The President of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, has just completed a trip to Poland and other NATO countries, because it’s the middle of the school year. She wanted to make sure that the Ukrainian women and children who fled the War were getting what they needed
She visited a lot of refugee camps, and toured the facilities. She talked to the mothers and to children and was very pleased with what she found.
That said, over 45 million women and children and elderly persons have fled Ukraine for their lives. There’s going to be holes in the system, but from what she saw, it was very organized, very welcoming, and people were doing everything within their power, voluntarily, to help those in such abundant need.
Children who had been taking gymnastics in the Ukraine before the War were able to practice what they had already learned in their home towns there in the refugee centers. The refugee centers were comprised of rows of rows of sleeping cots, which I will say, from the photographs I saw, were all neatly maintained. I have not seen photos of any refugee centers here in America which looked that orderly and well maintained.
The women and the children get up in the morning and make their beds with a perfection that amazes me. I went to Girl Scout camp as a child, and it took a whistle-blowing senior scout to get us out of bed, let alone making the beds once we were up!
The refugee camps are divided into two sections; one for the moms, the other for children. The Polish people are generously providing therapy for the moms so that they can start to heal from the horrors they left behind, so that the moms in turn can provide better care for their children.
The mothers also are in group therapy, and they frequently start out saying “I’m okay, I’m all right, let the next lady take my turn,” only to have the next lady say “I have nothing to say”. It falls back to the first woman, who gives up her control of her emotions and begins to speak in broken sentences, accompanied by a few tears, telling her story. As her story unfolds, the tears wash down her face, and as she begins to speak, she begins to heal a little.
On the children’s side, they are playing with toys and cards. The children are eight and under. They use the dolls they are given to act out what their mothers said as they were getting ready to leave Ukraine. The children often do not realize that their daddies, brothers, uncles, cousins, probably will not come home from war, which will be another issue.
The American head of the Teachers’ Union visited some classes in progress. Teachers in America and around the world have been sending concerned messages to her about the education of the Ukrainian children. She brought with her supplies, books and stuffed animals. She said that American families have been very generous in sending these things, and that they do help the Ukrainian children.
She taught a High School class of students for about 45 minutes, and found them to be well-educated from their classes in Ukraine. One young male student in particular stood out to her. He raised his hand, and stood up tall and straight, held his head up high, and said to her “Please tell American students to be grateful for what they have. One day I had this, and the next day I didn’t.” These students had homes a month ago; nice homes and good schooling and nice lives with promiser. A month later, it is all gone.