In collapse, they loped calling into the school basement, where teaches attempted to tranquilize them. I can’t suppose what I would have done in their home — one minute you are sitting in class on a normal school day, the next the world is falling down around you.