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The Slovaks: teachers that moved to Transcarpathia from Slovakia and their stories

Relationships between countries in the stories of (un)common people

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Yan Pohanych, Valeria Kizakova, Svitlana Surova, Dagmar Kralikova and Eva Diuroshova are five teachers that moved to Uzhhorod from various cities of Slovakia. All of them applied for a state program, passes a casting of teaching abroad in case of an open vacancy and found themselves in Uzhhorod, although each of them had a different motivation for joining the program and did it in a different year.

Some of them have been here for two years and others – for nine. Each has his own vision of the teaching process, pupils’ performance, living in Uzhhorod and perceiving of Ukraine. Each of them has his own story.

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Yan Pohanych

Mr. Yan has been living in Uzhhorod for 7 years. His contract is valid for one more year but next year he will be starting a class of school beginners. So the teacher thinks it will only be fair to stay with them until they graduate from the primary school, that is, all the 4 years. Besides, he’s got some other plans of his own to be realized right here.

The teacher had made his acquaintance with Uzhhorod long before. He was playing football back in 2004. There once was a team, Lotos Uzhhorod, and he used to visit every football match.

– I think that well-bred children can create a civilized society, so they should be engaged with: visit museums, the castle, concerts, sport events, – the teacher is assured. – I have lots of artist friends so I often go to various workshops, exhibitions, at the philharmonic. One should have a cultural life. I keep telling everyone that Uzhhorod is a highly cultural city, a meeting place of different generations, not only elderly people but kids as well.

The teacher says that Slovak and Ukrainian kids are the same for him, and that it all depends on how adults influence them, in what environment they grow up.

– It really matters a lot, I mean the teacher’s attitude to the children, – says Mr. Yan. – Once he opens up to them and let them know he’s on their level, and then they will get used to understanding: the teacher is like them and will gradually open up before him. If he does not manage to do that at once, the kids will close up, and it will be very difficult to change anything. So the teacher’s task is to open up a child and offer a path, guide him either to art or to mathematics, chemistry or even to astronautics. To make working interesting, the teacher has to look for new possibilities, new entertainment. I write fairy tales but I have already involved the kids to the job. I am interested in art, I take the kids with me to various museums, theater performances. This means cooperation. Development, not only for the kids but for myself, too.

To Mr.Yan’s mind, one of the problems typical to Uzhhorodians is punctuality. They often fail to come on time and may come for the appointment half an hour or even an hour later. As for understanding Ukrainians, there’s no problem, as long as you don’t pretend to be someone you are not.

– Ukrainians and Slovaks are very welcoming and friendly people, open and sincere and willing to work. For them it is not a problem to travel somewhere any time at all – in the morning or in the evening, on a holiday. They realize that they have to work in order to achieve some results. Not wait for a certain time but move on and work when it’s needed, – says the teacher.

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Svitlana Surova

Ms Svitlana Surova has been working in the city for over 8 years, longest of all the Slovak teachers in Uzhhorod. The teacher has started her third 4-year’s period. She moved to Transcarpathia from the city of Mykhaylovtse.

– I can’t see any difference between Slovaks and Ukrainians at all. We live very close to one another, – the teacher tells. – I like Ukrainian songs. But the Slovak ones are nice, too. People are nice here, and if I were to compare kids, they’re the same everywhere. As long as you rise motivation and a wish to study, they will. And it is very important for the primary school to give kids a push for such a wish to study.

Ms Svitlana says she is pleased with the Ukrainian educational reform, as the learning process becomes simpler, more interesting and more effective. As for the Ukrainian language, she hasn’t mastered it yet but she can comprehend and read fluently. She likes Ukrainian music and singing.

– Ukrainians are very nice, friendly, attentive, too; they easily thank for anything. Some Slovaks might learn that from them. And Uzhhorod is a nice historic city, it breathes with history and has got positive energy. I advise everyone to visit the castle, walk about the streets and cafes, – says Ms Svitlana, smiling.

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Valeria Kizakova

Ms Valeria has lived in Uzhhorod for over two years by now. As she moved from the town of Svidnik, with its 10 thousand people of population, she was appointed at once the form mistress in one of the Classes 1. She says she never compares Ukrainian kids to Slovak ones, for they are special in their own way and can’t be compared.

– I like Uzhhorod very much, with all of its cultural sites. My colleagues and I visit them in our leisure time. Generally speaking, the city is very nice and historic, – Ms Valeriya tells. – I think that Uzhhorod and Svydnyk are similar and are not far away from each other, some 100 km from the border. Life is about the same, although Uzhhorod is a bigger city. I feel good here, my accommodation is nice and the staff members are kind. All our colleagues help us.

