Friday, October 9, 2009

In Kyiv and Pavlysh

Tuesday 6 October, 6.30 pm

I have arrived in Kyiv, where I have experienced the legendary Ukrainian hospitality. I was met at the airport by Professor Hryhoriy Pustovit from the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences and his colleague Vadim, who drove me to the guest accommodation at the Academy. I had a rest and a shower, and was treated to a beautiful dinner of borshch, fish, fried potato patties and a delicious salad made from eggs, mushrooms, chicken, mayonnaise and herbs.

After dinner I wandered around the academy and took some photographs. My room has a beautiful view of some trees and a classic old building which houses a clinic. Near the Academy is a new apartment building, and in the opposite direction, a cathedral which is being restored. The guest accommodation itself is set among trees, which include birches and poplars. Have a look at the new photos.

I am going to get an early night and catch up on some sleep, before heading off for Pavlysh first thing in the morning. Pavlysh is about five hours drive from Kyiv.

Wednesday 7 October

Today I met Sukhomlinsky’s daughter, Olga Vasilievna Sukhomlins’ka, and together we drove with Vadim to Pavlysh, a trip of about 350 km. We were met at the school in Pavlysh by the District Director of Education and his assistant, the principal of the school and the director of the Sukhomlinsky museum. We had lunch together, and afterwards I viewed films of the school taken while Sukhomlinsky was still alive, including footage of Sukhomlinsky himself. Olga Vasilievna went with her cousin to visit Sukhomlinksy’s grave.

Olga Sukhomlins'ka

Late in the afternoon we drove to a neighbouring village, Onufrievka, where I am staying in a motel. I am getting a lift each day to Pavlysh to work in the archives at the museum, and will be here for the next four days, returning to Kyiv by train on Monday morning. Everyone has been very friendly and helpful, and the food has been excellent. Once again I have been treated to wonderful Ukrainian hospitality.

Thursday, 8 October

I drive along this street each day on the way to the school in Pavlysh

Today I spent most of the day working in the Sukhomlinsky Museum at Pavlysh Secondary School. Yesterday Sukhomlinsky’s daughter explained to me that the first edition of her father’s most famous book, “My Heart I Give to Children”, published in 1969, contains some passages that were removed from later editions by censorship. These include reference to the children’s sub-conscious, and even to Freud, whose theories were not approved of by Soviet authorities. I have read only later versions, so I was very interested to get a copy of the first edition.

Sukhomlinsky's Office

Today I have photographed over 600 pages of the first editions of “My Heart I Give to Children”, and “Pavlysh Secondary School”, which I plan to translate into English. I have also scanned 16 photographs from the archives of Sukhomlinsky with his students, family and visitors. I have started to look at minutes from staff meetings, but these are more difficult for me to follow, as they are written in Ukrainian, not Russian.

After lunch I met with four students in years six and seven, who are members of a club attached to the Sukhomlinsky museum. They help to collect material for the museum and greet guests who come to visit. They presented me with cards they had made and read poems they had written. They are led by the director of the museum Zoya Yurievna Tkachenko, who has helped me a great deal with my research, and given me a copy of the very first German edition of “My Heart I Give to Children”. (It appeared in German even before it was published in Russian or Ukrainian.)

At the end of the afternoon, I visited Sukhomlinsky’s grave, where I laid some flowers presented to me yesterday by students at the school. I have taken a few pictures of the school, and can recognise certain areas described in his books. I hope that tomorrow I may be able to connect my laptop to the internet and upload some new material to this blog, including some photographs. Even though I may have only occasional access to the internet while in the Ukraine, I will return to Australia with lots of material to add to my website on Sukhomlinsky.


  1. This is a great description of an institution trying to keep a memorable past alive, in all senses. I was really struck by the fact that there is a children's club connected with the museum. Strikes me as very fitting. I wonder how those kids make sense of what it is that they're doing, and whether there's an adult working with them to help them do so.

    Steve Kerr
    U. of Washington Seattle USA

  2. Zoya Yurievna Tkachenko is the museum director. She has a concious policy of making the museum a living place. Teachers at the school can come and peruse Sukhomlinsky's notebooks, records of staff meetings etc., and can borrow books from his personal library, just as they did when he was alive. The children are attracted to join the club and work under Zoya Yurievna's direction. The club has been going for 10 years. The children visit former teachers and pupils of the school and try to keep the memories alive. Some of them become involved in promoting Sukhomlinsky's ideas as they grow into adulthood.

    The museum also welcomes guests from throughout the former Soviet Union and overseas, and organises conferences to study Sukhomlinsky's legacy. Zoya Yurievna personally answers many letters that come to the museum, and shares this correspondence with the members of the club.

    I think the children make sense of it by seeing themselves as promoting the values Sukhomlinsky tried to instill in his students. This is symbolically represented by red hearts that the children embroider and present to guests at the museum.

  3. i´m a finnish headmaster, that is very interested in the work of Suhomlinsky. So nice to find this blog. I took a picture of the schoolbuilding to my blog. I hope You dont mind.

    Martti Hellström