You Can Help Children and Teachers in Ukrainian
What kind of hardships do children in other parts of the
world have to endure to get an education? If you have roots in the
Germans from Russia heritage, or if you are planning to join the
NDSU Libraries-sponsored tours, or even if you are just interested
in what life is really like in southern Ukraine after the Soviet
breakup, read on and learn about a story that will touch your heart.
During my recent travels to Odessa and the former German villages
in southern Ukraine to prepare for the tours in June, I observed
the lack of basic amenities for everyday living and education. Shortages
are severe. Due to the lack of heating fuel, and unpaid salaries
for public universities and neighborhood schools, classes were canceled
from mid-December until March 1, 1996. This scenario has been common
throughout Eastern Europe in recent years.
When I stayed overnight at the home of the Pavel Pratchuck family
in Novosamarka, Ukraine, Pavel mentioned to me that most crime resulted
from desperation and acute need. The Pratchucks live in the former
German village of Sofiental near the Glückstal villages in Moldova.
Pratchuck, of Ukrainian ancestry, is the community sheriff and a
young regional historian intrigued with the historic German villages.
His wife is a science teacher.
After visiting with Pavel, his family, other people in the former
German villages, and colleagues in Odessa, I feel the most valuable
gifts the German-Russian community and Americans can bring to southern
Ukraine will be supplies for the children and older students in
the village schools. On Monday morning, December 11, Pavel and I
walked 15 minutes to the Novosomaka school. The temperature was
0-10 degrees. There was no heat. Electricity is rationed during
the day. The elementary and high school students wore heavy coats
and gloves during class sessions as they prepared to hear me speak
about the Germans from Russia on the Dakota prairies.
I was impressed with the questions they asked and with their desire
to learn in spite of such difficult conditions. Visiting four classrooms,
I saw a desperate need for basic school supplies. When I met with
the principal and teachers, they expressed frustration at finding
ways to be creative with a drastic lack of school resources such
as pencils, crayons, and pens.
Textbooks and atlases are outdated and the library has no books
in English about America. Visual aids are beyond common understanding,
only dreams. Few, if any, current geography maps are available--only
tattered, faded charts from the Communist period. No photographic
reproductions of cultural "art masters" paintings and architecture
are available for the students' and their families' visual enrichment.
Cultural illustrated history and geography books are lacking.
Young children play with their precious pieces of broken toys.
Many have not seen a complete assembled toy. Rubber bouncing balls
and bright colored vinyl balls would bring special delight to each
individual child. Illustrated children's books with brightly printed
colors are highly valued. Illustrated books, such as the Illustrated
Bible, are eagerly enjoyed by adults and seniors. Any story
book with color illustrations would be cherished by students and
How will we coordinate and bring the needed school supplies to
Odessa in June, 1996? We are asking participants in the NDSU Libraries
sponsored tours, Journey to the Homeland: Germany and Ukraine,
to bring with them a second piece of luggage filled with school
supplies when they arrive at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International
Airport on June 8 for Tour Group I and June 17 for Tour Group II.
Tour group members who are in close proximity will gather school
supplies from donors and prepare boxes for shipment when they travel
to Odessa in June. The boxes will be delivered to the hotel in Odessa
for later distribution to schools in Odessa and in the former German
For all of us "gift-givers" to accurately respond in partnership
to their needs and basic requests, we suggest the following list
for your consideration:
Reliable contacts have been made in Odessa and the villages to assure
that the school supplies reach the children and their teachers. The
children, teachers, and families expressed deep appreciation of the
anticipated project of bringing school supplies to Odessa in June.
- Atlases, maps, and charts.
- Tablets, pencils, erasers, pens, markers, crayons, chalk and
erasers, tape, pencil sharpeners, scissors, construction paper,
water color sets with brushes, and rubber stamps with ink pads.
- Games and puzzles such as tinker toys, ball and jack sets, pick-up
sticks, cards, and card games.
- Addresses of long-term pen pals for letter writing.
I shall never forget the moments before Christmas when I visited
the children of the Novosamarka school. I felt I was helping St.
Nicholas delivering needed pencils and pens. I felt sad, especially
when I did not have enough pens and pencils for each child. Their
eyes glowed as they began to write with a new pen or pencil. The
young children, students, the teachers, and my good friend, Pavel
Pratchuk, of Novosamarka, and I will never forget the warmth and
love we shared.
As Pavel and I left the Novosamarka school, I told him about my
vision to help his village school. Pavel expressed his thoughts
about this wonderful idea. He assured me that what I experienced
on a chilly December morning could be witnessed in many of the neighboring
villages and throughout The Ukraine when the Americans come to visit
the homeland of their forefathers.
In June, many of the tour group members will travel to Novosamarka
on their way to the former Glückstal villages. They will share with
the people of Novosamarka their Ukrainian foods and folklore during
a program at the school. Our gift to the community and to the school
will be valuable supplies as they begin their new school year in
Watch for sale items at your local K-Mart, Osco, Target, or Wal-Mart
or discount store. Check to see if you have spare pens, pencils,
crayons, tape, or writing pads in your home. Local businesses sometimes
provide complimentary pens and pencils we can take along to Odessa.
you for your interest and efforts in this endeavor.
Michael M. Miller
P.S. Send school supplies to "Helping the Children," c/o Michael
M. Miller, NDSU Libraries, PO Box 5599, Fargo, ND 58105-5599. If
you prefer, a monetary donation may be sent to the above address.
Make check payable to Journey to the Homeland.
For further information, contact
Michael M. Miller, Tour Director
Journey to the Homeland: Germany and Ukraine