As Ms Valeriya started to work in a school of Uzhhorod, the educational reform had not yet been implemented, so the studies were conducted by the previous program. The teacher compared it to the Slovak one and noticed that Ukrainian pupils have harder times, for the program is more difficult. So the teacher hopes that the changes in the Ukrainian school will make it easier for them.

– We have much in common. Our peoples are the same, there is no difference. To my mind, Ukrainians are more kind-hearted, good-natured and kinder. As for the Ukrainian language, I understand it and speak a little. Many of my colleagues speak Slovak, and that also makes communication easier. Ukrainian is rather difficult to study but I know the ABC, so I can read and translate, – adds Ms Valeriya assuredly.

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Dagmar Kralikova

Ms Dagmar is a teacher of the 2nd grade, teaching Slovak in Classes 5 to 11. She has been living in Uzhhorod for 4 years. She currently works with Classes 8 and 9 only.

– I have some previous experience of working by similar programs in Romania and Hungary, and I can say that Ukrainian kids learn Slovak better than those kids. Maybe it’s because it is also Slavonic and is more comprehensive than, say, for Hungarians. Those previous trips were a kind of challenge for me, since I wanted to compare the situation with the Slovak national minority in those countries. I was very surprised to know that there are not many pupils in our Slovak school in Uzhhorod whose parents are Slovak. Most of pupils come to school with zero knowledge of Slovak. They gradually get acquainted with the Slovak language, literature, facts of life. Then they can enter Slovak educational establishments. So there is always a demand for this school. It is a positive thing that these times, as the world is getting more globalized, we can get to know each other better, – the teacher is convinced.

Ms Dagmar is pleased with Uzhhorod schoolchildren. She says that most of them are “shikovni” (i.e., smart, quick – Editor), and understand texts well. They read topics and understand them, though stil have minor problems with grammar and spelling. But on the whole they study at a decent level.

Uzhhorod is a very nice city, with its historic downtown. I like the local river, the same sites as in my native city of Bratislava. You can sit, reading a book, talking to friends. The pedestrian area and buildings are very nice, especially those from the period of Austro-Hungary. The architecture of the times of the First Republic can be also seen here, – Ms Kralikova tells.

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Eva Diuroshova

Ms Eva has been living and working in Uzhhorod for over a year. The teacher came from Banska Bystrica. Before that she taught at a university and a Methodological Center for Expatriate Slovaks. In particular, she worked with Slovaks in Serbia, Croatia, Romania, Hungary and Poland.

– I had long worked with expatriate Slovaks and I felt a need to help them save the language. I submitted my docs, applying for a contest held by the Ministry of education. This is how I found myself in Uzhhorod. The whole way of life is absolutely different. Quite a lot of things working in Slovakia here they absolutely don’t. Here is the explanation for some things, like the way children behave at school and response to what I say. Everything works for 3 days only and then it fades away. So it was rather difficult for me. But I must say that there are lots of pleasant things here. Uzhhorod is a nice city, with kind people, ready to help, – the teacher reassures.

To Ms Eva’s mind, Slovaks and Ukrainians have the same mentality. Although the latter seem more expressive to her; but the whole train of thoughts is similar. The woman thinks that Germans, Englishmen and people from West Europe are harder to understand for Slovakians.

– You and we have many similar issues – both around the country in general and personal ones. People may often help one another but may as well be indifferent. You must get in touch with a person and until then you keep the distance. It has always been told about Slovaks that they are quite hospitable and friendly but now we are becoming like you: keeping the distance for someone we don’t really know, – says Ms Diuroshova.

To the teacher’s mind, the Transcarpathian dialect is closer to Slovakian than the Ukrainian language is, and that makes it more comprehensive.

– You have lots of words coming from Polish and Russian. I can understand some. Gradually it “sticks” to me. Since the kids learn Slovak, I can now communicate to their parents well. Of course, I have to ask again some words that I don’t know. So not only the pupils but their parents, they also teach me Ukrainian. I have some books that I’m translating. What is interesting, I can hear Ukrainian music in Uzhhorod more often than Slovak music can be heard in Slovakia. I have a feeling that we have more western music sounding in our country – European, American, – thinks Ms Eva.

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Finally, we strongly advise you to watch our video story about Slovak teacher that have taken to love Uzhhorod, Transcarpathia and Ukraine.


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Фото та відео: Антон Рижих

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