Viral video of Czech students bullying Ukrainian classmate ignites public outrage

The girl was spat on and told by her fellow classmates that Russia is 'the best.'

Thomas Smith

Written by Thomas Smith Published on 09.06.2023 11:30:00 (updated on 09.06.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Senior Czech politicians responded to a video circulating online of Czech second-grade schoolchildren bullying their Ukrainian classmate, which caused outrage online.

In the video, classmates ask the victim – who was secretly recording herself – where she is from. After replying “Ukraine,” one of her classmates tells her that Russia is better, followed by expletives about Ukraine. Someone then spits in her face. The children attend an elementary school in Opočno, Hradec Králové.

Widespread condemnation

“Spitting in the face of a child (in this case because of where they are from) is spitting in the face of our entire civilization. Children just pick up our [adults’] behavior patterns. And they vividly show how cruel and stupid those are sometimes," Interior Minister Vít Rakušan said about the incident. 

Minister of Education Mikuláš Bek also weighed in: "Bullying in any form is completely unacceptable. I am asking my fellow teachers to combat it forcefully in their classes.” Former Ukrainian ambassador to Czechia Jevhen Perebyjnis also commented on the video, saying that xenophobia “has existed in Czechia for a long time.” He added: “What they [children] see and hear is from adults."

Petra Naskosová, a lawyer at the Iustitia social services company, wrote in iRozhlas that in order to solve the issue “it is necessary to talk to the children about what is happening in Ukraine” and make the bullies apologize. “An apology is something that can go a long way in the restorative process and in making sure things like this don't happen again,” Naskosová says.

Not an isolated incident

This video is unfortunately indicative of a nationwide problem involving the bullying of Ukrainian schoolchildren. A report from an International Health Behavior in School-aged Children study found that 18 percent of Ukrainian schoolchildren enrolled in Czech schools were victims of bullying in recent months “at least two or three times.” This is higher than the pan-European average of 10 percent.

Additionally, the study also revealed that 8 percent of Ukrainian children in Czechia were victims of cyberbullying – compared with the European average of 4 percent. Previous reports have also found some Czech schoolchildren taunting their Ukranian classmates due to the war, such as by playing the Russian national anthem.

According to Ministry of Education data, there are around 51,000 Ukrainian refugee children in Czech schools. School director Eva Alexanderová issued a statement after the video’s release, saying “We definitely do not tolerate this type of behavior. We will solve the problem with the parents.” The bullies have since apologized for their behavior.

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