NICOSIA – Home to some 18,000 Russians and 4,600 Ukrainians, high school students from each side were said to be confronting each other over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in classrooms and playgrounds.
In a feature, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency detailed the conflict of ideologies on an island still split by Turkey’s 1974 invasions that saw the northern third seized and occupied, with 35,000 Turkish troops there.
AFP said there was trouble appearing in schools in several cities and towns, especially in Limassol, which has so much Russian money and business that it’s been called Moscow on the Med.
One 17-year-old Ukrainian student identified only by her first name, Veronika, said arguments were breaking out at her private school between Russian and the Ukrainians there.
“My Russian classmates are worried… because they know the Russian army is being injured by the Ukrainian army,” she said. “There are some conflicts. They care about their people, and we care about ours,” she said.
At another school in Limassol, staff sent an email asking parents to try to keep their children from squabbling over the invasion, appealing for reason in the face of growing world anger.
“As is human nature the children have been sharing the views of their parents with each other,” wrote Costas Constantinides, General Facilitator at Lighthouse school.
“This has led to conflict, blaming and shaming,” he said in the email, which was also posted on Facebook and he told AFT that, “Inevitably there’s going to be some conflicts between students across the board, of all ages,” he said.
Olga, an ethnic Russian from Ukraine who has lived in Limassol for years, said fights had broken out between children and that’s sometimes hard to tell students apart because Russia and Ukraine have been aligned for generations.
“You cannot recognize, especially in children’s schools, which children are from where,” she said, pointing to cultural similarities of the Russians and Russian-speaking Urainians, the same language with different views.
and the large population of Russian-speaking Ukrainians.
In Larnaca, another city on Cyprus’ southern coast, 16-year-old Ukrainian Valeria said, “I can’t even go to school because everyone is talking about this,” worried about where it will lead.
She said she has long had Russian friends but that some were troublesome even before the invasion caused deeper division.
A Russian mother, Ksenia Kogan, said there had long been tension between the sides, even before the invasion, at a private high school that her used to attend in the capitla Nicosia.
“It was always a problem… there were tensions, always, between the pro-Russian side” and their opponents, she said as many parents on both sides hope to find a way to prevent the discord from getting worse.
“I don’t blame or hate Russian people for what is going on!” Ukrainian mother Anna Forostyanaya wrote to other mothers on a WhatsApp group.
“I told my kids that it’s all about politics and has nothing to do with people,” she said, telling AFP she fears “relationships will never be the same.”