Russian icon rarely criticizes Putin

Russian icon rarely criticizes Putin

The scene was difficult, tears mingled with feelings of deep sadness, this was the case of the Ukrainian teacher, Helena, who collected her things from the classroom, before leaving a school she was working in in southern Ukraine, where the Russians control cities and villages, and impose the Russian education systems that Ukrainian cancels everything.

Halina had no choice but to resign when the headmaster forced her to teach the students the Russian curriculum. Halina could not comprehend the idea that was accepted by about a third of the school’s teachers, so she decided to resign, according to a report in the newspaper “The Guardian” that tells the story of this teacher, which reveals the extent of targeting the Ukrainian education system in the areas controlled by the Russians.

Education in Ukraine is going through difficult conditions in light of the Russian targeting of the system

‘tears fall down’

Halina entered the classroom, filled a plastic bag with poems in Ukrainian written by her students who pinned them to the walls, took a pot with her favorite pot plant, and when she left the building, she saw workers removing posters of Ukrainian national heroes from the corridors.

“Imagine, I worked in that school for more than 25 years, I walked out of there, alone, carrying a pot of plant and a bag of poems, tears streaming down my face,” says Halina, in a broken voice, as she describes the difficult moment for the newspaper.

Beginning of the story

Halina’s story began in the summer, several months after the Russians seized a large part of southern Ukraine in the early days of the war, specifically when the principal of the school where she was working met with the teachers, and told them that the school would cooperate with the Russian occupation authorities, and would reopen its doors for the year The new academic year in September, to teach the Russian curriculum.

“Ukraine has abandoned us and will not return, and now the Russians are making us offers. If we do not accept, they will send new people from Russia to run the school, and they will not have any connection with it,” the school director told the staff, including Halina, who was his deputy. over here”.

“About a third of the teachers agreed, but for me, I knew there was no way I could work with the Russians,” she said, so she told the principal that she was quitting.

When she returned to school a few days later, the principal told her that all the Ukrainian textbooks in the school would be destroyed in the coming days, so if she wanted anything, she should take it home with her.

Ukrainian teacher Anastasiia Konovalova dances along with Ukrainian refugee children at the Ienachita Vacarescu Elementary…

Ukrainian teacher Anastasia Konovalova dances with Ukrainian refugee children at Inachita Vakarsko Primary School during a ceremony marking the start of the school year in Bucharest, Romania, Monday, September 5, 2022.


It did not stop there, but Halina faced incitement from pro-Russians, and some described her at a meeting of parents as a “traitor”, and as a pro-Ukrainian agitator who was placed on the watch list of the Russian security services.

Halina had no choice but to flee to the areas controlled by the Ukrainian army for fear of being targeted or arrested.

The newspaper also did not reveal its real name or the name of the city that witnessed the events of the story, fearing for the safety of the members of the Halina family, whose members are still residing in the same city under the control of the Russians.

Halina’s story is an example of many stories that show that Russia’s policy is to take over everything in Ukraine.

The Kremlin hopes that by introducing Russian curricula into the areas it controls, it can forge a new generation of devotees who will accept a Russian view of Ukrainian history.

Students leave a shelter after an evacuation training during their first day of school at a public school in Irpin, Ukraine,…

Ukrainian students leave a shelter after evacuation training during the first day of the 2022 school year at a public school in Irbin.

Forcing teachers

Ukrainian teachers have been reluctant to work with the Russians, and Ukrainian officials say there is a pattern of pressure and threats towards these teachers.

“We have received hundreds of letters from the occupied territories,” says Ukrainian educational official, Sergey Gorbachev.

“They force teachers to use Russian curricula, and they bring in Russian textbooks, the content of which cements the idea that Ukrainians and Russians are one people, with messages full of Russian imperialism, it’s the whole package,” he said.

Halina said that some teachers agreed to cooperate with the Russians out of pragmatism, echoing the school principal’s belief that it was necessary to find a way to adapt to the new reality.

Gorbachev said, according to the newspaper, that it is not fair to pass judgment on teachers who have been placed in a difficult situation.

“We have neither a moral nor a legal right to demand heroism from people living under occupation. Their main goals should be saving lives, not voluntary cooperation. If they are forced to cooperate, they should gather evidence that they are forced to.”


Several Ukrainian officials are demanding long prison terms for anyone who agrees to cooperate with the Russian education system, citing the role of teachers in spreading the historical distortion that fuels the Russian invasion.

The recent surprising success of the Ukrainian counter-attack in the Kharkiv region, as well as the strike on administrative buildings in occupied Kherson center with long-range HIMARS missiles, on Friday, may change this dangerous reality experienced by Ukrainian teachers.

In recent days, Ukrainian authorities said they had detained teachers who had been sent by Russia to occupied Kharkiv, but were left there when the Russian army withdrew.

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister, Irina Vereshchuk, said that these teachers will be tried in Ukrainian courts and could face up to 12 years in prison.

Teacher dispatch plans

The newspaper speculates that Moscow has drawn up plans to send Russian teachers to the occupied territories.

Kherson authorities did not plan to send teachers from Russia, but claimed that some Russian teachers “want to come and help us.”

The occupation authorities in the neighboring Zaporozhye region said in late August that they expected 500 teachers to arrive from Russia.

The newspaper notes that part of the Russian teachers’ job is to “help” local teachers transition to the Russian curriculum, especially for subjects such as history, where the Russian school program will differ greatly from the Ukrainian programme.

Halina says no Russian teachers have arrived in her town yet, but there have been persistent rumors that they might appear soon.

She had already received a phone call from a local official who told her that because she was leaving, her home would be taken over and used for teachers or other Russian professionals expected to arrive in the coming days.

The school opened for the new year on September 1, with about a third of the previous number of teachers, students, and armed Russian soldiers standing outside.

Ukrainian refugee children walk under the Ukrainian and Romanian flags at the Ienachita Vacarescu Elementary School after a…

Ukrainian refugee children walk under the Ukrainian and Romanian flags at Iñaceta Vakarsko Primary School after a ceremony marking the start of the 2022 school year in Bucharest, Romania

A threat

In an attempt to improve school enrollment, the occupation authorities threatened parents with the possibility of sending their children to orphanages if they did not enroll in the school whose residents became Russian.

He also announced incentives in the occupied Kherson region, where the authorities announced the payment of 10,000 rubles in cash to each child registered for the school year.

Meanwhile, Halina, along with fellow teachers who did not want to work with the Russians, created an online version of the school that continues to teach the Ukrainian curriculum, using experience gained during the pandemic.

Students and teachers who fled their hometowns are logging in from other parts of Ukraine and abroad.

A few parents still living in town contacted Halina and arranged for their children to attend school online in the afternoon, after they had finished their lessons at the Russian school.

“But they are very worried, the teachers have told the children that the police will come and check their computers and tablets, to make sure they do not continue their studies secretly in the Ukrainian school,” she said.

The Russians seem so concerned about the online school’s continuing to spread Ukrainian influence that the FSB has arrested a relative of one of the teachers involved in the school and questioned him about the project.

Russian forces also raided homes empty of teachers involved in the project, looking for “evidence” around the school, neighbors reported.

With each passing week, the divisions between resisters and collaborators are likely to deepen over education, Halina said, “I just wait every day for our army to liberate the town, I hope that will happen soon.”

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