July 25, 2024

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War in Ukraine: How English classes are arming Ukrainian soldiers

War in Ukraine: How English classes are arming Ukrainian soldiers

Teacher Olena Chekryzhova during an interview with AFP in Kiev on December 21, 2022. (©AFP/Genya SAVILOV)

When Olena Sekhryzova followed her grandmother’s example and became an English teacher, she had no idea that her job would lead her to the front lines of the war against Russian forces in Ukraine.

However, this has become its new reality as Ukrainian soldiers try to learn English, and especially military terminology, so that they can better use the combat aid provided by Washington and its allies.

Liaison with foreign volunteer fighters

These equipment deliveries, especially the HIMARS artillery systems, have already changed the front of the game President Volodymyr Zelensky’s whirlwind trip to Washington Wednesday led to other promises and most notably, for the first time, the delivery of the Patriot missile defense system.

Training material for this new equipment is available primarily in English, a language often needed by Ukrainian soldiers to communicate with foreign volunteer fighters they encounter in the field.

To overcome the language barrier, Ms Sekrijova, 35, gave up a quiet life of classroom integration lessons to teach intensive lessons in the armed forces.

“Some People Think I’m Crazy”

For example, he spent five months at a base in the Donetsk region, the scene of the most intense fighting in the country’s east, where he lived with soldiers and participated in training.

“Some people think I’m crazy,” he told the AFP news agency Kiev Where is she currently stationed?

In this environment I think teaching English is my small contribution to my country, my people and the army that is protecting us from this Russian terrorist attack.

Olena Sekhrizova
Ukrainian players Ihor Soldatenko (L) and Yuri Kalmutsky (C) take an English lesson in Kiev on December 21, 2022.
Ukrainian players Ihor Soldatenko (L) and Yuri Kalmutsky (C) take an English lesson in Kiev on December 21, 2022. (©AFP/Genya SAVILOV)

“Wounded”, “Killed in Action”

Almost all Ukrainian soldiers received at least some English lessons in school, but they were not always helpful, especially for the elderly.

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“It was Soviet times, and the English I learned at school was really nothing,” said Igor Soldatenko, 50, one of Ms. Sekrijova’s students.

The whole system as I see it today is inadequate. We were just learning the books without understanding…no one can use it in real life.

Igor Soldatenko

On the other hand, recent lessons teach him words like “wounded,” “semi-automatic,” “concealment,” and phrases like “killed in action.”

Fierce fights

Learning goes both ways, with Ms. Sekrijova gaining a new understanding of tactics and strategy — and an insight into the rigors of military life.

While staying in the Donetsk region, he wept alongside the soldiers who had lost comrades, including his students, in the fierce fighting in his hometown. BagmouthHottest place in months.

“It’s a double whammy for me. Because on the one hand, this is my hometown and on the other hand, it has become the graveyard of my students,” he regrets.

Olena Tchekryjova (d) gives an English lesson to Ukrainian players Ihor Soldatenko (l) and Yuriy Kalmutskiy (c) in Kyiv on December 21, 2022.
Olena Tchekryjova (d) gives an English lesson to Ukrainian players Ihor Soldatenko (l) and Yuriy Kalmutskiy (c) in Kyiv on December 21, 2022. (©AFP/Genya SAVILOV)

“Weapons in English”

During a recent lesson in Kyiv, Ms Chekryjova’s students alternated between English and Ukrainian to talk about the victims.

“I miss a lot of friends… this is my circle of close people, I miss them… I miss them”, Yuri Kalmoutsky, a 36-year-old soldier, says in broken English. “Very difficult”.

As they try to master English, Ms Tsekrijova’s students told AFP they were inspired by President Zelensky’s journey to learn the language.

“He had terrible English a few years ago. Everyone knows. But he learned, ”underlines Yuriy Kalmoutsky.

Her students have made similar progress, but Ms. Tsekrijova reveals she struggles to reach more people.

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What funding

International organizations have so far rejected its requests for funding, arguing that they do not want to be listed as donors to the military.

“They say they want to help children, animals, the elderly or refugees,” explains the author.

Her students criticize this approach and Ms. Tsekrijova asserts that she does not want to take care of “puppies, cats, or nice old ladies.”

The entire class is convinced that English will help them win the war.

“So,” says Mrs. Sekrijova, as the lesson ends. “Are you armed in English?” »

“Yes, I think so,” replies Private Soldatenko.

Ukrainian players Ihor Soldatenko (L) and Yuri Kalmutsky (C) take an English lesson in Kiev on December 21, 2022.
Ukrainian players Ihor Soldatenko (L) and Yuri Kalmutsky (C) take an English lesson in Kiev on December 21, 2022. (©AFP/Genya SAVILOV)

Source: © 2022 AFP

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