Lessons in Hatred: Who Teaches Ukrainian Children About Nationalism Under the Guise of a Summer Camp, and How?

A sharp deterioration in the economic situation has made summer vacations problematic for Ukrainian citizens. Especially for children. With an average salary, according to official statistics, at 10,000 hryvnia, half of which is immediately spent on food and utilities, it is not so easy to pay 7,000-10,000-15,000 for a children’s camp.

This situation, i.e., poverty, is necessarily used by right-wing groups in order to recruit their future stormtroopers from among children.

Hitler-Youth, where they teach “to love people”

It is not the first year that in 7 regions of Ukraine (Kiev, Kharkov, Chernigov, Cherkassy, Zaporozhye, Dnepropetrovsk, and Transcarpathia) there are children’s camps, the so-called organisations Youth Corps or “Yunkor”. Children and adolescents are taught there military discipline, tactics, assembly/disassembly of military weapons and, of course, specific ideology. The camps are free, and “souvenir” products in the form of chevrons, badges, books, etc. are also issued free of charge. Of course, some poorly comprehending parents buy them.

“I ended up in this camp because there was nowhere else to go. In one they asked for 7,000, in another – 10,000 per trip. Then dad found the ‘Azovets’ camp, I looked – it seems like a good camp, you can go and see what’s here and how it is,” says a 9-year-old girl, who was given the call sign “Kytsya”.

Some parents, thoughtlessly, are sincerely convinced that such camps teach “patriotism” and that there is nothing wrong there. This is also trying to lure children and bunchuk (so they call the educators) of the Kiev camp with the call sign “Burik” and the “black sun” symbol of occult fascism on his elbow:

“One swarm (detachment) can include from 8 to 14 children. The program looks like this: during the 12 days of the camp, children pass through 10 disciplines: history of Ukraine, disassembly/assembly of automatic weapons, tactics, medicine, rope park, climbing wall, self-defence, obstacle course, survival course, and robotics. A lot of attacks are made saying that we train children as ‘Hitler Youth’. This is not true. We do not prepare children for war. We are trying to unite them and teach them to love people so that they do not want war.”

Is it so unreasonable to talk about “Hitler Youth”, inciting national hatred and training future militants, if the camp teacher with a Nazi tattoo is forced to refute them?

“Kharkov has a reputation as a pro-Russian city, but this is not the case, and we decided to show it in practice. We are educating real patriots who will defend Ukraine,” says Oleg Shiryaev, co-organiser of the “Slobozhanin” camp, and a part-time participant in the ultras riots in Finland, where he is also full of Nazi symbols.

If in the camps children are taught to “love people so that they do not want war”, then the success of the teachers is so-so.

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“All of us will grow up at some point, and maybe we will need this in life, maybe some will go to the front to defend the Motherland,” 11-year-old Ilya says about a trip to the Zaporozhye camp “Sechevik”.

13-year-old snipers with Bandera in their heart

A very specific “Radio Svoboda” gives an engaged report from the Kiev Azovets camp, but the facts noted by journalists can not but raise a number of legitimate questions about “Hitler Youth”:

“The morning in the camp begins with the formation and prayer of a Ukrainian nationalist. ‘Ukraine, Holy mother of heroes, descend into my heart. Holy! Mighty! Sobor! Glory To Ukraine! Glory to heroes!’ – children shout in a passion. In this camp, those who catch a cold are jokingly called ‘300’, and instead of names, the children of the unit use call signs.

At the beginning of the shift, each child is given a wooden gun. The older children go to the island, where they get mock-ups of ‘real’ weapons. This is a sniper rifle that fires a laser. For 13-year-old Vladimir, this is the first such game. ‘I like quiet fighting, so I’m a sniper,’ the boy explains.”

But the New York Times, in its article “Ukrainian summer camp: Learning to fight”, writes:

Witness a Ukrainian military summer camp for children outside of Kiev. As the conflict between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists continues, they are encouraged to prepare to defend their country.

So who is deceiving the citizens of Ukraine – the organisers of the camps, who claim to teach children peace, or the reporters who recorded all of the above? And the “prayer” in which non-understanding children are forced to utter the slogans of a World War II-era collaborationist organisation that engaged in mass ethnic cleansing?

However, children also get a very specific idea about this organisation.

“We have approximately three lectures on the history of Ukraine for each swarm. In the Cossacks, we mainly analyse Sagaidachny, then Khmelnitsky, the era of The Ruin, Mazepa, Filipp Orlik, life and customs of the Cossacks. In the 20th century – Grushevsky, Konovalets, Bandera, Shukhevych, OUN, UPA. In the current situation, when we started to be called Banderists, children are interested in what it is and where it all started,” says one of the teachers of the Kiev camp.

