St James’ VA Primary School was adorned with blue and yellow balloons on Saturday (14 October) to mark the opening ceremony of a new Ukrainian school in Biddenham.
Rev. Eric Lomax of St James’s Church and special guest, John Hulance of Rotary Club of Bedford, performed the official opening together with the teachers.
The new school, which will operate from 10am to 3pm every Saturday, welcomes Ukrainian children aged four to ten years old from across Bedfordshire.
Around 35 children have already registered.
Three teachers and three teaching assistants – Valeria Rozanova, Irina Rozanova, Nadia Rozina, Yevhen Rozin, Viktoriya Buchkovska, and Natalia Tkachenko – will teach three separate classes for different age groups.
Rev Lomax said: “These are not migrants in the strictest sense. They are refugees and they’ve come here as a consequence of the war in Ukraine, the purpose of which is to eradicate Ukrainian identity and to absorb Ukraine into the wider Russia.
“The children who come here will not be learning the Ukrainian language, Ukrainian culture, geography, and everything like that through the national curriculum. So, they will have a whole chunk missed out of their education.
“The purpose of this school is to resolve that, to keep that sense of identity and to make sure that they get a sense of being Ukrainian.”
“The curriculum will be around arts, crafts, sport, and things like that – nothing too depressing,” added trustee, Diana Korotkova. who helps out at the school.
She explained that the school previously operated as a side project of the Polish school at St Joseph’s & St Gregory’s Primary Catholic School but, thanks to sponsorship from the Harpur Trust, the Diocese of St Albans and St James’s Church, as well as support from the Rotary Club of Bedford, they are now able to operate on a standalone basis.
“We are pleased to support the activities of the Bedford Ukrainian Saturday school and know it is important in helping young children and their parents to maintain links with their homeland,” added John from the Rotary Club of Bedford.
After the speeches, the children sang the Ukrainian national anthem, before helping John to cut the ceremonial ribbon and declare the school officially open.
Before entering their classrooms for the first time, the children and parents added their handprints in blue and yellow paint, the colours of the Ukrainian flag, to a large symbolic painting of the Tree of Life.
Rev Lomax emphasised, “This school is intended to be informal as the children will be tired after a week of formal schooling. We want the children to have fun and enjoy coming here.”