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Sarasota man tutoring Ukrainians amid tensions

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Posted at 10:39 PM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-24 07:33:33-05

SARASOTA, Fla — A front-row seat to history.

That's what Jacob Silverman tells ABC Action News that that's what he's getting, every time he logs onto ENGin, the peer-to-peer English learning program he volunteers with.

"The idea is to pair Ukrainians with buddies who speak native English," he said.

And the stories he hears, while tutoring, are chilling.

Like this one from a student in Kyiv:

"Any day they could be invaded and she doesn't know where she's going to go, but at the same time she's applying for jobs and figuring out 'Oh maybe I'll go to carnival in a week when it opens,'" Silverman said.

And there are others.

"Another of my students, they've told me that they're both looking for a house but they're also looking for possible bomb shelters that are near them," Silverman said.

It's a life of uncertainty that u-s-f professor Dr. Tatsiana Kulakevich says will continue as long as Russia keeps pushing troops into Ukrainian territories. Though she says she doesn't believe we'll see any retaliation from Ukraine right now, because the territories Russia is currently occupying, support Russia.

"That's why there hasn't been much response from the Ukraine, because Russia has been controlling those territories," she said.

To help curb this crisis, Dr. Kulakevich says the U.S. needs stronger economic sanctions than the ones announced this week.

"Some of the sanctions were against the banking system of Russia, but the banks that were specified were not the major banks," she said.

And in the meantime, Silverman says he'll keep logging in from Sarasota to teach and offer support.

"In the past, we would like one three-hour meeting a week, and this past week we've been doing like three-hour meetings every single day," he said.