MONTEZUMA, NM – (AP) – At a boarding school in the Rocky Mountains, a group of Eastern European teenagers made pancakes to raise money for the millions of people whose lives were uprooted by the war in Russia against Ukraine.
The students, studying at a pine-dotted campus in northern New Mexico, worry about a world apart for their loved ones in the war-torn region.
Masha Novikova, a 19-year-old student from central Ukraine, had spent the previous night on the phone with NGOs trying to get her mother and three younger siblings to Germany, and argued with her mother on what would be more dangerous: staying put or driving.
Novikova said she faces many tasks “that teenagers don’t typically face” as she grapples with the reality that her family’s home may no longer exist as it does. was formerly.
“It ruins you from the inside out,” she said.
On the campus of the United World College, teenagers from 95 countries study in a network of schools dedicated to fostering understanding between cultures. Russian-speaking students, some of whom come from abroad as well as the sons and daughters of immigrants, were united in horror at the invasion of Ukraine.
On a recent Saturday, half a dozen of them gathered in the kitchen of a dormitory to prepare blinis – Eastern European-style pancakes – to sell to their classmates.
“It’s so hard to concentrate on (school) with exams coming up. We are still high school students. We are still trying to live our lives and we have a bunch of problems at the high school level and suddenly, like, the war comes in,” said Alexandra Maria Gomberg Shkolnikova, 18, from Mexico City, whose family is originally from Russia and… ‘Ukraine.
United World College officials are exploring options for Russian and Ukrainian students to stay on campus or with alumni families if it is unsafe to travel after graduation, Victoria Mora said. , President of the UWC in the United States.
Students at the school are selected in part on their interest in global affairs, their desire to share their cultures, and their empathy for others. UWC operates 18 schools on four continents, including the one in the United States. Novikova learned about the program while on a volunteer trip to Irpin, Ukraine, where she met a student from the United World College of India.
The morning after her night on the phone, Novikova’s eyes were heavy as she made her way to the dormitory of a cafeteria building known as “the castle” – once a Golden Age hotel. Along the way, she met one of her closest friends, a Russian student.
The Russian student declined to be interviewed, citing censorship laws her country put in place at the start of the war.
“My Russian friend, she understands my mentality and she understands how I feel,” Novikova said, adding that the war had brought them closer. “Of course, we have many conversations these days about politics and the future of our countries.”
The couple joined their Russian-speaking colleagues in the kitchen of the women’s dorm where they snacked, helped cook and joked between texting their parents and checking the news. A few boys from other dorms arrived, an Italian and a Spaniard. Girls from Texas and France also lined up for snacks as cooking continued in a mix of Russian and English.
By late afternoon, dozens of students had bought blinis, with toppings like jam and chocolate spread. A plastic container full of cash has racked up to more than $300, a humble contribution to humanitarian aid to be split among three hospitals in Ukraine, including the one where Novikova’s father works as a surgeon.
Novikova feared her family would be shelled or bombed if she remained in the country, where her father operated on wounded soldiers on the eastern front of the war. Her mother feared the family would be shot on the way to Poland if they left.
The blinis session is hardly an escape for Novikova, whose phone kept buzzing with messages. But for a few hours she was stressed out with her friends, instead of stressed out alone in her room.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” said Sophia Pavlenko, a 19-year-old Russian citizen, as she ran the blinis kitchen.
“What doesn’t kill you traumatizes you,” Novikova said.
Attanasio is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Attanasio graduated from the United World College in Hong Kong. Follow him on Twitter.
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