On Friday, 1 August, a new incident marked yet another chapter in the story of the deprivation of rights of ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine. The II. Rákóczi Ferenc Secondary School in Munkács (Mukachevo), Transcarpathia reported that during the Friday school opening ceremony, the Hungarian national anthem was banned, the use of the Hungarian flag and national colours was forbidden, and the school director only delivered her speech in Ukrainian.
The school added that in response, the Hungarians ‘peacefully, quietly, but resolutely stood up’ against the situation, with prayers and poetry readings in Hungarian, and candles were lit. The institution also stated in a post on social media they will hold out, no matter how difficult their fate may be.
The Hungarian community in Munkács has been harassed in a number of ways by the Ukrainian local authorities over the past year.
As reported by Hungarian Conservative in January, citing a new decree, the Ukrainian police removed Hungarian flags from several public institutions, and the director of the II. Rákóczi Ferenc Secondary School in Munkács was dismissed overnight without explanation. The teaching staff of the school turned to Munkács Mayor Andrij Baloga, demanding that the head teacher be reinstated, but to no avail, following which the director filed a lawsuit again the municipality. The institution then announced on 15 August that ethnic Ukrainian Marija Pauk had been appointed as the new director. The leadership of the Transcarpathian Hungarian Cultural Association (THCA/KMKSZ) protested loudly against the appointment, as the new director has no connection to the Hungarian community or the school.
The II. Rákóczi Ferenc Secondary School posted another update on their social media page on Thursday, 30 August. As the institution wrote, the new director clearly stated what had only been suspected before.
‘At our trade union meeting, the appointed head teacher and her deputy indicated that their short-term goal is the Ukrainianization of the school, the teaching of Hungarian as a foreign language, starting a Ukrainian first grade already in September, and teaching some subjects in Ukrainian,’ the post reads.
According to the post, with the firm protest and unified stance of their teaching staff, the school managed to prevent the immediate launch of a Ukrainian language class and will keep teaching in Hungarian for now, but it is now clear that ‘the city’s leadership’s plan is the swift elimination of Hungarian education in our school.’
Earlier, on 13 October 2022, the Ukrainian-majority Munkács municipality decided to remove the Turul sculpture, which had been re-erected in 2008, from the Munkács Castle, and replace it with a triple trident, the Ukrainian state emblem.