Cultural expression

Maintaining identity during the Ukrainian diaspora

David Cole, Principal of the British International School Ukraine looks at how an online art project has kept the school community together during the country’s diaspora.

Quiet determination

It’s been over six months since the invasion of Ukraine. Our school – the British International School Ukraine, has dispersed physically from its campuses in Kyiv an Dnipro, but, drawing on our experience of lockdown, and with fantastic support from Firefly,  we went online to complete the 2021 – 22 academic year and our Year 13s graduated in June. We are now opening again for 2022 – 23.

In common with the people of Ukraine there is a quiet determination at the school to see things through, as our CEO, Anton Zastavnyi explains:

“During the most challenging times of the modern history of Ukraine, the entire BISU community showed its resilience, spirit and unity to overcome all professional and personal challenges. No obstacles could prevent our dedicated team from continuing to provide quality education to young people.”

Identity and culture

As we all know, at the heart of any school there is a strong sense of identity. We are proud of our connections with COBIS, the Black Sea School group and our British international style of learning. Support from schools around the world has meant so much. Our community is naturally outward looking, but our own identity is also bound up in the rich cultural identity of Ukraine.

As the months passed a project emerged from our community that has given us focus, kept our spirits high and celebrated our identity.  In July we announced the release of its unparalleled Ukrainian Story Project – an online book of traditional Ukrainian folk tales, written in Ukrainian, English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Polish and Korean, illustrated by BISU students.

Anton Zastavny again:

 “Not only did our team and students successfully finish this academic year, but they also exploited their creative potential to compile this fabulous book. This unique art project testifies to BISU’s determination to contribute to Ukraine’s future and make the best of British education more accessible to children within and beyond Ukraine.”

The stories

The story book project consists of five classic Ukrainian folk tales, which have been translated into seven languages. All artwork and language translations were created by the students and staff of BISU. Moreover, each story has its own unique illustrations.

We hope that this project will achieve two things. First, that it will be an ongoing reminder of what is happening in Ukraine and that the world will continue to support this incredible country. Second, that children and parents around the globe can experience the rich, authentic folk culture of Ukraine. The work is free to download, and is available here: 

I confess, I particularly like the tale of The Bear and the Bees. It is the tale of a bear who tries to steal honey from a hive of bees. He thinks he can get away with it as he is large and strong and sees them as small and weak. However, the bees unite and drive him away. It is a wonderful analogy of what is happening here in Ukraine.

I would like to thank all our well-wishers around the world as you start the new school year. We’re getting on with it too, but looking forward to when we can be together again.



David Cole is the Principal of the British International School Ukraine.


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