Kharkiv director of a school about volunteering and teaching in bomb shelters

The eastern regions of Ukraine and the educational sphere there are experiencing particularly severe destruction from the aggression of the Russian Federation. In particular, more than 200 educational institutions were affected in Kharkiv, which is almost half of the total number of them in the city.

According to the Kharkiv City Council Education Department, in addition to the destruction of schools, 120,000 schoolchildren left the city. Currently, the department is analyzing the level of damage and discussing the format for the start of the new academic year. Meanwhile, Kharkiv teachers work both with those children who remained in the city and with those who left, in conditions of shelling and destruction.

In order to help Ukrainian educators to continue teaching children during the war, the EdCamp Ukraine community launched a crowdfunding campaign — collecting funds for computer equipment and Internet access for those teachers who lost teaching equipment due to the war.

“New Ukrainian School” publishes an interview with Galina Kuklina, the director of the Kharkiv Special School No. 12 for children with visual impairments and a teacher of spatial orientation, which was created as part of the campaign.

Since the beginning of the full-scale war with Russia, Halyna has been in Kharkiv, where she helps children and adults on the line of fire, does everything she can to make life easier for the people of Kharkiv and bring our victory closer.


I have been in Kharkiv since the beginning of the war. I observe the war with my own eyes, I help people who find themselves in difficult life circumstances. We volunteer, take people out of hot spots. We saw how Russian troops destroyed Saltivka and KhTZ districts of Kharkiv. On March 1, we sent children to evacuate under shelling. And on March 2, a school named after V. G. Korolenko, where the children still remained. But we are unbreakable. And our children, despite everything, supported us and were sure that everything would be fine.

We are a nation of winners. I have many examples that inspire and give an opportunity to be proud of our country. I am most proud of people who are burning with new ideas and make incredible efforts to achieve their goals. I am proud of Kharkiv residents who, despite everything, preserve the infrastructure, plant flowers, defend the city and help each other. I have not felt such unity for many years.


We were not allowed to build a free, independent state. Now we are going through this tragic stage, Putin’s genocide of Ukrainians. I compare the current events with the Holocaust, and I am amazed by the Jews who were able to go through it and understood that they had to build their own independent state. Let it be a fortress state if we need to protect our lives and our children. And we, as Israelis, must unite and build our independent country. There is no need to “liberate” us and “lead us to a better destiny.” Let the Russians restore order in their country, and you don’t have to go to us.

We will win. Maybe this is a utopia, but I am sure that we will be reborn like a phoenix bird. We cannot stop and give up. I am sure that our children will come back and rebuild everything, even if something terrible happens to us. I believe in our armed forces and victory.


My humanity and empathy have increased significantly. A team of like-minded people and I prepare food for the Armed Forces on our school equipment. We wash the laundry of our defenders, help their families, and seek humanitarian aid. Once they brought me clothes from the frontline to wash, but I don’t have any washing powder. I made one call and they brought me a box of that powder. I haven’t felt such support for a long time.

People give me a resource. My people work 24/7, no one says about rest, on the contrary, they persuade me to go rest. I am always lucky for people, and now, thank God, both those who stayed and those who left help. We have almost the entire teaching staff left in Kharkiv. Four went abroad because they lived in Saltivka, their apartments were vandalized. At the beginning of the war, we housed people in our school. Then it flew, the school was disconnected from the heating, and we had no electricity for a week. And it’s very warm in the basement. And it was impossible to live there, the children started to get sick.

People were taken to villages, and they were also taken abroad through volunteers. In particular, we took out the family of one of our students – a boy in the third grade, his four-year-old brother and their mother. In Lithuania, the mother had a stroke, she was taken to the hospital, the children were left alone. So we sent their 72-year-old grandmother to Kaunas so she could help. If everything goes well and they come back, it will be my greatest pride for the saved family. I pray to God that this woman gets better, that they come back alive and well.

I do my best to make life easier for people here in Kharkiv. If you do something, you live. If I have arms-legs-head, then I can’t just sit. I wanted to enroll in the Teroboron, but I was told that I had other tasks. My calling is to be a teacher.


In war-time Kharkiv, there is a lot of infrastructure destruction, limited movement around the city, public transport does not work, and the subway has turned into a bomb shelter. We do not always have high-quality Internet, there is a lack of gadgets. But even in these difficult conditions, educators rallied and teach children. There are difficulties in teaching, but here we can use military tactics – take a step back and then move forward to new knowledge. I say to my teachers: now the most important thing for us is to preserve the health of the nation, and we will be able to develop children after victory.

My colleagues in Kharkiv go down to the subway and bomb shelters and conduct lessons not only for our students, but for all the children who are there. For example, there is a family that lives in the subway all the time and rarely leaves. They feel safe there. It so happened that there are children from three families, they live together in a close relationship in the subway. We talk and observe whether the child perceives the conversation, whether he had a chance to rest.

I admire our children. I now miss their fights and activity, which were in peacetime. Now they are very focused on learning, on acquiring new knowledge. Pupils have become very serious, united and responsible. That’s why I say at the beginning of the lesson: until everyone smiles, we won’t start. But they have grown up a lot. And I really want them to be children! I am very sorry that they are losing their golden time of childhood. These barbarians took away this opportunity from our children.

Also, all this time we keep in touch with those who have left. Children from abroad join our education and go to local schools at the same time. They can’t always join online, so they have to learn a lot on their own. If the child cannot go to Zoom, we send him a recording of the lesson via Viber or Telegram.


The presentation and teaching format have changed. We do not have the opportunity to read a lecture, use the blackboard, check homework. I don’t stress at all whether the child has done his homework, because everyone lives in different conditions now. There are children who have the opportunity to develop at a normal pace. And others do not have such an opportunity. In our school basement, the children painted the walls because they needed something to do.

We adapt. When we teach in the subway, we take educational games adapted for children with visual impairments. For example, we have the game “Vazhnytsia”, which combines the Ukrainian language, history and mathematical skills.

Our school has an orchestra of folk instruments. On them, children play not only Ukrainian folk music, but also modern hits, which sound different on folk instruments, and children and listeners really like it. Because, as the children themselves say, Ukrainian folk music is cool. The children are still rehearsing today, and we plan to hold a concert.



I think the international community will benefit from our experience of working with children with special educational needs and integrating these children into society through art.

I am filled with pride for our Ukrainian education. Children WHO left went to schools in different European countries. They passed the test, and they are enrolled in the next classes – and this is taking into account the fact that they do not know the local languages. This is an indicator of the quality of education we provide to our children.

My son, who is deaf, was supposed to get his high school diploma this year. Now he is in Germany. He was taken to a boarding school for hearing-impaired children, and after testing, they said that there was nothing for him to do there and that he could enter the university. I advised him to learn the language and take advantage of this chance. Each such story is a source of pride for our people. We proved that our education corresponds to the European level, and maybe even higher.

Text — Halyna Kovalchuk