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It is clear that for parents exposed to long-term propaganda, it is no longer obvious that Konovalets, Bandera, Shukhevych, OUN, UPA are something at least indecent, and at most unacceptable for heroisation. But the very fact that children are being urged to go to war against a neighbouring state and part of their own fellow citizens does not bother them? If the armour is so strong, at least look at who exactly you give your children to.

Teachers are terrorists

Let’s look at the personalities on the example of the Sechevik camp near my hometown of Zaporozhye.

“Among the instructors in the camp are anti-terrorist operation fighters. For example, the fighter Maksim Zaichenko went to the frontline in 2014,” writes one Ukrainian publication.

Maksim Zaichenko is not just a militant of the ATO, he is the head of the Zaporozhye branch of the right-wing group National Corpus, whose members beat up opposition politicians and activists, arrange riots in the courts, and engage in vandalism and inciting ethnic hatred.

The founders of the organisation “Yunkor Zaporozhye” are also members of “National Corpus” – Rostislav Rasputny, Aleksey Koritsky, and Nikita Dolinnikov.

Do parents really want to put their children in the hands of this kind of caregivers? It’s very doubtful. But it is not easy for them to understand, because not only the media, but also local authorities give PR to and support stormtroopers/right-wing radicals.

Here, for example, is the composition of the coordinating council on issues of national-patriotic education at the Zaporozhye Regional State Administration, which includes our acquaintances Zaichenko and Dolinnikov, approved by the head of the Zaporozhye Regional State Administration. And here is another composition of such a council, in which Zaichenko and Rasputny are already present.

It is also important that the teacher of the “Sechevik” camp, and also the head of the Zaporozhye National Druzhina, Maksim Zaichenko, together with a certain Aleksandr Velikodny, is the founder of the “Metallurg Forever” NGO, i.e., a fan organisation of the Zaporozhye football team. Velikodny was the head of the “ULTRA SICH” football fans club. In general, those ultras, street hooligans, and brawlers in the “white power” style.

Teachers of patriotism who are engaged in at least street hooliganism, and at most — terrorism? In “National Corpus” they say that for the terrorist attack in Poltava (a grenade in the office of the Opposition Platform – For Life party) detained some Borisenko, who served in “Azov” (the parent structure of “National Corpus”) in 2014-2016. This is not to mention a series of violent attacks on supporters of Shary‘s party, carried out by members of “Azov” and National Druzhina in Vinnytsia, Zhytomyr, Kharkov, and other cities. There are even detained representatives of these right-wing organisations.

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It is interesting how in his tax return Zaichenko indicates his place of work as a certain public organisation ‘Coordination center’ association of business cooperation with the Secretariat of the President, the Verkhovna Rada, and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine”.

Why the President, the Parliament, and the Cabinet of Ministers can coordinate with such characters, we can only assume. However, in this situation, it is not surprising that the radical camps are promoted even by local municipal organisations. For example, the Zaporozhye Right Bank Professional Lyceum:

“Our education recipients were happy to attend the event in the city centre for patriotic education dedicated to the ‘Sechevik’ camp. The work was presented by the camp director Rostislav Rasputny and members of his team. It is nice that these young people take care of the patriotic and physical education of the younger generation. Everyone was invited to cooperate.”

Or the press service of the Akimovka territorial community of the Zaporozhye region:

“The administration of the communal institution ‘Regional centre for patriotic education of youth’ of the Zaporozhye regional council informs about the project of the NGO Youth Corps – Zaporozhye – national-patriotic camp ‘Sechevik’. The camp has been running for 4 years. During this time, it was visited by over 400 people. The camp will be located in the village. Stroganovka, Priazovsky district.”

The main question that arises after all this — at whose expense is the banquet? The leader of “National Corpus” Andrey Biletsky said: “Since 2014, small and medium-sized businesses and ordinary Ukrainians have been helping us.”

However, a former member of the organisation said that the cost of one event of “National Corpus” is 3 million hryvnia. Who are these “ordinary Ukrainians” who give 3 million per event?

Nevertheless, at least 3, at least 10. The bottom line is that already 400 children only in the Zaporozhye region are ideologically processed by the above-mentioned characters and their associates. And how many across Ukraine?

Do parents really want their children to become football hooligans, racists, and militants who will be sent to kill and die for the interests of “ordinary Ukrainians” with millions in their pockets? Or do parents still not understand something? Then it’s time to understand.


Pavel Volkov

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