They were on the front line for half a year. How Ukrainians are reviving education in the Red Valley

They were on the front line for half a year.  How Ukrainians are reviving education in the Red Valley


Earlier from the window of his apartment Victor Mushin saw what is called the “temple of science”; the school to which he devoted 22 years of his life. Until March 2022, it was his second home, and now it has been practically wiped off the face of the earth. The Russians hit it several times until it was destroyed.

Viktor Yaroslavovych is the director of the lyceum in the village of Chervona Dolyna in the Mykolaiv region. When the full-scale invasion began, the village suffered devastating destruction, people began to leave en masse, saving themselves and their children from the war. The enemy attacked from the air the villages and towns located not far from the then occupied Snigurivka.

However, two years have passed, many locals have returned. After that, a small “Great Renaissance” began.

“Ukrainian Pravda. Life” in partnership with the savED charitable foundation tells how communities affected by the war live and restore the educational process. This is the second story about Ukrainians who are trying to restore the educational process for children in its classical sense, as well as about those who help them in this.

“Every day I see ruins”

Viktor Yaroslavovych has been the head of the Chervonodolyn Lyceum for 22 years, and has been a teacher for 42 years – he started in Kherson School No. 38. He still teaches history and jurisprudence.

“It was an exemplary and demonstrative, cool, urban school. Then I served in the Far East, and when I returned, I went to the village – in Krasnaya Dolyna. Here I found my other half, bought a home.” – recalls Mushin and says that his wife is his “right hand” at the lyceum.

He then talks about the school and admits that now it hurts to look at what is left of it.

“These ruins…I see them every day. And before this was one of the best schools in the Mykolayiv region. Both in terms of education, sports, and work. We always tried to be among the first.” – says Viktor Yaroslavovych.

Viktor Mushin, director of Chervonodolinsky Lyceum

screenshot from the savED video story

In March 2022, his lyceum and local kindergarten were practically destroyed by a Russian C-300. The school cannot be restored – it is necessary to dismantle the rubble and build anew.

“There was an air raid and a bomb. First, the roof was destroyed from shelling, and after the airstrikes, a large part of the school was destroyed. The gym room, the physical room, the dining room. It was terrible. At that time, we were still here, together with our soldiers, guarding the school, helping them.

When it became dangerous and the first victims appeared, people began to leave en masse.” – recalls the director.

The ruins of the school in Red Valley

The ruins of the school in Red Valley

screenshot from the savED video story

Together with his wife, they also had to leave temporarily – to Bashtanka, which is 40 kilometers from Krasnaya Dolyna. However, they returned every Sunday and took away school property – laptops, seals, documents that Viktor Yaroslavovych kept in a safe.

“It happened that things were taken away under fire. But we kept the work books of the entire team, seals and stamps of the school, all documents, books, and orders.” – he says and adds that only after that they were able to resume training remotely, but already from Bashtanka.

Director of Lyceum Viktor Mushin

Director of Lyceum Viktor Mushin

screenshot from the savED video story

Almost the entire Mushin family are teachers. The son of Mr. Viktor – a teacher of physical education and defense of Ukraine, but now he is in the Armed Forces, protecting the Motherland and his twin daughters. They are 6 years old, and they also live in Krasnaya Dolyna with their mother – she teaches history.

Grandchildren are our wealth. We have a lot of them. Twins were hidden from shelling as far as the Lviv region. And here (in Krasnaya Dolyna – ed.) a bomb hit their house, so it was destroyed.” – says Viktor Yaroslavovych.

He and his wife help their children and grandchildren in every possible way. First-graders’ granddaughters are taken to Mykolaiv three times a week for classes – they do gymnastics.

“Our two beauties. Future champions!” – with Victor Mushin says with pride and a smile and immediately remembers how difficult it was for them to return to the Red Valley.

“When the girls returned from the Lviv region, they saw that their house, school and kindergarten had been bombed.

