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Natalya Kiryakova

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the number of Ukrainian refugees arriving in the Netherlands has been on the rise.

Among them are women and children, many of whom are abroad for the first time. Some do not speak any foreign languages, and neither are they familiar with the rules and laws of the country that granted them asylum. Others have been abroad as tourists, but have never been looking for jobs or applying to get a spot in kindergartens or schools. A lot of refugees encounter problems upon their arrival in the Netherlands. The municipalities of the Netherlands are trying to help Ukrainian refugees, but judging by the facts, there are often issues that are not resolved at the municipal level. What is most alarming is when unresolved issues concern children. Unfortunately, there are plenty of cases involving children. However, sadly, not all Ukrainian parents voice their concerns. Why are there so many problems? Why don’t the refugees speak out?


The editor of the independent Dutch information portal NEWSRU.NL, Grigory Pasternak, contacted pediatrician Natalya Kiryakova, a refugee from Zaporozhye, whose children do not currently attend a school in the Netherlands.


Can you tell me when you arrived in the Netherlands and with whom?

I arrived in the Netherlands with two children on April 1, 22. I have twins: a son and a daughter.


Why did you choose the Netherlands?

I was going "to nowhere", I just got on the evacuation train in Zaporozhye and went to Lviv. I thought I would stay there with my friends for a couple of weeks. There were sirens there as well. Therefore, I got on a train to Poland, and then got picked up by the  volunteers and headed to the Netherlands. I am very grateful to the volunteers, they helped me settle in the wonderful village of Oudenbosch.


Did your children go to school in the Netherlands?

My children attended Da Vinci College school (Roosendaal). There are three classes (groups) for Ukrainian children. In addition to attending classes at a Dutch school, my children continue their online studies at a Ukrainian lyceum.


Why don't your kids go to this (Dutch) school anymore?

My children do not go to the Dutch school because I want them to stay alive and mentally healthy.


Children between the ages of 5 and 16 are required by law to attend school in the Netherlands. Why did you decide to not comply with the law of the Netherlands?

I don't feel like I'm not complying with the law by preventing my children from being bullied. The municipality of Oudenbosch is aware of everything and therefore allowed my children not to attend Da Vinci College (Roosendaal).


If not a secret, what had happened? Why did the municipality in the Netherlands allow your children not to attend Da Vinci College?

The reason is as follows: Three weeks ago, my daughter's teacher taped her mouth with duct tape. The lesson began, all the children continued to talk as if nothing had happened. Their reaction is not surprising, they are children after all. However, the teacher cut off the tape, went up to my daughter and sealed her mouth. She then approached the girl sitting next to my daughter with a cut off adhesive tape. The girl was frightened, took the adhesive tape from the hands of the teacher and sealed her own mouth. What is the next sadistic behavior the Ukrainian children should expect in a Dutch school?


What were your next steps?

I wrote about this terrible incident on Facebook the same evening. People advised me to report this case to the police and to contact the municipality. However, I decided to first talk about this with the head of the school and the teacher herself. The person who sealed the girls’ mouth was the teacher's assistant who is an intern at Vinci's Da Vinci College (Roosendaal).


Have you talked?

Yes. I had only two requests: first, to ensure that this teacher does not teach in my daughter’s class and second, to request her to apologize. They declined my requests.

Coincidentally, in the same week, the teacher who was very caring and understanding got transferred to another school. My children were left with the assistant.


How did the assistant teacher explain her actions?

She said it was just a joke. However, the girls with their mouths sealed did not at all find it funny.


How did the representative of the Oudenbosch municipality react?

The representative of the municipality raised this with the school. Having realized how inappropriate the teacher’s behavior was, he allowed us not to attend Da Vinci College (Roosendaal) for the time being.


What is your daughter doing now? Does she communicate with her former classmates?

My daughter continues to study online at the Ukrainian Lyceum, and continues to volunteer at the Interact Club. Unfortunately, I do not feel that the child at Da Vinci College is safe. My daughter's friends from school call her daily. They call her, they miss her, they tell her that the teachers ask her to tell her that she will receive a fine for not going to school. And they call my daughter not only from the class where she studied, but also from other classes too. Everyday. Bullying by Dutch school teachers is on the rise. I calm down and support my child as best I can. After all, I am a pediatrician (currently a  refugee and non-practising).


Did you have problems at school or at home in Zaporozhye?

We didn't have any problems at school. Moreover, the girl is very active, has solid leadership skills, is respected among her peers and friends. My daughter studies at the Cossack lyceum, she is the leader of the class, she heads the school’s Cossack Council.


You worked as a pediatrician and often interacted with people. In your opinion, what could be the main reason for such incompetence on the part of officials?

Their actions simply do not make any sense- to bully a child! Perhaps their covert aggression is out of their control? Or maybe they are not comfortable in the presence of a strong leader who has her own opinion and is not afraid to express it (my child)? Psychologists say that many people who cannot achieve something they set their mind to get angry with others when they can. This is just my guess. In any case, I do hope this is an isolated case and is not aggression against the Ukrainian children.



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