Ukrainian Teachers Discuss Their Experiences Across Borders
On December 21, 2022, after yet another Russian rocket strike, the Ukrainian team of the “History Competitions” discussed their experiences of the competitions with colleagues from abroad. They also presented their new online publication which aims to help teachers and young people in choosing and developing their research ideas. Greeting the participants, Liudmyla Makhun, a Ukrainian teacher from the Volyn’ region and leader of the research team that oversaw the publication’s development, noted that the main thread that bound together diverse materials of the Ukrainian history competitions was “unprecedented dedication of the teachers,” which the research team intended to spread among the wide audience of the “History Competitions” project by means of a publication.
Petro Kendzor, a co-coordinator of the “History Competitions”, split the participants in working groups to discuss the three main issues that the publication dealt with: digital history, oral history and community involvement. In each group, teachers from Ukraine presented their experience and approach, while teachers from other countries took notes, asked question and challenged their Ukrainian counterparts. After returning to the plenary, the participants from Armenia, Georgia and Moldova presented their impressions.
Speaking about her group in which Soviet diary culture was discussed, Lika Katsiadze from DVV International Georgia suggested to organise a cross-national workshop for teachers focusing on ego-sources. While Qochoyan Karine, a teacher from Armenia, noted that by focusing only on their respective “shares” of the Soviet empire, the national school history curriculums do more damage than good. “Young people should know what was happening in other Soviet republics and learn how to identify that history in ego-sources,” concluded Ms Karine.
The presentations by Yuliya Nedzels’ka from the West-Ukrainian city of Ternopil raised a heated discussion on local community and memory. Together with her students she tested the boundaries of local memory by studying the painful and controversial process of renaming of the city’s main streets. Before the Russian invasion, the street bore names of the Soviet soldiers – Ukrainian and Russian – who captured the city from the Nazis in 1944. But Russian extensive appeals to Soviet heritage in justifying their 2022 military intervention spurred the locals’ dissent and prompted them to get rid of the “Soviet shadow” in the cityscape.
Commenting on the presentation, Aliona Badiur from DVV International Moldova praised the cautious and non-judgmental approach to studying such a sensitive matter. While Manana Shekliadze, a Georgian teacher, said that the case of Mrs. Nedzels’ka and her students exemplified a blueprint for teachers applying colonial studies that avoid unnecessary tensions and build mutual trust within a local community.
Closing the workshop, Andriy Fert, a historian and the “History Competitions” coordinator, thanked those gathered for the vivid discussion and for their support of the Ukrainian educators. “Our project offers a unique way for the teachers to discuss their research experience with their peers from abroad. Today, as the war takes tolls on Ukrainian society, such international discussions become extremely valuable.”