Tania did a trial day at my school at the end of the first term and started properly after the holidays. On the first day, I translated every single word I heard, but it was pretty exhausting and I started mixing up languages! After the holidays, I only translated things she didn’t understand: she was learning really quickly and sometimes just wanted to figure things out for herself. Our teacher never knew what we were talking about: we could chat in the middle of the teacher’s lecture about stuff we were going to do after school or how boring the lesson was! I felt a bit under pressure by the end of the year because I was translating for a Ukrainian boy, Ilya, too. It was a bit overwhelming, especially as I was trying to finish some school projects, but I pushed through.
All my friends have become Tania’s friends, too. I’ve never felt jealous. I’ve actually made new friends because of her because everyone was curious about her and wanted to come and sit with us. I enjoyed the attention a bit. I don’t know if Tania will go back to Ukraine. I just know that I’d like her to stay so that we can always be friends.
Tania: When I started at the Australian school, it was scary. Then I entered the classroom and all the kids and the teacher said, “Pryvit!” – which is “Hello” in Ukrainian. Nadia taught them how to say it. It was a big surprise and they said it a bit funny, but it made me feel happy and welcome. It wasn’t scary after that.
Before the war, I was living with my grandma and little sister in Medvedivtsi [a village near Ternopil in western Ukraine]. My mama and tato [dad] were already in Australia working for Nadia’s parents: I hadn’t seen them for three years because of the pandemic. They were planning to come home; then the war started.
My parents wanted us to go to Poland to be safer. The drive usually takes an afternoon, but it took us three days because of the traffic and roadblocks. We had to sleep in the car and turn off the engines and lights during the air raids. We were so cold, but people in nearby houses gave us hot tea and food. I had to leave my dog, Lucky, behind. He’s a beagle, only one year old. My babusia [great-grandma] is looking after him. I miss him. Mama and Tato met me at the airport and took me to Bondi Beach and we jumped in the waves. Now I go to the beach with Nadia.
“Nadia helped me at school and everyone else used their hands or Google Translate. I felt left out when Nadia talked to her friends in English and forgot to translate.”
I met her the day after I arrived. I could see straight away that we have a lot in common: we are the same age, both have little sisters, both love to play interesting games and are both kind. We play hide and seek, put on concerts and draw all the time. When we fought about the long-jump game, I got really upset; the stick did move.
I learnt English at school in Ukraine, but it felt strange coming to a place where even little kids speak it. Nadia helped me at school and everyone else used their hands or Google Translate. I felt left out when Nadia talked to her friends in English and forgot to translate.
Once there was a hailstorm and all the kids ran outside and made icy snowballs. I was happy and excited, but it also felt strange because it reminded me of home. We have snowball fights in my village in winter, but not in the middle of class. Nadia has seen snow, but some of the other kids here had never seen it before.
At first, I was just doing Ukrainian school online; they switched all the classes to Zoom because of the war. I still talk to my friend, Sophia, and we play games together on the phone. After I started Australian school, I kept doing Ukrainian school online for a term. It’s lots of fun at school here and I’ve made new friends and learnt new games.
When Nadia is not around, my friends use very simple words so I understand. It would be harder without Nadia, but I think I would be okay. She is kind and cheerful and good fun and I hope we’ll always be friends.
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