Anastasia learns she’s strong
How one adolescent became an English teacher for Ukrainian kids and adults
Anastasia’s calm, confidence, and smile are very contagious. The 16-year-old volunteer from Odessa works at the CATTIA Blue Dot hub in Brasov, where she also teaches English to kids and adults coming here for support or just for the community.
“It’s hard to be a teacher, emotionally and mentally,” says Anastasia. “One of my students is a sailor and I had to find some special texts for him, with specialised vocabulary, in order to fit his needs. But it’s very interesting. I always learn new things.” She laughs as she argues that “teachers have a tough and important job; I realise that now. And I can say they aren’t paid as they should be, as they deserve.”
She came to Romania in spring, along with her mother, who also comes to the Blue Dot hub as a volunteer, after work. “It’s very hard and stressful to leave your home because of war, to leave your country from one moment to the next.”
“One day, my father told us ‘Tomorrow you’ll go to Romania, go pack!’ Me and my mother looked at each other and said ‘Tomorrow?!’ One day you’re home, the next day you’re on the road. We also packed some luggage for our father, in case something happens, and he needs it. My friends took their clothes, I took my books. Textbooks, literature, mathematics, English books, and two laptops,” recounts Anastasia.
One of their relatives had a friend in Brasov, who told them to come here directly. “It was a long journey, we spent two days on the road. We came with a group in five cars, with lots of small children. We call Brasov ‘little Odessa’, with mountains instead of sea.”
But they really miss their home shores. “It was really stressful for my mother. We’ve been here for a few months, but every day she tells me that tomorrow we’ll go home. Or maybe next week, maybe next month. ‘Mom, can’t you understand that we don’t know when the war will stop?’ I think my father will tell us to come back only when things really stop, when everything will be safe. I understand that. I know that this is our real life now, that it’s better for us to stay here.”
Before the war, Anastasia’s father had a business with Russian products, but he now tries to build one with things from Italy. “He started from scratch. He wrote to me that this is a new chapter in our lives, so we must be prepared for the change. I will help him with everything he needs.” Anastasia says she understands that it’s easier for her father to take care just of himself, knowing they're safe over here. “He told us ‘I know you are safe there, you have everything you need’.”
So for now she tries to be as active and pragmatic as possible. “I like working with people, I like communicating with other people. I have been working as a volunteer here for three months, so I’ve heard a lot of stories from many people, from all over Ukraine. We have a boy here from Kherson who interacted with Russian soldiers. I have friends from Mykolaiv who don’t have a house anymore. And in Odessa a rocket destroyed a building close to our home.”
“We found a lot of help at the CATTIA centre. There’s always something to eat here or a hot drink, or you can come just to talk to other people. I’ve met a lot of friendly people, who always helped us. We now have a lot of Romanian friends,” says Anastasia.
“I can say this is a new part of my life, a new chapter. And I already got used to it,”, she says. “I’m an active person, I don’t want just to stay home.” She tells us her life back home in Ukraine was rather busy, with a lot of classes, school, dance lessons, “I was always going somewhere”.
“I was kind of scared about spending the summer here, because I didn’t even have friends. But then I started to volunteer at the center and they saw that I was good at English so they asked me to teach others, so now I have a busy week. Every day, from 10 in the morning. I also have online classes, from Ukraine, for mathematics, English and Ukrainian, in order to prepare for next year’s exams. So, I can say I have a busy life. And I also understood that I’m a strong person.”
She will soon start the 11th grade, the last of the high school cycle in Ukraine. “It will be a hard year, because it’s the last, and I don’t feel ready for the final exams. I’m learning English, and I also want a certification, in order to help me go to college. Maybe I’ll learn Romanian and stay here for university.”
Initially, she wanted to study business administration, but now she works as a volunteer teacher, so she’s tempted by educational studies. And if she’ll then find another interest, maybe she’ll do another college. “You never know where life will take you. You can become a businessman, a teacher, anything,” explains Anastasia.
A lot of her colleagues and friends went to Europe, in Bulgaria, Germany, or Poland. “We talk often.” And everyone fights to adapt to their new reality. “You’re going to be studying your whole life. You must learn something new every day,” she says.
“I had a plan for my future, for the next five years. I knew I was going to university, in Odessa, but now I understand that I can’t do it, because I don’t know where I’m going to be tomorrow. For now, there’s nothing for me in Ukraine, so maybe I’ll try to go to school here. And then maybe we’ll go back. I think even the college will be online, because rockets will keep on flying. It’s not a movie, it’s our real life.”
“People must be ready to change their life on a moment’s notice. But I think everything will be ok, sometime in the future. It’s going to be a long war. I don’t think it will end in the winter, or next spring. It’s going to be less loud, but it will be long, and it will be war,” she sighs. “For now, I’m in Romania and I will try to build a life here. I have friends here now. And I will solve everything else,” she promised.
The Blue Dots are dedicated refugee children and family support hubs and represent an integrated model that provides support for the most immediate needs of children and women. They offer a wide range of support services for the urgent needs of children and women and include child friendly areas. Among the services provided are travel information and counselling for refugees; registration of the most vulnerable; spaces dedicated to mothers and babies/young children; psychological therapy; first aid on hygiene, health and nutrition; basic legal advice; referral services for cases of violence or health conditions, etc. At the Blue Dot hubs, families can be provided with blankets, warm clothes, sanitary kits, toys, hygiene products and baby food.