Some friends and family members told us not to travel to Ukraine for the Summer Institute 2023.
Some past sponsors refused to support us financially, which meant a cost of at least $3,000 CDN for each of us. Seven of us decided that we would travel because we hadn’t seen our Ukrainian colleagues in person since before Covid and now during the war.
We each individually decided to continue our educational programs to support Ukraine’s progress. Their goal was to meet international standards, and our goal was to support Ukrainian colleagues who have remained isolated during the invasion and war.
The Institute of Professional Development, a part of the Ukrainian World Congress and the International Educational Coordinating Council, works with the Educational Committee of the Canada-Ukraine Foundation as a project.
This year’s Ukraine Summer Institute program included seven Canadians, all members of Plast, who presented continuing education courses in person. Bohdan Kolos (Toronto) taught a course for Administrators & Principals; Orest Haras (St. Catharines) discussed Relations with Parents; Iryna Haras (St. Catharines) explained Cooperative Education and Guidance; Sophia Berezowsky, (Toronto) taught English; Christine Zeltway (Toronto) taught Mathematics; Borislaw Bilash (New Jersey) explored Science; Oksana Wynnyckyj (Toronto-Lviv) delved into the New Ukraine School.
Another three educators who couldn’t make the trip (Iryna Perehinets, Toronto; Mark Stadnyk, Toronto; and Malanka Kovaluk, Ottawa) participated in online courses through the ZOOM program.
The week-long Summer Institute took place in a local school in Lviv with over two hundred participating teachers, mainly from the Lviv region but also from Zakarpattia and Poltava oblasts.
The Continuing Education courses are organized locally to give Ukrainian teachers the opportunity to fulfill mandatory requirements to upgrade their qualifications. The local teachers were introduced to recent North American educational approaches. They took part in discussions to see what new ideas and approaches they could add to their teaching repertoire.
The Deputy Director of Education for the City of Lviv, Anna Velechko, sat in on some of the classes. She commented that “within five days, the teams from 19 schools were united within a large community of 180 like-minded individuals who shared common values of the New Ukrainian School. We strive for dignity, equality, justice, caring, honesty, trust, patriotism, social responsibility, leadership, self-realization, freedom, and most importantly – the absence of corruption and unfair favouritism”.
Ms. Velechko continued – “These school teams developed their ideas, created, researched, reflected and presented incredible projects and products. One of their main achievements was the construction of an annual plan for work in schools based on a valued approach. It is essential to continue together to build a future of education in which every child receives a quality and reliable education, and each teacher is a true leader and inspiration for their students. Only together can we make positive changes in the world of education!”
The Canadian teachers were fortunate to hear air raid alarm sirens “tryvoha” only twice during their ten-day trip. Only twice did the drone attacks penetrate Ukraine’s defence system around Lviv. On that fateful day, the eventual death toll was eleven, with over thirty hospitalized. No foreigners were affected. We were all thankful to escape harm even as we were reminded of why we had come to Ukraine.
The historical richness of Lviv was a constant reminder that even though we were born elsewhere, we needed to occasionally personally “come home.” We were able to plunge in and rejuvenate our senses in the bustling activity of the Lviv “rynok”. Yet on the final evening, while enjoying the city center, the juxtaposition of images struck me hard and didn’t want to let me go.
We sat down for a final meal in the Lviv central square, and I happened to notice a young couple sitting at a table nearby looking into each other’s eyes. I couldn’t help but see his Canadian Army Veteran t-shirt and asked if he was from Canada. He answered no that he had been serving in the Belgium army for the last eight years. But now he had signed up for the Ukrainian armed forces and was training Ukrainian soldiers.
I returned to my friends at our table in the restaurant and looked into the crowd circling the Lviv City Hall. I saw a young, healthy man walking the circle around the central municipal building with a young child next to him, holding on to his handless red stub of a right arm then I noticed his other arm was amputated at the elbow.
I was speechless and hurting. I knew we needed to be here in Ukraine.
This is war.