Ukraine refugee kids in Estonia attending summer camps, learning language

Refugee children from Ukraine at a summer camp in Estonia. July 2022.
Refugee children from Ukraine at a summer camp in Estonia. July 2022. Source: ERR

Refugee children in Estonia who have fled the war in Ukraine are spending their summer somewhat differently here. Many institutions across the country are hosting various activities and summer camps for the refugee kids, both to give them a break from their daily lives and to help them learn the Estonian language.

For example, a three-day summer camp for refugee children from Ukraine began in Tallinn on Wednesday, in the course of which participants will be visiting several museums, allowing the children to learn Estonian through culture.

On Wednesday, the kids were at Maarjamäe Palace, home to the Estonian History Museum, where 13 children ages 8-12 learned mainly about Estonian history.

"We looked around at the Estonian history exposition at Maarjamäe Palace, and learned about how children have played and lived over the past 100 years," Liisi Selg, camp organizer and head of museum education at the Estonian History Museum, told ETV news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Wednesday.

"The second half of today now will be a little more relaxed," she continued. "We'll be exploring the palace park, and later we'll be making kites as well, since it's nice and windy today."

On Thursday, the kids will be visiting Vabamu Museum of Occupations and Freedom, and on Friday they'll be at the Estonian Open Air Museum, where they can get acquainted with various Estonian traditions.

"We'll be making freedom compasses at Vabamu, and we have a photo scavenger hunt in the Old Town planned as well," Selg said. "At the Open Air Museum, they'll be able to learn about how Estonians have worked, but not only that — they'll also be creating their own house [family] marks."

Helping out with the kids on site is Viktoria Rutkovska, an English language and history teacher from Ukraine. Since this spring, Rutkovska has been working at the branch of Lilleküla High School opened on Räägu tänav for refugee children, where she intends to continue teaching this fall.

"At first it was very difficult, but then I got used to this country, and now I feel comfortable," she said.

The teacher is confident that the kids attending the camp this week feel at ease. "I think that the quest we are doing now is the best exercise for them," she said. "They are crazy about it! They are running, they are asking questions and I think that this is the result that everything is going fine."

The children themselves seemed pleased with the program's activities as well.

"A lot of playgrounds, a lot of games," said Mark. "I hope I make friends quickly."

Some of them already know a few words in Estonian as well.

"Tere, tere hommikust, appi," Danilo demonstrated. "And that's it."

"Koer, siga — I know a lot," Vladislav said. "I know animals, I also know greetings: tere päevast, kuidas läheb, ma olen Ukrainast."

Whether they'll be attending school this fall will, according to the children themselves, depend on whether they can learn the language by fall.

The three-day camp is being supported in part by the New York Estonian School and the U.S.-based Estonian Relief Committee.

A repeat of the program is scheduled to take place August 10-12.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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