Sept. 1, 2011
We’re sitting around the kitchen table at the guest house. Adam is talking with great animation about his day. His new classmates invited him to lunch after school, and he has spent all day with them. Adam says, “I loved it!”
He has already improved his Ukrainian, or at lest he sounds as if he has. He keeps answering his dad with “Tak!” instead of “Yeah,” and “Pravda!” instead of “Right.” He went to lunch and sat around a coffee shop with his new classmates answering questions about the United States. They were impressed he spoke a little Ukrainian.
Adam has spent the day mostly with his new friend who has come over for a moment. He’s a tall kid with a deep voice, good English, and great intensity. “I will earn a gold medal at the end of this year,” he said. “I am one of the best students in the school.”
“I am a patriot,” he says. “The president and his gang– I call them his ‘gang’– they are using the money from the people and buying themselves big houses and things. The people in western Ukraine disagree. The people in Eastern Ukraine speak Russian, they don’t even speak Ukrainian. In order to understand, you have to know Ukrainian history.” And he starts in the first century. “Vladymyr Valicki brought the Christian religion from Constantinople,” he says. “It was a political move because he wanted to marry a woman from Constantinople,” he says. “The Greek Catholic Church has helped the people retain their culture and history, such as what they did through the Second World War.”
Teaching us history is more important than the first call from his mother, but he jumps home with the second call and takes Adam with him. He has already given Adam a tour around the downtown, and now they all want to go to a movie. Later, Bill asks, “How many people went to the movie.” Adam says, “About 17 – almost the whole class.”
The day started well with the boys brushed and shiny in their new Ukrainian shirts, dress pants and dress shoes. Fall was in the air as we walked the 20 minutes to Shkola No. 4. As we reached the top of the hill to turn the corner to the school, music started. The white chalk indicating class locations that had appeared the day before still marked the pavement. We stood in the center of the schoolyard for a while watching it fill up. Unfortunately, we did not get the flowers memo. Flowers came single, in stems, in bouquets and potted plants. There were roses and daisies and gladiolas and multicolored arrangements. They came in the arms of mothers and of children. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMw1T9IQJt0
Everywhere, boys in suits and sirotchkas, girls in sirotchkas, some with woven traditional shirts and some with flowers and ribbons in their hair. Mothers dresses or jeans and high, high heels. (I brought dress shoes, but no one would have noticed if I changed from my athletic to dress shoes in that crowd – no one could have seen that far down ..) Fathers in suits or jeans and t-shirts. Grandparents. And cameras everywhere. We didn’t need a memo to bring a camera. An orthodox priest took a place near us. He said good morning. He placed some accoutrements on the table. Behind us, three girls in sirotchki and jeans were practicing a Ukrainian folk dance. Pani Jaroslava said good morning. Adam took the opportunity to ask her to identify their classes. She took Adam and introduced him to one group of students, and then Zachary to another group of students, and they had found their places.
The schoolyard was becoming more crowded. A woman’s voice announced something, and assorted parents started crossing the yard to the edges behind the assembled classes. Bill stood against the graffitied “hello” wall behind Adam and I stood behind Zachary. He looked like a deer in headlights. I shared something supportive and gave him a peck on the cheek. Then I showed him where we would be standing. I can vouch that the wall was painted and not chalked – despite leaning against it for an hour, our jackets were clean.
The opening day ceremony included patriotic songs and poems. The entering students was introduced and welcomed to the school. The flag was raised and national and religious banners paraded around. The priest prayed and blessed the assemblage with holy water. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aybwVUCs4G8
Children performed. The two Euro 2012 mascots, Slavek and Slavko, waved to the crowd and released balloons. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwXcr89_vMk
A little girl rang the ceremonial school bell to call them all inside.
During the ceremony, I went over to Zachary, and I asked him how he was enjoying the first day of school so far. He said with a mope, “They do it a lot better here than they do it at my school.”
Here were students, families, members of the community and leaders of the community stirring the students with responsibility and support in the course of reminding them what a privilege they were getting to be here at Shkola #4 for school this year. It was a pep rally with national, class and behavioral elements mixed in.
When the outside ceremonies were done, the classes filed in led by their teachers. Zachary’s class was led in quite quickly, Adam’s later.
Poor Zachary is stressed. After Adam’s upbeat report on his day, Zachary did share his excitement with a little physical activity on the UKU campus across the street. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kc5WjuZbCes
We hope his day will be better today.