We thought about cancelling carnival festivities and fun – but then we thought that maybe we should rather actually embrace our freedom and ability to be children and live more ferociously than ever – because others cannot.
However, it would be remiss of us to ignore what is happening to the people in Ukraine – and for this reason we are pressing pause on the fun, to focus our energies on something beyond belief, something tragic and something that goes so utterly against everything we believe in as a school.
On Thursday, as we all know, a war was declared on Ukraine. Not as a defensive reaction to something they are doing, but rather an aggressive attack on a peaceful country. For OIS, this tragedy is even closer to home than for many others here in Lisbon. Why? This has a direct impact on people we love. For the past few weeks, every morning, I have watched Tetyana’s face get sadder and sadder and more and more worried as each day passed. Between the “Good morning sweeties” and mask covered smiles from her, we would have very different conversations linked to what is happening “at home”. And yesterday it wasn’t just the faces on the screens that showed the fear of the reality that is now being lived – but the face of one of us. In real life. In front of us. Among us.
Yesterday I received a call from a Russian father, and he wanted me to know that he does not agree with what is happening, and that he and his family stand in solidarity with the Ukrainians. Seeing our own Russian students visibly upset by what is happening. Watching the incredibly brave Russians marching in the streets of Moscow showing their solidarity with their cousins in Ukraine. It is never as simple as “them and us”.
As teachers we need to be more alert and more aware of the urgency of teaching for a peaceful world and to do so with more passion than ever before.
I hope that as students you do not feel powerless. It couldn’t be further from the truth. We might not be able to do anything to change what president Putin has ordered to happen. But what we can do is to focus on making sure we are never the aggressor. That we are never the one to start a fight with someone else. That we are never the one to begin a conflict. That the words we use are kind, assertive, and constructive – and that we build peace and do not destroy. That we do not turn the outrageous conflict and now war between adults in power into an unnecessary conflict at OIS. Where we do not reduce the complexities of what is happening over there and fall into the trap of blaming our Russian friends for what their government is doing. I know that nobody at OIS would ever blame a child for what is happening out in the big wide world. I am sure I can speak for everyone and know that it is most certainly not in their name.
When I give the signal, as an act of symbolic solidarity, we will spend a moment in absolute silence to think about absolutely everyone who is directly or indirectly connected to this war. Please especially think about Tetyana, Genna, Bohdan and their families and friends. The fact that we have Ukrainians and Russians as a part of the OIS family really puts us in a very beautiful position – one in which we can transcend global politics and unite together under the flag of unity and peace.
Afterwards we will take a photo to send out into the world so that Ukranians everywhere know they are not forgotten, that we stand with them and that we are pro-peace.
While we observe this silence let’s also focus on the things we can do to protect and embody peace on a day to day basis. Let’s observe the minute of silence now.
Yesterday I read a powerful quote from the civil rights leader and pacifist AJ Muste that said: “There is no way to peace – peace is the way”.