Made by & for Ukrainians: ‘UA School’ in Cluj opens for over 200 Ukrainian refugee children, pleads for support
In February 2022, a vile military invasion that caused the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II began in Ukraine, killing thousands of innocent civilians and pushing families to forcedly seek refuge in its neighboring countries, like Poland, Hungary, and Romania.
Around a month later, Kseniia Shyriaieva moved to Cluj-Napoca from Dnipro with her mother and her nephew to start a new life under critical circumstances. She, then, initiated UA School, a social and educational project dedicated to Ukrainian children in the city, with help from Institutul Român Pentru Pace (PATRIR), Asociatia Tinerilor Ucraineni din România, and the Royal School in Transylvania.
Per August 2022, 237 children have signed up for the long-term program, ranging from the 1st to 11th grade, but still need more funding sources to cater to the costs of cleaning issues, financial reimbursements for the teachers, and operational costs before its initial start in September.
“One woman, who's connected to the Royal School in Cluj, initiated this first back in March, so I made a Google Form to receive feedback, but it somehow died down until the end of May. So, I shared another form, and around 90 parents came to the meeting, and the reaction was positive,” Shyriaieva recalls.
Its pilot project, the Summer School of the UA School in Cluj, kicked off from July 4 to 29 at the Royal School in Transylvania, enrolling a total of 130 children and a team of 16 teachers and 15 volunteers, and was supported by PATRIR, Mercy Corps and Medical International Rescue. The one-month event had been covered by local publications in the city, including Maszol.ro, Cluj24.ro, and Gazeta de Cluj.
“I would like to create a safe place for children and parents to share. Especially the kids, because they're dealing with such a tremendous amount of stress, and we don't see them outside. It's inside them,” she says.
The project does not aim for full integration - instead, as an emergency exit, it wants to create an environment that tailors their lives pre-war rather than adding up to the children's psychological burden by integrating them into the new life, the new society, and the new language that is in Romania.
However, should parents aim to settle in the country for a longer period, UA School also seeks to accommodate their needs slowly step by step.
“We do not come here to be Romanian citizens. The war pushed us to come, and it was not our decision, so we never intended to fully integrate with Romanian society. This city is our temporary home. And after everything is finished, we will come back home,” she explains.
In Ukraine, the education year officially starts on September 1st and until June 30th. The program aims to start with a 6-month probable period with an opportunity to extend if deemed necessary and caters to four different activities: mastering the Ukrainian school program in person, extra recreational activities for children for personal development, mental health support, and UA Child Education Hub's aggregator website.
Located at Strada Henri Barbusse 46, Cluj-Napoca, the Royal School in Transylvania graciously offers 2 floors, 6-7 classrooms equipped with screens and projectors, a music room with synthesizer, a multifunctional device with unlimited opportunities for usage, paper, and free Wi-Fi for evening schedules from Monday to Friday.
As the staggering number of participants bring another stumbling block of financial issue, however, Shyriaieva pleads for donation, which is aiming to bring together Ukrainian children to continue to benefit from education in a supportive environment that's dedicated to them.
“We ask for your support in helping us to make this project a reality for the children of Ukraine in Cluj. Any contribution, regardless of the amount, will make a true difference for our children,” she pleads for donation.
Contact details for anyone interested in helping war-torn children to paint a better present in a crisis and uncertain time like this:
Organizer of the Educational Hub “UA School in Cluj” / Ukrainian Community Officer, PATRIR / Project Coordinator, Asociaţia Tinerilor Ucraineni din România
UA: +380973489988 (WhatsApp, Viber)
RO: +40737914360 (calls, messages)
In other news about the Russo-Ukrainian War, Russian Ministry of Affairs spokesperson Maria Zaharova accused Bucharest of sending weapons ("Romanian-made shells") to Ukraine on top of its humanitarian assistance, Romania-Insider reports from Agerpres.
(Photo source: PATRIR, Asociatia Tinerilor Ucraineni din România)