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These Ukrainian Teachers Are Fighting the War From Within the Classroom

“We plan to return to Kyiv when this is all over and help rebuild the city—rebuild our community—so we can continue doing what we were doing there: Teaching."
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profile picture of Nehal Aggarwal
Published
March 15, 2022
Ukrainian flag with the The coat of arms of the city, Lviv, Ukraine
Image: Ayhan Altun/Getty Images

When the world around us seems too dark to fathom, teachers have stepped up time and time again to maintain some sense of normalcy. It happened during the pandemic and it’s happening again during the war in Ukraine.

Many Ukrainian teachers are fighting the war against Russia in their own way: by staying committed to their students. NBC spoke to 22-year-old Aleksandra, who teaches art and Ukrainian language to elementary schoolers—and plans to continue to do so. When asked how the teachers decided to keep teaching the kids, she told the outlet, “We just understood that we had a lot of energy to do something for the world—just, like, to be involved in a common victory, you know?”

So far, according to a Ukrainian government estimate, 379 Ukrainian schools have been damaged and 59 have been destroyed, NBC reports. Over 2 million people have fled the country since the war started. Among them is Lindsey, who was teaching in Macedonia but left with her husband and three young kids when the war started. Since escaping, she has worked to help Ukrainian teachers and students maintain some aspect of a normal routine.

Lindsey has been helping evacuate people and working with bordering countries to take in students who have escaped. She’s also working with teachers to help students find internet access and sustain virtual lessons, as these provide hope and an emotional safe space for many kids. “One person I talked to said five out of the 30 students in her daughter’s class currently have internet. She’s very hopeful that school will at least start online soon,” Lindsey told TODAY Parents.

The top priority for teachers, however, remains ensuring their students’ safety. Lindsey explained the loss of communication can be particularly devastating, as there’s no way to know if the kids are okay. “We have kids who disappear for four or five days at a time, and then they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m safe. I’ve crossed this border,’” she told TODAY Parents. “It’s really unnerving, not knowing for several days when you don’t know where people are.”

To cope with all the devastation, she’s keeping herself occupied with her work and efforts to support Ukrainian teachers and children—and she’s holding onto the hope she’ll be able to go home with her family one day: “We plan to return to Kyiv when this is all over and help rebuild the city—rebuild our community—so we can continue doing what we were doing there: Teaching."

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