Ukraine: Tetyana Tkachenko

Think! Look for peace and beauty everywhere. If you find peace in your soul, if you see the beauty in the world around you, you will be free.

— Tetyana Tkachenko

Tetyana Tkachenko (born 1945) lived and worked as an English teacher in Kiev, 35 km from Chernobyl, when the nuclear catastrophe took place. It opened her eyes and changed her life. Working in the contaminated area for five years she developed a new child-centered holistic education for peace, democracy, and ecology. Her goal was to save the children and to work for a better world. Since 1991, she has been working in Ternopil, Ukraine, and is linked to an international network of peace education. In 1997, she founded the NGO Women for the Future.

“My life was cut into two parts on 26 April 1986 – before and after,” Tetyana Tkachenko often says. It was the day the nuclear power station in Chernobyl exploded. Tetyana lived in the Kiev region, 35 km away, with her husband and daughter (5), where she also worked as a teacher. “We had no support, no help, our government did not even tell us the whole truth about the catastrophe,” she recalls. “And one day, I woke up a different person: my eyes were open, my ears could hear. . . . I began to think and ask questions.” Since the teachers had to keep their students in school all day after lessons because of the nuclear pollution outside, Tetyana worked out a concept called “to touch the child.” “It was not easy at first, so we decided to work out our own democratic rules: togetherness, friendliness, fairness, happiness, empathy, and self-esteem which, in the long run, resulted in ‘we-ness.’” Tetyana and her students were not aware then that these principles were the actual principles of peace pedagogy and that their experiments were their first steps to self-esteem and civic courage. She worked in the contaminated Kiev region for five more years before her family was allowed to move to Ternopil in western Ukraine. These years were the beginning of her dedication to a new holistic peace education that was further developed when she was invited to international seminars and conferences in Europe and the US from 1991 onwards. She has written a lot of teaching material in English, integrating concepts to support self-esteem of the child and youth, peace at heart, respect of human rights, responsibility for the community and for the environment, culture of peace and understanding, conflict resolution, critical thinking, and active learning. In 1997, she initiated the NGO, Women for the Future in Ternopil which has spread to other cities since.

Women for the Future