"We prepare students to engage in the world that is and to help bring about a world that ought to be."

Friends Students Connect With Ukrainian Youth During Ongoing War

History Department Chair Stefan Stawnychy is known to offer insightful lunchtime discussions throughout the year on topics that tie to his Politics and US History curriculum. But his Ukrainian heritage has added a particularly insightful perspective on the ongoing war of Russian aggression. Throughout last semester, Stefan used these sessions to analyze the larger context of the invasion and debunked popular Russian propaganda that sought to place the blame of their involvement on NATO, characterizing Ukraine as a neo-Nazi state.
The series of talks culminated with a virtual discussion Upper and Middle Schoolers held with Ukrainian youth through SpivDiia, an organization that unites volunteer, state, and business initiatives for humanitarian aid and support services to the citizens of Ukraine. Friends students inquired about how their lives have changed since the start of the war, the cultural differences and the nature of the national mobilization efforts. 
One 16-year-old participant from Ukraine stated “It is difficult to understand how it’s possible to live like this.” Though she has been keeping busy volunteering with SpivDiia for several months, appreciative to have met others to help her emotionally. Staying active and helping others has allowed her to “process the emotional trauma of war.” Others spoke about their daily struggles and mental anguish with an air of confidence and assurance beyond their teenage years before having to halt the conversation due to rolling blackouts.
The weight of their words was not lost on students as they questioned how they could continue to help Ukrainian youth from 5,000 miles away. Some had found creative online solutions while others, like Ben ‘23 have created care packages. Additionally, Maya '24 and Aidan '23 have been working alongside Kara Kutner, Director of the Center for Peace, Equity and Justice, to advance intercultural dialogue through the GEBG's Global Student Dialogue series. 
Later in the month as part of the curriculum for Politics, Power, and Citizenship, Stefan showed the entirety of the documentary Winter on Fire, as well as excerpted parts of a documentary titled Freedom or Death to his students. He explains that “both documentaries present a very in-depth view of the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity, around which there is currently a plethora of misinformation and propaganda.”
While stories may get spun up and tossed in the 24 hour news cycle, Stefan has urged the community to “keep this issue in the forefront of our consciousness and seek authentic news and avoid misinformation.” Because of his efforts in partnership with the Center for Peace, Equity and Justice, students have a deeper understanding of the war in Ukraine directly from those they understand the most — their own generation. 
Friends Seminary actively promotes diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism in all its programs and operations, including admissions, financial aid, hiring, and all facets of the educational experience. To form a community which strives to reflect the world’s diversity, we do not discriminate on the basis of race or color, religion, nationality, ethnicity, economic background, physical ability, sex, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation. Friends Seminary is an equal opportunity employer.

222 East 16th Street
New York, NY 10003
P: 212-979-5030
F: 212.979.5034
Friends Seminary — the oldest continuously operated, coeducational school in NYC — serves college-bound day students in Kindergarten-Grade 12.