Ukraine’s War: The Silence of Children

Status: 02/05/2022 06:00 AM

Language teacher Anna Mikhailuk from Vyshgorod near Kyiv fled the war and is now teaching Ukrainian refugee children at Winsen Gymnasium. She speaks Ukrainian, Japanese, English and German.

by keri rogimer

There are now approximately 400,000 Ukrainians living in Germany who have fled the war in their country. There are mostly women with their children and the elderly. One of them is Anna Mikhailuk. The 40-year-old came to Hamburg via Berlin with her three daughters and now lives in Steele.

She is a language teacher and speaks German as well as Japanese and English. Once here, she started giving German lessons to Ukrainian children at Winsen High School. This week she will get an employment contract and now she can officially earn money.

Anna Mikhailuk: We have to start from scratch again

“Here I have to start everything from scratch – and I am 40. I worked for 20 years. And I had power, respect and social standing there. I had money and everything there. We really lived a good life, ”says Anna Mikhailuk. That life ended abruptly at the end of February.

Only three days after the outbreak of the war, Mykhailiuk decided to leave her hometown of Vischgorod near Kyiv with her three daughters. “On February 24, we heard these explosions and sat in my husband’s garage all day. Then we decided to leave Kyiv. We didn’t see much. I didn’t see the dead and my children either,” she said. .

Because of the endless queues at the Polish border, Anna Mikhayliuk finally travels to Germany via Hungary, Slovenia and then Poland. Now she has finally found a place in an empty house with a friend and her child. She wants to do something, organizes studies, school and day care for her three daughters – and then begins to teach Ukrainian children of all ages German in a gymnasium in Winsen. But just teaching is totally normal? It’s tough because all the kids have their own stories of their escape and what happened before.

“Now I’ve met everyone and I’m trying to give these kids a soul massage. I tried to talk,” Mikhailuk says. “They have different stories, but they don’t want to tell her. She’s closed now. We have a girl from Bucha. She looks very nice, and good-looking. I asked her about the house, about her parents, and she was unable to say anything.”

Children of Ukraine: Lessons for distraction

This silence is widespread, especially among Ukrainian refugee children. The German class distracts her – it does not cancel out sometimes painful experiences. “They don’t understand that they’re shocked. They say, ‘We’re fine.'” Here we are with the mothers – but without the fathers.’ It’s not normal. They say, ‘We’re fine, here we have ‘no bombs’ – but it’s not normal. We still have to look into it. The situation in high school seems normal – but we don’t know what it will be in six months or a year.”

Anna Mykhailiuk carefully tries to have an open ear for these children, watching them closely. And all this despite the fact that she worries herself a lot and takes care of her younger daughters who are just under two years old. “My husband is in Ukraine – that’s the hardest thing. And my mom is in Cherson, it’s an ‘occupied land.’ These things are the hardest for me,” she says.

Anna Mikhailuk is undoubtedly a strong personality. The pale little woman tries to think positively and work hard. Yet you can feel her suffering, her sadness, and her anxiety behind the smiling facade at every moment of the conversation. At the moment she does not know if she will return to her homeland. Now she is building a new life for herself and her children here – and she is there for Ukrainian schoolchildren. “I’m so strong every morning. But every night when everyone here sleeps, we sit down and I know I’m all crying at home.”

Additional information

Language teacher Anna Mikhailuk fled the war. She now teaches Ukrainian children at Gymnasium Winsen. more

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Culture NDR | matinee | 02/05/2022 | 10:20 am

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