NewsPinellas County


Ukraine students fighting to survive and fighting to learn

Ukraine on map.PNG
Posted at 2:48 PM, Apr 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-13 05:30:19-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Children living in Ukraine aren’t only fighting to survive, they’re also fighting to learn.

Aquinas International Academy teaches close to 500 classes a week in 20 different countries and the majority of those students are from Russia and Ukraine.

Vice Principal Jennifer Williams works out of an office on the second floor of her St. Pete home. She interacts with children, K-12, directly impacted by the war in Ukraine.

“These kids are probably the most resilient kids I’ve ever worked with,” said Williams.

For some of these students, they don’t even know if this will be their last lesson, like Olha, who lives on the border of Ukraine and Poland.

“Their mother came up and grabbed the laptop and said 'we have to go downstairs, the air raid sirens have started,' and so the mom takes the laptop downstairs and the little girl sits down and they just resume having classes,” said Williams.

While their governments are in tremendous conflict, students from both Ukraine and Russia are happy to be in the same class.

“They don’t blame each other at all,” said Williams.“The Russian and Ukrainian people consider each other siblings because many of them are.”

Teachers at the academy aren’t hiding the fact that there is a war, they are open to talking about it.

“What is anxiety, what is depression, calming techniques,” said Williams. “It's not acceptable over there to talk about things like that so they started talking to their teachers.”