The Klopots left Zaporizhzhia in March, when Russian troops occupied areas surrounding the city. Both these university teachers are experts in special education. Olha has been hired as an assistant professor at the Department of Special and Inclusive Education, and Yevhenii works at the Teiresias Centre as a consultant for teaching Ukrainian students with special needs. He is blind and is now gradually learning how to find his way around in his new environment with help from his colleagues at the centre.
“Even though I had been to the Teiresias Centre several times in recent years, my current situation is different than my past visits. I have to admit that the adaptation process is very difficult. In Zaporizhzhia I lived independently; I didn’t need help to get around. Brno is another city, another home,” says this professor of psychology. He learned his way around the university and the city not only with the help of his wife but also with haptic maps.
“Because he himself must go through the adaptation process, his knowledge is so important for Teiresias. Thanks to this cooperation we will know how to provide services to Ukrainian students who apply to Czech universities and colleges and who will need some assistance due to their disabilities. At the same time, we know that this issue does not just affect tertiary education. It also affects pre-schoolers and students at elementary and secondary schools,” says Petr Peňáz, director of the Teiresias Centre. Masaryk University plans to develop guidelines for working with Ukrainian students of all ages with special needs by the beginning of the next school year.
Although Yevhenii Klopota is now employed at Masaryk University that doesn’t mean he has left his students at Zaporizhzhia National University behind. He still teaches them remotely online. “My students are in an extremely stressing situation. Most of them left occupied Zaporizhzhia; some have even gone abroad. So, I teach from Brno. And I am teaching students not only in Ukraine but elsewhere in Europe,” says Yevhenii, adding that he is primarily trying to offer his students psychological comfort and help them become emotionally stable. “I try to approach them not only as a university teacher but also as a friend,” he explains.
Olha and Yevhenii Klopot believe that they will return to Zaporizhzhia National University and that Ukraine will eventually defeat Russia. “This is what we all see as a shared goal,” adds Yevhenii.