And I carried the two of them in my arms from kindergarten to school… While we all (mother, father and grandfather with grandmother – ed.) worked there. They grew up in the lyceum from the age of two. And now they saw with their own eyes that all this is gone“, he says.

Chervonodolyn Lyceum, destroyed by the Russian Federation

Chervonodolyn Lyceum, destroyed by the Russian Federation

screenshot from the savED video story

Two more grandchildren currently live in Hamburg, Germany. Before that, they lived in Kherson and dream of returning there, says Viktor Yaroslavovych.

“I thought we wouldn’t live until morning”

Valentina Kulish – another teacher from Krasnaya Dolyna. Previously, she worked in a kindergarten, now she teaches mathematics to schoolchildren and is the head of the fifth grade, where her youngest son studies. The eldest is already a ninth-grader.

At the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the now-destroyed school served as a humanitarian hub. Valentina, together with other women, prepared food there and handed it over to the military. However, it did not last long – until March 22, 2022.

The Lyceum in Krasnaya Dolyna was destroyed by the Russians at the beginning of the full-scale invasion

The Lyceum in Krasnaya Dolyna was destroyed by the Russians at the beginning of the full-scale invasion

screenshot from the savED video story

“I remembered that day because it was my brother’s birthday. Then we went to school again to prepare lunches, but the shelling started. I returned home. My children and I gathered and ran to the cemetery. In total, there were 13 people there at the time.” – Valentina remembers.

He says that it was scary to watch huge Russian convoys of military equipment passing by the village.

“Not far from us there is a dam, and they (occupiers – ed.) walked along it. There was a lot of equipment. I had a panic attack. The husband does not, because he is a military man.” – says Valentina.

That day, at night, the shelling began.

“Half of the village burned down. Houses were on fire. Then the first dead civilians appeared. I thought we wouldn’t live to see the morning. After waiting that terrible night, in the morning everyone flew out of the village. There was smoke and fire everywhere. People left to save the children. It was very scary. Like Armageddon,” – the woman recalls.

One of the many buildings damaged by shelling

One of the many buildings damaged by shelling

screenshot from the savED video story

She and her children also had to leave Krasnaya Dolyna – to a neighboring village. There, the family was sheltered in the House of Prayer along with two other families. When the Russians started raiding this village as well, Valentina and her children went further – to Novy Bug, in Mykolaiv Oblast.

“My husband was already serving, so we didn’t go far. We wanted to somehow support him. Sometimes he was in the city passing through.

But it is very difficult to be displaced people. No one pays attention to what family you are from, what you had before and after.” Valentina sighs.

However, her family later returned to Krasno Dolyna, because her parents stayed here.

“As soon as we drove into the village, I felt a lump in my throat,” – Valentina remembers how she saw the destroyed lyceum and kindergarten.

However, despite the destruction and endless list of problems caused by the Russian invasion, her family, like many other locals, decided to stay home and do everything they could to revive the Red Valley.

Destruction in Red Valley

Destruction in Red Valley

screenshot from the savED video story

“The teachers became an example for young families with children when they returned”

Red Valley was actually on the front line for 6 months. When the Armed Forces in November 2022 released the occupied territories of Mykolaiv Oblast and constant shelling stopped, people began to return, but not immediately. And far from all.

“As soon as people began to slowly return to their homes, we saw that families with children did not return. And I understand them.

Where to go when houses are destroyed, damaged, and there is no school and kindergarten?” – says the head of the Shirokiv community Serhiy Peresunko.

Serhii Peresunko, head of Shirokiv community

Serhii Peresunko, head of Shirokiv community

screenshot from the savED video story

Teachers were the first to return to Red Valley. The head of the community personally asked them to come, because where there are educators, there is hope for the revival of education. The latter is a key argument for families who did not dare to return home.

“Teachers asked: “What should we do here? There’s no light, no internet.” You know what my answer was? Come home, clean around the house, cover it and that will help.

