Mar 24, 2023 |

Tough Times: Reflections on Learning in Wartime by an 8th Grade Ukrainian Gravitas Student

By Sean Riley

Ukrainian student learning online during wartime
by Maksym Danylenko

Being a Student in Wartime

As a teenager living in Ukraine, last year was incredibly challenging for me. Living here is extremely difficult due to the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Despite the difficulties, I have done my best to remain optimistic and to keep moving forward.

The separation from my friends has been one of the most difficult aspects of my life. We used to hang out all the time before the conflict. We’d go to the movies, play sports, and have a good time. But when the conflict started, we had to go our separate ways. This was extremely difficult for me because it made me feel lonely and isolated. It was difficult to adjust to a new lifestyle in which I couldn’t see my friends whenever I wanted. However, I did my best to keep in touch with them using social media and messaging apps.

Traveling has been difficult, as well as the difficulties I’ve had keeping in touch with my friends. As a result of the conflict, airports have been closed, preventing me from traveling to other countries quickly and easily. Even though it was still possible to travel by car, crossing the border became incredibly hard due to the large number of people attempting to leave the country for safety reasons. The long lines and strict security measures made the experience challenging and stressful.

Due to the chance of air attacks, even going to school was dangerous. I remember being terrified when I heard the sirens [Read NY Times article: “Pencil Cases and Air-Raid Sirens: School at War for Ukraine’s Children”]. It was difficult to concentrate on my studies when I was simply worried about my safety. Because of the ongoing threat of air attacks, my school was forced to transition to online learning [Read AP article: “It’s Back to School in Ukraine – but Far from Normal”]. However, our school was not prepared for such a significant change, and many teachers struggled to adjust to this new way of learning. Despite this, I made every effort to remain optimistic and focused on my studies, even when it was challenging.

Learning in Wartime with Gravitas

Thankfully, I discovered an interesting online school called “Gravitas.” It had been fantastic to be able to study from home and not feel worried about the terror outside. [See the Gravitas blog post: “Gravitas Welcomes Ukrainian Students Impacted by War”]

The teachers are extremely helpful, and the classes are entertaining. This had a positive impact on me because it allowed me to keep up with my studies and continue learning. I also liked how the online format allowed me to work at my own tempo and concentrate on the areas where I needed more support.

Hope Despite Wartime Challenges

In addition to educational and social challenges, the conflict has had an economic impact. Prices for basic necessities have risen, making it more difficult for so many families to sustain themselves. Because jobs have become limited, many people have lost their incomes. My best friend was affected because his parents were struggling to find new jobs in another country after losing their own in Ukraine. It did, however, make me more thankful for what I have and more passionate about working hard in order to build a better future for myself and my family.

Despite all this, I am optimistic about the future. I know the Ukrainian people are flexible and strong, and we will win out in the end. This had a positive impact on me since it gave me hope and helped me remain strong. I’m proud to be Ukrainian and part of such a strong and resilient community.

In the meantime, I’m doing my best to stay positive and make the most of the situation. I’ve been spending more time with my family, reading books, and pursuing my hobbies. This had a positive impact on me because it allowed me to concentrate on what was important to me and find joy in the little things. I’ve also kept up with my studies and tried to learn as much as I could. This had a positive impact on me because it helped me stay focused and motivated in the face of adversity. This was a difficult year, but I did my best to remain positive and joyful.

This essay reflecting on learning in wartime was written for Landon Loftin’s Gravitas English Writing 7/8 class and published with the student’s permission.

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