Teacher Alina Khatsko conducts online classes from her hotel room in Mullingar.

Ukrainian teacher gives online classes from her Mullingar hotel room

Many of her students may now be dotted around Europe after fleeing the war but that hasn’t stopped Alina Khatsko from making sure that they are keeping up with their history homework – from her hotel room in Mullingar.

The online technology that teachers and students all over the world used during the pandemic has become vital once more to help Ukrainian teachers such as Alina keep in contact with their students.

A native of the Donetsk region, secondary school teacher Alina arrived in Ireland earlier this month with her sister and her nine-year-old niece following a fraught 23-hour train journey from her home region to Lviv in the west of Ukraine before crossing the border into Poland. After a short stay in Austria, they made their way to Ireland as Alina has a school friend who lives in Longford.

Understandably worried about her mother, father and husband Bohdan, who remain in Donetsk in a part of the province that was not occupied by Russia in 2014 and, to date, remains free from fighting, Alina says that she is happy to be in Mullingar and is grateful for the warm reception she and her relatives have received.

When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, schools were shut for two weeks before classes resumed remotely.

Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner through interpreter Viktoriia Hurska, she said that while a small number of her students remain in Donetsk, the majority are now living across Europe – and one child logs in to Google Classroom for lessons from Argentina. In addition to the students from her school, she is also teaching a small number of students from other parts of Ukraine who are now refugees in other European countries.

Asked how the events of the last three months have affected her students, Alina says she is continually impressed by their resilience.

“One boy was evacuated from Mariupol, a short while ago. Her is not happy, but he is strong. Most of my students are so strong, stronger than us, the adults. They support us, the adults, not the other way around. Ukrainian students are very strong.”

As for Alina, she tries to focus on “positive thoughts”, which isn’t always easy. Currently staying in the Newbury Hotel, which she says is “great”, she hopes to return to Donetsk as soon as possible and be reunited with her husband and parents.

“I want to go back and rejoin them, but I feel so welcome here. Irish people are the best. In my thoughts I am at home here.”