This doesn’t refer to a struggling school child but rather the traumatic last moments of a horse in a war zone.
Grossman has a capacity to bring situations vividly to life by zooming in on individual experiences. Here he movingly describes the plight of animals in war, and the general surrounding destruction, by noting the reflections of the burning buildings in the town of Gomel in the dying eyes of a horse mortally wounded there.
‘The horse’s dark, weeping, torment-filled pupil, like a crystal mirror, absorbed the fire of the burning buildings, the smoke swirling through the air, the luminous, incandescent ruins and this forest of thin, tall chimneys now growing in the place of the buildings which had vanished in flames.’
Source: Vasily Grossman, quoted in The Road: Stories, Journalism, and Essays, trans. Robert and Elizabeth Chandler with Olga Mukovnikova, afterword Fyodor Guber (New York: New York Review Books, 2010), p. 64