The inside job: “Not all that glitters is gold”

In this post I would like to introduce you a good friend of mine, Maryna Charniakovich. Maryna is 43 year old woman from Belarus. She was my German teacher for a while, and believe me, she was so patient. I remember that she told me stories from her country (just in the breaks, as an eastern citizen she is quite demanding), and she amazed me with her memories.


Maryna Charniakovich

Maryna has a degree in Germanic and Hispanic Language by the State University of Foreign Languages of Minsk. She worked as a German teacher for 15 years in Gomel, a sadly well known city because of being the biggest city of the area affected by the nuclear accident in Chernobyl. Life leaded Maryna to Spain because of the love of her life, her husband, who is Spanish, and she, as an open-minded and adventurous woman accepted to leave Belarus and come to our country to begin a family. About this, she told me she was never afraid of moving to Spain, she had a good image of spaniards and was looking forward to live here.

After having introduced Maryna to you, I would like to focus on the education in the East. We all have the idea (general but not totally wrong) of great professionals and strict methods used in Russia and the Republics, but how does it really works?. First thing I was curious about is how was the education before and after the fall of the Soviet Union. Maryna explained me that a big change happened, mainly in the social field. She was taught to believe in the big sacrifice of the eastern bloc, to be proud of the great feat of the peoples, but the confident in their homeland fell apart when they discovered the masacres that Stalin and his acolytes have done to the people they were supposed to defend. Anyway, she explained me that the love for the country was the same, but the people were deceived, in her words “it was like a betrayal to my childhood beliefs”.

That is why when she started at the University with 16, she rapidly began to participate in protests against the Communist Party, when the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialists Republics was not even a rumor. She told me that the atmosphere was different at that time, and people started to believe in the power of their acts.

She explained me that it was difficult for her to fight against politics when she became a teacher in her country and has no doubt about the influence of politics in education in Russia, Belarus and the rest of ex-soviet Republics. The main aspect of this influence was patriotism. She tells that she complained a lot against the severity of this aspect in schools, because though she loved her country she did not understand why it had to be on that way, she says “you love your motherland because it is what it is, but you respect it when the compromise and the respect for the citizens is strong”. She explained how she used to complaint out loud, but sometimes it was worthless and other times, when her protest threatened to damage her colleagues, she just had to complaint quietly.

She still thinks that Russia and the Republics are still very influenced by politics, but her words seem to be full of hope, looking forward a day when Belarus and other countries get rid of that political influence and let the people think more freely. She certainly thinks that the idea of the Soviet Union was not totally bad and explains how there used to be a lot of people from different countries fighting together for a common interest, but she believes that Russia still have negative traces that the USSR left.

Anyway, she does not regret at all the education she received, she is very proud of that and defends the methods and the different way of dealing with education there, such as the love for art and music. She comments how children were more free to develop their passion for culture, but she does regret the lack of means the teachers have in order to put their expertise into practice, accepting how herself had to buy material and stuff for her pupils with her own money most of the time. She recognizes that teachers were well prepared, as well as their students, but it is not all thanks to the government. Governments of different eastern countries show off of their education but “let me say not all that glitters is gold”.

Maryna says that if she could change something, she would give their collagues in their country and in the region in general, the freedom of the West and the technical means as well, but she would still prefer the soviet and post-soviet freedom of the eastern students during the teaching process, which really allows the student to progress as a professional but also as  an individual, something she thinks is missing now in Spain.

To finish I would like to highlight a sentence from Maryna that she used to say while she was working in a successful school back in Belarus: “the success of our students pass through the bodies of our teachers”. As you can see, she defends the quality of the education and the knowledge and efforts of the students in the region but she also recognizes that the system lacks of structures and means overall, on her words “just countries that respect, support and help their teachers can be totally proud of their educative system”.

And do you know what? I totally agree!


Marina Romero Rivas


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