Syosset High School (Photo from Syosset Central School District Facebook page)

Conversations Between American And Ukrainian Teens

By Saanvi Peri

In a recent virtual meeting, I, Saanvi Peri, a 16 year old student from New York, had the opportunity to interview three Ukrainian teenagers living in the Lviv Region amidst the ongoing war. Joining us were Andrii, age 15, Sofia, age 16 and Olesya, age 17. These children have all been displaced from their homes because of the fighting and are now supported by the Ukrainian Foundation for Public Health. Sofia and Olesya have been forced to move from the Eastern part of the country to the West, which is further from the front lines. Andrii is from Lviv, although at first he moved to Poland but has now come back to Ukraine.

Saanvi Peri, a Syosset High School student, who conducted the interview

Through our conversation, we exchanged cultural insights and learned about each other’s lives. Together, me and award-winning freelance UK journalist, Mrs. Gabriella Jozwiak, are raising funds for a minibus to transport children to safer areas in Ukraine. If you would like to contribute to our cause, please find the gofundme link at the end of this article. Thank you Mr. Roman Hrytskiv and Mrs. Gabriella Jozwiak for coordinating this meeting and Mrs. Natalia for being a wonderful translator. Here is a glimpse into our conversation:

Saanvi: What are some of your favorite hobbies or activities that you enjoy in your free time?

Sofia: I enjoy singing and painting. When I take a brush in my hand, I feel as if my emotions come alive on paper. I also love dancing, but since moving to Lviv, I haven’t had time for it due to my current circumstances. I enjoy volunteering and I actually painted a card for the military.

Andrii: I like to spend time with my family and friends. I play football, video games and sometimes watch movies with my family. I also help raise money and food for Ukrainian soldiers, inspired by my PE teacher who is fighting in the war.

Olesya: I’m really fond of photography and won first place in an art competition with a photo called “Loneliness.” I also enjoy playing volleyball, football, long walks and painting. I studied at an art school for about a year and have won several painting contests.

Oleysa’s photo “Loneliness,” which recently won an award

Saanvi: I love singing and dancing. I also enjoy reading, playing badminton, and trying new foods.

Saanvi: What are some of your favorite Ukrainian foods, and do you enjoy cooking or trying new recipes?

Sofia: I can cook simple dishes like rice with meat and dumplings, but I don’t enjoy cooking much because I often break things in the kitchen! My favorite food is okroshka, a chilled vegetable summer soup. But I can’t find the right ingredients here in Lviv. Instead, I make it with mineral water with lemon but the taste, unfortunately, is not the same. My mom is a great cook, and we have a tradition of making a beautifully decorated birthday cake for each family member.

Andrii: My favorite foods are dumplings, borscht – a traditional beetroot soup, cheesecake, and tiramisu. I often help my mother cook and enjoy trying new recipes.

Saanvi: My favorite foods are pizza and tacos. I love trying new restaurants in New York City.

Saanvi: What are some of your favorite subjects in school and why do you enjoy them?

Sofia: I attended art school and loved history, especially the period of the Hetmans in the 17th and 18th Centuries, who were military and political leaders in Ukraine. I also enjoyed learning about the Ukrainian revolts against Soviet repression. I liked imagining historical scenes in my head and how we could learn from our past mistakes. Before the full-scale invasion, I wanted to be a lawyer. Now, I’m considering studying design or architecture at Lviv Polytechnical University.

Andrii: I like biology and history. My favorite historical periods are the 19th century and the Cold War.

Andrii, age 15

Saanvi: My favorite subjects are math, computer science, and writing.

Saanvi: Do you have any favorite books, movies, or TV shows that you would recommend?

Andrii: My favorite book is “Harry Potter.” I also like watching science fiction films, especially those made by Marvel Studios, like Avengers.

Sofia: In general, I don’t like movies very much, but I can name one, probably “Maleficent.” I like the character Maleficent, played by Julia Roberts. I read manga, manhua, and Japanese novels. I also enjoy “My Hero Academia.”

Saanvi: My favorite TV show is “The Office”, and my favorite book is probably “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy.

Saanvi: Are there any cultural traditions or holidays that you like to celebrate?

Andrii: I think I’d like to talk about Christmas. My family and I go to church, then walk in the city center. Before the war, there were fairs with artworks, drinks, and sweets. We also have a traditional folk theater group called Verteb, which sings carols and wishes everyone happiness and welfare. We spend the evening with our family, eating traditional Ukrainian food like borscht and dumplings.

Sofia: I love Christmas because I can sing carols and go to church. I also like Easter and recently painted pictures of chickens on Pysanky, a traditional easter egg, for a competition. I also enjoy Maslenitsa – an old pagan tradition, where we make and burn a doll, symbolizing the end of winter and driving away evil. We have a fun tradition for special occasions like graduations, where we pop a balloon and follow the instructions written inside. Sometimes we get tasks to complete, and other times we get to relax for the day.

Olesya, age 17

Saanvi: I also really like Christmas because I get to see my entire extended family. Halloween is another favorite of mine.

Saanvi: Can you tell me a little bit about your hometown in Ukraine and what you love most about it?

Andrii: I live in Lviv, an old city with beautiful architecture from the Austro-Hungarian and Polish periods. The city center is like a museum, and my favorite building is the opera theater, built in the 20th century.

Sofia: I come from Toretsk, known for its coal mines. Most of them are closed now, but the hills called Terikon remain. The people in Toretsk are very friendly. Unfortunately, the town is now in an area of active hostilities and has been heavily damaged.

Saanvi: Is there anything else you would like to share or any message you want to send to the readers?

Sofia: I want to thank all the military personnel who are protecting us and all the Americans and other countries that support us. We are all Ukrainians with the same values and hopes, and our hope is our victory. Help from Foundations

Sofia: I received a laptop through a competition where I wrote a motivational letter describing my situation. Unfortunately, internally displaced people like myself now receive less assistance from organizations, even though many still need support.

Through this conversation, I gained a deeper understanding of the resilience and passions of Ukrainian youth. Despite the challenges they face, they continue to find joy in their hobbies, excel at their passions, and cherish their cultural traditions. This interview not only highlighted our shared interests but also emphasized the importance of supporting each other in difficult times.

If you would like to contribute to our cause and help us raise funds for a minibus to transport Ukrainian children to safer areas, please consider donating. Your support can make a significant difference in their lives.

GoFundMe link:

Saanvi Peri is a Syosset High School student

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