Ukraine: One Year On

On the first anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine, staff and pupils marked the sombre milestone today in solidarity with our Ukrainian pupils, their families, and the wider people of Ukraine.

A minute’s silence was observed throughout the school at 11am, allowing reflection on the lives lost and the families and communities torn apart since the start of the war.

Following the initial Russian attacks on Ukraine in February 2022, Headmaster Richard Russell made the public declaration that Colfe’s would offer a number of fully funded scholarship places for refugee children. The first such pupil joined in March 2022, and there are now 13 Ukrainian pupils aged between six and 17 across the Junior and Senior schools. A year on since the start of the war, pupils and staff are reminded of the resilience of the Ukrainian people by the courage shown by those pupils, as well as celebrating how much the pupils themselves have brought to the fabric of the Colfe’s community.

Today, a special tea was held for all the Ukrainian pupils in the Junior School by Head of Junior School Marie-Clare Gilfedder-Bonnar, and all pupils in KS2 will watched a special Save the Children animated short film, Home. Produced by Aardman animation studio and inspired by real-life stories of refugee children, the film tells the story of separation, difference and hope, through the eyes of a small orange circle who feels far from home in a world where everything is purple and triangular.

In the Senior School, two hand-made traditional Ukrainian tapestries have been donated to the school from the family of one of the oldest pupils on the scheme, Andrii (Year 11). Embroidered by Andrii’s mother, one tapestry is now on permanent display in the Senior School as a symbol of the friendship between the two communities, while the other has been donated to the Art department.

Supporting the wellbeing of the pupils has been paramount since the first pupil joined and remains as relevant as they progress through the school. Maintaining the connection to each other and to their homeland is key; regular breakfast get-togethers are held for the whole group, while the Ukrainian-led Shchedryk Shchedryk (Carol of the Bells) Year 6 Christmas project demonstrated the importance of this connection between the Ukrainian pupils to each other, to their homeland, and to their new English classmates. You can view the subsequent ITV News coverage of the project here.

Myroslava, now in Year 9, was among the first refugee pupils at Colfe’s. Speaking of her experience, she said: “Being here has meant a lot of adjustment, but the teachers are so kind and helpful. The style of teaching is quite different, and there is lots of discussion in lessons which I really like as it is so interactive.“

Sofi joined Colfe’s in Y10 last year and will be taking GCSEs at Colfe’s this summer: “It has been a very different kind of teaching here, and lots of homework but I am trying to get on with it. People have been supportive and helped me to adapt, and teachers have been very understanding if I haven’t known what’s expected.”

Headmaster Richard Russell said: “It has been a privilege to support the Ukrainian pupils who have been with us through the first year of this dreadful war and to see them grow and develop within the Colfe’s community. Our commitment to them and their families will continue for as long as proves necessary. We remain grateful to those parents and friends of the school who have contributed to our Ukraine relief fund which we established last spring to fund educational essentials for our Ukrainian pupils so that they can benefit from all that we have to offer.“

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