A very poignant bracelet moment in Kyiv

Last Saturday (11th June), during the Grade Conference, Lessons for the Future, Anne Robinson had a very emotional moment, and so did Yulia Chorna and Maryna Gordienko. When Yulia and Maryna were introducing Anne at the start of her session, they talked about their bracelet making experience back on March 14th.

Anne, Yulia and Maryna, Lessons for the Future

We asked Yulia to write about their ‘bracelet moment’ back in March to share it here.

Anne Robinson and I met each other on Facebook at the beginning of February. I invited Ms. Anne to take part in our conference that was supposed to take place in May. You know what happened in a couple of weeks.
Every Ukrainian (as well as many other people) will remember the early morning of 24 February.

I remember each and every detail of that morning. I had moved to Kyiv a couple of weeks before it all started, and I had so many plans and ambitions.

I think many Ukrainians had experienced the same things.

It was before dawn, so it was still dark. I had been sleeping tight in my bed, in my apartment, in the downtown of Kyiv, and suddenly I heard a couple of very loud explosions. I thought it was just a dream, so I rolled over, wrapped myself with a blanket, closed my eyes, and tried to fall asleep. But in a few minutes the explosions repeated. I still was not able to believe what I heard, so I checked my social networks, but there was nothing. And I posted on Facebook asking if anyone else heard anything. A couple of our colleagues from Kyiv confirmed the explosions. 20 minutes later I read the news that Russia attacked Ukraine.

I spent the whole day listening to sirens, staring out of the window, watching people running with their suitcases and bags, holding children, cats, dogs…
I started panicking in the afternoon when I realized I was alone, and I was not able to leave.
Then I received a message from Oleksii Zinchenko, our CEO, and Maryna Gordienko, our COO, saying it was time to join them. I picked up my backpack with my laptop and my documents, and that’s how our story began. 30 minutes later I was at their place with other Grade people who were left alone in Kyiv.

We spent days and nights in the underground parking lot. There were 10 of us at the beginning. It was very cold and dark. The sirens were so often that we did not distinguish between the day and the night, the real world and the bad dream at some point.
Of course, we were frightened, but we never wanted to run away. We were at home. Kyiv is our city, Ukraine is our land, so why did we have to leave?
We made a decision to stay no matter what.
We were receiving messages from our families, friends, acquaintances…. and our students, their parents, our trainees. First, they were saying words of support. Then, they were asking us to do at least something … to distract them from war. The more messages we received, the stronger our desire to return to normal life was. So we contacted all our teachers and teacher trainers to ask if they were ready. We are now joking that Covid 19 was just a rehearsal, because it took us less than two weeks to relaunch everything: 116 groups and all teacher training courses, including TKT prep, DELTA Module 1 prep, and part-time CELTA that started in February. 
We were working 24/7, texting, calling our students, planning, writing articles, posts, interviewing new teachers…
A lot of work had been done. On 14th March we got on track.

I got messages from Ms. Anne almost every day, saying that she was watching the news, praying for us, and encouraging us. One day she told me about her new project, the idea of which came from a bracelet she had bought in Independence Square on her last visit to Kyiv, Ukraine. She was so enthusiastic that in a few days all our team was in.

However, we had a problem. All shops in Kyiv were closed at that time because of shellings, and the danger which came from Russian sabotage teams. Only a few supermarkets work a few hours a day due to the curfew. It was hardly possible to buy food. So finding stripes was out of the question. One day we walked to the supermarket which was nearly 2 km away from our shelter, and we tried to find at least something that we could use for making bracelets. The only things that we found were shoelaces. And we grabbed all the yellow and blue shoe laces that were available at the store.

Ms. Anne, I want to thank you. I will never forget 14th March. It was the first time when I, Maryna, and two our colleagues who were staying with us in a bomb shelter had a few hours together that we spent not thinking about the war. We were making ‘bracelets for peace’.

Your project has grown into an international one. You have united educators around the world. And we are very proud to be a part of it.

Grade’s braclets

Yulia Chorna, Marketing Specialist

Grade Education Centre, Kyiv, Ukraine

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