The Russian-Ukrainian war takes its toll on American students in the correspondence program


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Russia’s war in Ukraine hangs heavily on observers around the world who watch it unfold in the news and on social media. Those linked to someone in Ukraine say the toll it takes on them has been worse.

ENGin is a non-profit organization that matches Ukrainian students with English-speaking peers across the United States for free online conversation practice and cross-cultural connection.

Olivia is a 16-year-old high school student who volunteers for ENGin. She said she originally signed up as a volunteer for community service hours required by a school club, but to her surprise she became very close with a Ukrainian teenager who is now in a war zone. active.

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A nonprofit group worked to connect Ukrainian students with English speakers across the United States
(ENGine)

Olivia says she and her student twin from Ukraine talk every day, but lately all her messages have gone unanswered.

“We have lost contact”

“We talked quite often, and we talked about different things like movies or shows we watch and books we read. But, since February 27, we lost contact and she hasn’t been active on any of her sites like Telegram, iMessage, her email or any of her social networks. She just got totally disconnected. And I hope it’s just because of communication issues like WiFi , or she lost her phone or something,” Olivia said.

Danylo is a Ukrainian teenager living in a house with a bomb shelter just outside his hometown of kyiv. He said that although he moved to a safer area with his family, he saw daily reminders that his country, Ukraine, is at war.

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“For the past two days we’ve been hearing detonations not far from us, so it’s starting to get a bit terrifying,” Danylo said.

One of many heartbreaking images from the Ukrainian war zone.

One of many heartbreaking images from the Ukrainian war zone.
(Alexander)

He added that he appreciates ENGin and the bond he has formed with his English-speaking partner, but now he just wants to survive.

“Like a psychological therapy”

He said he missed one aspect of the program: “I told my buddy what was going on, and it was like psychological therapy for me because I had a person outside of Ukraine who wanted to know more…I miss it,” he said. noted. “It’s like a flashback of the peaceful life.”

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Alexander is also a Ukrainian teenager and a member of ENGin. He said he didn’t hide anything from his English-speaking twin volunteer.

“I tell my volunteer everything that’s on my mind. And the most important reason…is because I completely understand that I’ll probably never meet them in real life,” Alexander said.

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He agreed with Danylo, saying he felt conversations with their English-speaking volunteers were lacking because life had changed dramatically.

“What makes it worse is that I’m actually finishing high school. So this year I would have had my problem and then I would have entered college. And now I just have no idea what what I’m going to do,” said Alexander.

Thanks for connecting

ENGin director Katerina Manoff said she was grateful for the connection between her volunteers and her students and had no plans to stop the program anytime soon. She said she changed the focus of the program.

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“We continue to deal with social media and useful things for our social media like how to act when your house is bombed or in the event of a chemical attack. We also try to do lighter things. We did a flash mob of people sharing their pets and little support videos,” Manoff said.

She added that she also plans to continue trying to give Ukrainian teens in ENGin the opportunity to share their stories and educate Americans about what is happening in Ukraine through media interviews and social media campaigns.


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