A lesson from Natalya from Shakhtarsk: “To be intermediaries for the parents”
“They were destroying all the things connected with Ukraine there, in my Shakhtarsk, for 23 years. So why should we be surprised now?”, starts her story Nataliya, a teacher of history from Shakhtarsk.
She moved to Kramatorsk after living in occupation for eighteen months and every day she still faces the consequences of pro-Russian propaganda there.
“After the first lesson at a school in Kramatorsk I left the classroom in tears because when I started talking to children in Ukrainian and said “Glory to Ukraine” I wanted to hear “Glory to heroes” in response. But despite the fact that it was a form with the Ukrainian language of studying, they asked me: “Why are you talking to us in this language?”, Nataliya does not hide her emotions. She asks us not to mention her surname as her husband stayed in occupied Shakhtarsk.
She herself left the town only when it became too dangerous to stay there and to conduct some guerrilla activities.
During her lessons, Nataliya tries to explain the connection between historical events and the present war and point out the incessant Russian attempts to deprive Ukraine of its statehood.
However, this educating work is hard. “When you ask why Ukraine is conducting the Anti-Terrorist
Operation, you hear about “bandits”, “terrorists”, “separatists”, but not about Russia.”
The pupils still refuse to respond to the teacher’s greeting “Glory to Ukraine!” They say: “Everyine has their own point of view, school is not a place for politics.”
“It is impossible to make children respond Nataliya in the way she wants them to. Such work had never been conducted here before. Still, not only the school is to blame. It is especially difficult to work with older pupils as they have families and their parents often have an opposite opinion. Besides, we cannot control what TV programmes they watch at home”, explains one of the teachers.
“This is why I suggested the children to be intermediaries for their parents. To tell them what they have heard at their history lesson when they come home from school. We do not have what used to be called “political information” lesson at Soviet schools and that is why the main source of political information for many people is a neighbour or a Russian TV channel”, says Nataliya.
The teacher admits that it will take a lot of time for the children to become intermediaries for their parents. Besides, the pupils are not always willing to perceive the infiormation which contradicts the things they hear at home.
Nataliya has also tried another approach. Before New Year, she bought cards from a volunteer organization “Kramatorsk bees.” She suggested that the children write a card greeting Ukrainian soldiers on New Year and Christmas. No one refused to do that.
Before Saint Valentine’s Day, Natalya involved half on the school, including the teachers and the principal into drawing Valetrines to soldiers.
“What did you write to soldiers?”, I ask a ninth grader.
“I thanked them for protecting us.”
After several seconds the girl says shyly: “From Russia. Right?..”
When we are leaving, the principal of the school where the separatist “referendum” took place in the spring of 2014, comes to us.
The principal, whose activity was investigated into by the Prosecutor’s Office for cooperation with separatists, asks us if it would be possible to help her send a group of children to the west of Ukraine.
“I think, this would help us a lot. I think, they will be different when they come back”, she adds.
Maryana Pyetsukh, Slovyansk-Kramatorsk-Druzhkivka, for Ukrainian Truth, Life.
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