All the teachers listened and returned. They became an example for young families. Something had to be done, because the school will not be rebuilt in a year or two, and our children need to study somewhere.” – emphasized the head of the community.

A center of normality among the ruins

According to research “War and education. Two years of full-scale invasion”, conducted by the International Charitable Foundation savED and the Vox Populi research agency with the support of the Ministry of Education and Culture and the “U-LEAD with Europe” project, 81% of Ukrainian students in the front-line regions in 2022-2023 studied mainly or always remotely

In order to try to revive face-to-face education in Krasnaya Dolyna, the community together with philanthropists undertook to renovate the premises of the cultural center for conducting face-to-face education and consultations with children.

“First-graders were brought because the first grade online is difficult. They came when the security situation allowed, mostly for basic subjects. Children came from kindergarten.” – says Mrs. Valentina.

mini-school for children in Krasnaya Dolyna

mini-school for children in Krasnaya Dolyna

screenshot from the savED video story

To this day, children in Krasnaya Dolyna mostly study remotely, but teachers already have the opportunity to conduct face-to-face consultations – in the digital educational center “Vulik”, which is already functioning in the cultural center

The initiative was launched together with the international charity fund savED with the support of the “U-LEAD with Europe” program. In total, the savED foundation, with the support of various partners, has already created 64 such centers in the Mykolaiv, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Kyiv, and Dnipropetrovsk regions.

The center has become a kind of “center of normality”, where life is raging. Since September, two tutors have been working there. The previously mentioned Ms. Valentina is one of them.

Chervondolinsky Beehive

Chervonodolinsky “Vulik”


Children come all the time, she says. Some premises are still under renovation, but children and schoolchildren already have a place to roam.

“It’s very interesting to work with children. We try to attract as many as possible. Now, an average of 15 children regularly attend. Teachers also come. We hold holidays, individual classes.

There is everything here – soft ottomans, blackboards, laptops, tablets, a lot of equipment, various books. It is interesting for both children and adults. The camera arrived and even the blogger kit!” – says Valentina.

Soon the Hive will turn into a kind of modular school

Soon “Vulik” will turn into a kind of modular school


Her sons also attend the “Beehive”. The eldest, ninth-grader Vladyslav, admits that it is a little easier to study face-to-face.

“In addition, it was difficult for some to attend classes, because they simply did not have the necessary devices. Now more (classmates – ed.) come to classes. Sometimes, teachers hold classes in the center,” – says the guy.

Children of all ages come to the Hive

Children of all ages come to “Vulik”.

photo courtesy of savED

According to Lyceum Director Viktor Yaroslavovych, part of the classrooms in “Vylik” is already used for face-to-face consultations. In total, there will be 7 classes – a kind of modular school.

“There is already a place to work. There is a roof over your head, the Internet. The teachers are fully provided for. The staff – 22 teachers – have been retained, all have returned, no one has remained abroad. Everyone is in place, everyone is working. We can hold consultations, meetings, training sessions, etc. there . I want to give lessons in warm classrooms, look children in the eyes and prepare them for external examinations”– emphasizes the director of the Chervonodolinsky Lyceum.

In general, in Chervondolinsk Lyceum – over 170 children. A little over a dozen schoolchildren have been joining classes from abroad for two years now, but continue to be students of this school.

Children in the Beehive

Children in the “Hive”

photo courtesy of savED

Viktor Yaroslavovych is glad that most of the children and adults have returned. He says that this is what keeps him from giving up. And also the presence of four farms in the village and a large amount of land, where many will find work.

“It inspires hope that people return even to destroyed housing – cover the roofs, restore windows and doors and continue to live here.

Construction of a new school is to begin soon. The Cabinet of Ministers has already approved it. The most important thing is not to confuse our children.” – emphasizes the director.

Diana Krechetova, “Ukrainian truth. Life”

The author of the video story from Krasnaya Dolyna: director Oleksandr Nebylovych, specifically for savED


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