the Ukrainian Wednesday School, a space to let go of refugee school children

For the past two weeks, every Wednesday afternoon, this bilingual international school, located on rue Judaïque, has hosted classes unlike …

For the past two weeks, every Wednesday afternoon, this bilingual international school, located on rue Judaïque, has hosted classes like no other. It makes its premises and teaching materials available to the Ukrainian House. About fifty refugee students meet. Divided into levels, they have lessons with Ukrainian volunteer teachers. They arrive from the bombed cities of Boutcha, Mariupol, Kharkiv … They all went out on the road a few months ago to flee their country at war.

For these children, schooling did not stop. Some take online lessons, others go to “the French school”. But today, place for lessons in Ukrainian. The original initiative comes from a charity, La Maison ukraine (1), founded in April 2022 by Albina Kozlova, a young Ukrainian who arrived in France in 2005 to study. At the same time, Vice President Charlotte Moriarty created the self-help group Ukrainian Refugee Support on Facebook. It has 1,800 members.

“Everything I know how to do”

Oksana, Albina Kozlova’s mother, is a little at the beginning of this experiment. She joined her daughter in Bordeaux a few months ago. She is a professor of foreign literature. In her escape from the city of Rivne, 150 km from the Belarusian border, she met “many people, all lost, in shock”. We meet her in the kindergarten room, she wears a white T-shirt with her name written in ink and a Ukrainian flag emblem sewn on the heart. With emotions, but right in her eyes, she explains that during her long trip to France, she immediately thought of setting up a project around education, to hold on and move on. “I wanted to show that we are there, we teachers. All I know how to do is teach, organize, give instructions. I am very grateful that such a place exists. At our schools, we do not have all this material. To me, it’s a sign from heaven. »

“All I know how to do is teach, organize”


Each “teacher” has taken over a classroom at Bordeaux International School.

Fabien Cottereau / SOUTHWEST

Upstairs, Tatiana welcomes us in her class to primary school. Before the war, she was a logic teacher at a private school in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, 30 km from Russia. Kharkiv is today disfigured by the bombings. She is also a Rubik’s dice master. Her teaching here are the only ones she has given since she fled to France with her children. She is well registered with Pôle emploi “but without a good command of French, what to do? She mourns. So she puts all her willpower into her language development lessons in Ukrainian. “When I traveled, I thought that the exchanges my children have with our family would be enough for their well-being. But no, it is important for them to open up to other Ukrainian school children who are going through the same thing. Here are times to share and listen. »

Everyone enjoys giving lessons, from pencil drawing to history lessons, in their native language.


Everyone enjoys giving lessons, from pencil drawing to history lessons, in their native language.

Fabien Cottereau / SOUTHWEST

“A place of reunion”

Isabelle Bidalun, co-director of BIS, which this year has 180 students of 28 nationalities, goes in this direction: “I met Albina before Easter, we support their initiative. We had to do something. Here, teachers who traveled because of the war can continue to work. It is also interesting that children recreate a bond with friends their age. This feeling of belonging to a language, to a country is fundamental. It is important that the mother tongue is conveyed by the teacher. »

Finally, this Ukrainian school for Albina Kozlova is above all “a place of exchange, reunion, many of these students learn a new language, some even, depending on the region from which they come from, speak Ukrainian again when they spoke. Russian “Families say they feel tired. Here is a space to let go and rest that is offered to them”.

(1) The members of the Ukrainian House Association and the families will meet on Sunday, May 29, at the Parc du Vivier in Mérignac from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for Mother’s Day. On this occasion, games for children and treasure hunts will be offered, the sale of handmade objects will finance projects and excursions.

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