Ukrainian Textbooks Burned in Occupied Territory; Schools Becoming ‘Russianized’

Kaname Muto / The Yomiuri Shimbun
Myroslava’s hands holding one of her student’s report cards in Warsaw

LVIV, Ukraine — Russia’s policy of Russification in the occupied territories of eastern and southern Ukraine has extended to schools.

A female elementary school teacher, 59, who fled an occupied territory told The Yomiuri Shimbun about the reality of a school taken over by the Russian authorities.

Myroslava — a pseudonym — has been a teacher for about 40 years. In Warsaw, where she has taken refuge, she spoke to the paper on condition of anonymity out of concern for her daughter who remains in an occupied territory.

On Feb. 24, 2022, the first day of its aggression, Russia took control of Myroslava’s town in the southern province of Kherson. Her classes continued online, but about two months later, she was called to the school for an “emergency meeting.” There she found the school surrounded by armed soldiers and a Russian flag flying over the building.

“We’ll make young patriots out of them,” declared a pro-Russian man calling himself the new principal, who previously worked at a local prison.

The principle instituted a Russian curriculum. He ordered the Russian national anthem to be sung every morning and classes to be conducted in Russian without reference to Ukraine. Textbooks and library books were burned. Teachers who rebelled and tried to leave were threatened with being forced to “walk through a minefield.”