Life

2 November 2022, 09:00 PM

Russia bombs historic Ukrainian school building in Mykolaiv

Russian S-300 missiles damaged the Mykola Arkas First Ukrainian Gymnasium in Mykolaiv, built in the 19th century. Graduates of the gymnasium took to social networks to recall their years of study at the school, and its contribution to the development of Ukrainian culture in the southern Ukrainian city.

During the attack on Mykolaiv with S-300 missiles, Russians caused significant damage to the historic building of the First Ukrainian Gymnasium, partially destroying the four-story building of the Mykolaiv Polytechnic Vocational College.

Fortunately, there were no people in either of the buildings.

The Arkas First Ukrainian Gymnasium is located in the historic 1892 building, built by the prominent Russian architect Evgeny Shtukenberg. He was the chief architect of Mykolaiv from 1885 to 1919.

The building is regarded as a masterpiece of architecture of period, included in the local registry of architectural monuments.

Under the Russian Empire, the building hosted a women's gymnasium.

In 1918, the gymnasium was renamed as School #5. One of its alumni was Viktor Khomenko, who participated in anti-Nazi underground resistance movement and was executed by the Gestapo in 1942.

In 1993, the school was once again made into a gymnasium, named the First Ukrainian Gymnasium in 1998. In 2003 it was renamed in honor of prominent Mykolayiv educator and historian, Mykola Arkas.

The Russian strike at the gymnasium sparked outrage on social media – primarily from the graduates of the institution.

"In the Russified city, we spoke Ukrainian as soon as we crossed the threshold of the school, and it was not forced – we liked it," recalls Marichka Paplauskaite on Facebook, a journalist and writer, editor-in-chief of The Reporters, who studied at the school.

“Perhaps the secret lay in the sincerity and enthusiasm of our teachers – people who from the first years of independence, instead of pining for the Soviet Union, began to bravely build Ukrainian education. And it was a great education.”

The journalist writes she is overcome with emotion over the news.

"I looked at this photo and sobbed for several minutes, as I had not cried for a long time – since the beginning of the war, because I seemed to have gotten used to it all,” she said.

“And then I noticed the Ukrainian flag on the pole and the pain gave way to pride.”

"My school was bombed," Valeria Akhmetova wrote on Facebook.

“(The school), where I hated the uniform, some teachers, and strict gymnasium rules. My rebellious spirit revolted against many things, but could not revolt against love. And I had a lot of love. For friends, for cool ‘progressive’ teachers – I still remember them fondly – and for Ukraine. This school, the First Ukrainian Gymnasium named after Mykola Arkas, was the center of love for everything Ukrainian.”

She says that the gymnasium was the center of Ukrainian culture and traditions in Mykolayiv.

"We sang the Ukrainian anthem and the anthem of our gymnasium every Monday, even if we hated having to come to school earlier to do this, we wore embroidered shirts and Ukrainian costumes on holidays, sang Ukrainian songs, played banduras (traditional Ukrainian music instrument), and danced the hopak (a Ukrainian dance) on the stage of Mykolayiv’s central theater, turned the largest park into a place for Cossack competitions and treasure hunting every year," she recalls.

"This year, our daughter entered the fifth grade and we dreamed so much about how we would take her on the first day of September, how we would sing the anthem of our gymnasium and listen to the headmaster calling them ‘the future elite of Ukraine’," Yulia Kachanova wrote on Facebook.

“I feel immeasurable pain because of this injustice. Because it is a hole not only in the building of the gymnasium, it is a hole in the heart of every student who has been taught and educated there over the years.”

Another alumna, Vitalina Prykhodko, said that although Russians managed to hurt everyone whose life is connected with the gymnasium, she believes the institution will endure.

"Today Russia bombed the place dear to us, thanks to which we met and know each other,” she wrote on Facebook.

“The place that keeps our childhood secrets. The gymnasium held out for a very long time. Today – in the heart of the historic building of the city – there is a mark, left by those who can only destroy. At first, when you see a photo of the destroyed past, you feel pain. But then you understand that everything will be rebuilt.”

What else is known about the overnight attack on Mykolaiv

The President's Office reports that as many as three projectiles hit the territory of another institution – Mykolaiv Polytechnic Vocational College, damaging several nearby buildings.

"Fires broke out in the warehouse of the college and in a five-story residential building nearby," the message reads.

Two people were rescued from the rubble; one woman was killed, and five other people were injured.

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