Before the war with Russia, Anastasiia Minchukova, age 20, was an English teacher in Ukraine. Now she is learning the deadly art and science of identifying and defusing explosives. She and five other young women from her region have recently traveled to the south-western European state of Kosovo. Here, they are attending a hands-on course in clearing landmines and other dangers that may remain hidden across their country once combat ends.

This week, instead of her usual blouse and skirt, she went to work wearing a face shield, armed with a landmine detector, and venturing into a field dotted with danger warnings.

Explosive Ordnance Device (EOD) instructor Artur Tigani trains a group of Ukrainian female emergency services personnel in the identification, de-arming, and disposal of explosive devices. Image Credit: Visar Kryeziu/AP

“There is a huge demand [for] people who know how to do de-mining because the war will be over soon,” Ms. Minchukova said optimistically. She continued, “We believe there is so much work to be done.”

Training takes place in the form of an 18-day camp at a range in the western town of Peja, where a Malta-based company regularly offers courses for those who will be working in former war zones, humanitarian organizations, and government agencies.

Between February 1998 and June 1999, Kosovo was the site of a devastating pairing of Albanian separatists against Serbian forces, killing about 13,000 people and leaving thousands of unexploded mines in need of clearing. If ever there was a place to hold a school on how to clear landmines, Kosovo is it.

Instructor Tigani briefs his students on what to look for when approaching a minefield. Image Credit: Visar Kryeziu/AP

Instructor Artur Tigani has tailored the curriculum to reflect Ukraine’s environment and says he is glad to share his small Balkan nation’s experience with the Ukrainian women. Even though twenty-three years have passed, “It’s still fresh in our memories, the difficulties we met when we started clearance in Kosovo,” Tigani said.

Tigani knows his mines. He served as an engineer in the former Yugoslav army during the 1980s, being deployed to his native Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Congo, Rwanda, and Kenya. In addition, he has conducted demining training missions in Syria and Iraq.

He took his trainees through a makeshift minefield during a recent class before moving to an improvised outdoor classroom featuring a massive board with various samples of explosives and mines. He explains that it is impossible to assess how littered with mines and unexploded ordnance Ukraine is at the moment; the aftermaths of other wars suggest the problem will be huge.