“We made it our mission to defend peace” – Ukrainian students in a school in Emsland


LORUP. For all involved, the school integration of the many Ukrainian refugees is a challenge. A school with a high percentage of Russian-German families masters it.

Religion teacher Kathrin Gerdes calls out to the children on the playground: “Come here, everyone!” Classes from Lorup’s primary and secondary school, Emsland, are grouped in a large circle in front of the entrance. Children laugh and whisper, some joke. But then they all shut up and listen, because Gerdes asks for prayers for peace. “For the eighth time we are gathering here to pray for peace – the war in Ukraine has been going on for 10 weeks”, shouts Gerdes aloud. Children learn about war not only from television and the Internet: 24 school children and young people come from Ukraine and have fled the war. In Lower Saxony, around 9,300 children and young people from Eastern European countries are currently enrolled in schools.

The translation app on school tablets does a good job. Photo: Shutterstock

Admitting children is a big challenge, says director Astrid Düthmann. But the school is well positioned: two social workers speak Russian and a woman who fled Ukraine supports college as a teacher. Most importantly, there are children in each class who speak Russian at home. “Many Russian Germans live here.” Coupled with a translation app on school tablets, lessons become jerky.

Ukrainian flags are glued to the windows of the classrooms. The welcome classes were formed in the high school section of the school. Ukrainian students learn German there, but they also have the opportunity to use tablets to take classes online in Ukrainian schools. “A 10-year student just wants to graduate with online classes,” says Düthmann.

In the closet, teacher Barbara Thieden cooked Ukrainian food with the students. There is pampuschki, a garlic bread, and akroschka, a cold soup. Children with a Russian family background would also know this dish, says Thieden. During the second long break, the bread and soup will be distributed to classmates in the school bar.

Iliana and Daria – called Dasha – also cooked. The two 13-year-old girls look lively and cheerful. You saw a downed plane, Iliana says in Ukrainian. Eleven-year-old Danny works as a translator. Without him, his teachers would be lost.

Danny keeps translating. How do the two girls feel here? They answer. Danny has to think about the best way to say it in German: “You are sad, no, you are sorry for what is happening in Ukraine”.

Anton, 15, also helped with the cooking. He doesn’t say much. He comes from a small village in Ukraine. Vice President Michael Menke tells the story of him: Anton’s parents remained in Ukraine, the boy came to Emsland with his grandmother to live with his parents’ friends who lived here. The bus first went to the Slovenian border, from where they were picked up by friends. He calls his parents every day, says Anton.

Of course, some ethnic German families only watch Russian television, says director Düthmann. “But I can’t say this has become a problem so far.” Stupid isolated sayings are always cleared up very quickly. The war was discussed in all classes, even that it was a war of aggression. But otherwise the war should be kept out of school. “We have made it our mission to defend peace”. Many of the last few resettlements belonged to free ecclesiastical communities – many of them allegedly taking in refugees. (Elmar Stephan, dpa)

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