Teaching in Ukraine: a creative way to help
February 24, 2023
All Knowledge Areas
Chris Kostov, professor of International Relations and Modern History at Schiller International University's Madrid campus, has found his own way to help Ukraine in this time of despair. Here he tells us how teaching helps him build bridges with a community of Ukrainian students.
“I still remember the day of February 24th, 2022. For some reason I couldn't sleep well, so I got up at 6:00 a.m. to get some cold orange juice. My phone was beeping. WhatsApp messages were coming one after the other. Very unusual for this time of the day, so I decided to check. The first one was: "THEY ARE BOMBING US!" I started to read quickly. It was my cousin's wife. They were living in Kyiv at the time. They woke up because of the heavy Russian bombardment early that morning. Fortunately, they managed to escape from the city fast and by the late afternoon, they were already in Lviv - a city in western Ukraine, which is very close to the Polish border. I also got in touch with all my friends and former students around Ukraine, in Kyiv, Zaporizhya, and Kharkiv. Thank God, they were all safe. One of our alumni, Andrii Kobylyatskyy, was already in Bulgaria with his family.
I was really mad and disgusted with this barbaric aggression. I wanted to help Ukraine somehow. I managed to help my friend Mikhail Stanchev to leave Kharkiv with his wife and to get shelter in Bulgaria. I also sent some food and clothes for the Ukrainian army, but I felt that this was not enough. I tried to keep busy by at least countering the outrageous Putinist propaganda in the next few months.
Out of the blue, in September 2022, I found what I really wanted! A job ad by Kyiv National Linguistic University! They were looking for a professor to teach U.S. history online in their American Studies Master's Program. I immediately sent my CV and cover letter.
The Dean, Dr. Maria Shymchyshyn contacted me, and we had a Viber interview. She offered me two classes to teach - Immigration to the U.S. in the fall of 2022 and U.S. history in the winter of 2023. I gladly accepted on one simple condition: no pay. I wanted 50% of my salary to go towards scholarships and 50% for the needs of the Ukrainian Army. Dr. Shymchyshyn gladly accepted my conditions. She also expressed her gratitude to The Global American University, Schiller for offering help to her university.
Thus, since last October, I have been teaching a group of seven wonderful Ukrainian master's students every week for three hours. Regardless of the bombardments, electricity blackouts and the threats to annihilate them, my students come online every week. They participate in class discussions and complete their assignments and final exams on time. I admire the determination of these young people. I am confident that with such brave students, Ukraine has a bright future! I can't wait for the day when the war is over and I can visit Kyiv National Linguistic University and greet all the faculty and students in person on behalf of The Global American University, Schiller. Until then, the most meaningful thing I can do is to help these courageous young Ukrainians to complete their education."