In May 1893 in Zhuzhelany, Sokal region, the first Ukrainian burial ground – a kindergarten was founded in Galicia

130 years ago: 05/19/1893 (in the literature also 05/15/1893 and 05/05/1893) – in the village of Zhuzheli, now Zhuzhelany in Lviv Oblast, priest of the UGCC Fr. Kyrylo Seletskyi founded the first Ukrainian cemetery (kindergarten) in Galicia.

For this, the pastor converted the former barn, made repairs at his own expense and bought the most necessary furniture and accessories. Formally, the main task of burials was to solve the urgent problem of organizing the life of small children who were left without care during field work, when both father and mother were in the field from morning to evening.

In 1933, the magazine “Niva” wrote about the acuteness of this problem:

“And how surely that poor child needs care at that time of summer work! Then go around the village, look at every neighborhood, to the house, and you will see what our children are doing, what and how they are playing. The roadside ditches are full of them, dirty… And how much damage there is to gardens, orchards, how many big fires, how many deaths and injuries for a lifetime. And what will grow out of that child?”.

But in addition to caring for children, the extensive system of burial grounds also became a powerful preschool institution, which carried out the spiritual and national formation of children from an early age and turned into an insurmountable stronghold against their polonization in conditions when the Ukrainians of Galicia at the state level were deprived of the opportunity to nurture their own national identity.

The idea of creating Ukrainian burial grounds, using the positive experience of Western European preschools based on the educational principles of the German teacher Friedrich Froebel, was first heard at a women’s meeting on September 1, 1891 in Stryi. To implement this idea in practice, Fr. Kyrylo, who was noted in the district for his tireless work in the public field.

Prior to that, the priest founded the Brotherhood of Sobriety, the Reiffensen loan office, a reading room, the Society of Ivan the Merciful, which materially helped widows and orphans, and a dairy in the parish. Arsenia Anna Gordashevska, the sister of Blessed Josaphata Gordashevska (Congregation of Sisters of the Servants of the Immaculate Virgin Mary), who previously received a pedagogical education at the Roman Catholic Felician Sisters in Zhovkva, became the first teacher of the burial in Zhuzhel. In fact, one of the reasons for founding the Congregation of Servant Sisters (1892) was the establishment of burial grounds for village children and “educating the hearts of the people”, by which children were understood.

From the beginning, educational work with children was put on a professional basis. Children were divided into age groups and each child was approached taking into account his individual characteristics.

The educational system provided for the moral, mental and physical formation of the child and was built on the foundations of Christian morality and Ukrainian patriotism. Educational means included prayer, catechism, visiting the temple, drawing, manual work, the basics of arithmetic, reading and speaking, religious and folk songs, poems, stories, gymnastics, breathing exercises, dances, games, walks in the forest or in the field, etc.

Particular attention was paid to personal hygiene, fostering feelings of sociability, national dignity, development of thinking, sense of beauty, aesthetic tastes. The successful start in Zhuzheli initiated the creation of a whole network of national preschool educational institutions in Galicia (in the conditions of statelessness of the Ukrainian nation). As of 1937, there were 768 Ukrainian kindergartens in which more than 30,000 children were being trained (in 1938, the Servant Sisters conducted 76 burials with 4,200 children). After the re-occupation of Western Ukraine in 1945, the Soviet authorities liquidated all children’s educational institutions, prohibited the Servant Sisters from caring for and raising children, and confiscated all property.

From the description of the functioning of the burial ground in the village. Zhuzheli founded by Fr. Kyryll Seletsky, published in the Lviv News newspaper on April 20, 1944:

“The bunkers have SS. Servants should spread God’s glory among Ukrainian children, should work on raising children. Father himself. Seletsky took great care that the room of the first burial was nicely decorated, decorated with flowers in summer and winter, so that it had fresh air, moderate heating in winter, water for washing, soap, towels. Children played in the garden not only in summer, but also in winter. They came to the grave early after breakfast, greeted the Sister-Guide with the words: “Glory to Jesus Christ.”

Father himself. Seletsky was almost always at the cemetery early, he checked whether the children came cleanly washed and dressed, whether their feet were clean, whether their boots were cleaned, whether they were healthy and cheerful.

The day in the burial ground began with prayer. Then there was fun. While playing, the children learned how to stand, walk, sit, speak, and say thanks properly. Science followed the fun. It lasted less than half an hour.

The sister told the children about everything they saw around them, told them fairy tales, taught them poems, catechism, the Bible, histopia, taught them to count on apples or chestnuts, and even the beginnings of reading, cooked lunch for the children, or warmed up the cooked one.

In the afternoon there was work in the garden. The children dug, weeded the beds, wheelbarrowed sand, swept the paths, and the older girls did the work. After the fun there was again science for half an hour. The Sisters and the children discussed the day’s affairs on science. So the children went to church to pray.

O. Seletsky wrote poems for children in the burial ground, composed songs, choreographic exercises, and entertainment.

He got acquainted theoretically with the material and transferred the acquired knowledge practically in the burial, gave instructions to the Sister guide. He himself often helped the Sister and spent hours playing with the children and teaching them, with the aim of developing all the powers of the child’s soul and body in order to turn them into full-fledged members of the church and the people.”

Yury Korin

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