< A Taste of Unity
19 March 2024

Editor's note: This story is one of the winning entries from the "Teach Us about Ukraine" writing contest sponsored by VOA Learning English and GoGlobal.

My name is Olha Balukh, and I have been teaching English for 19 years in Vinnytsia, Ukraine.

In a small corner of Lyceum 20, a type of school comprising primary and secondary ones, in Vinnytsia, Ukraine, students, teachers and community members recently gathered as the aroma of food wafted through the air.

FILE - Woman makes a delicious Ukrainian national food, varenyky with raspberry. (Adobe Stock Photo by tan4ikk)
FILE - Woman makes a delicious Ukrainian national food, varenyky with raspberry. (Adobe Stock Photo by tan4ikk)

It was not just a usual school event. It was a celebration of varenyky, the beloved Ukrainian dumplings.

Varenyky is much more than a delicious Ukrainian dish. The food represents the heart and soul of a nation. It is a sign of hospitality, unity, and tradition, making it perfect for a school festival to bring people together.

Every year, schools across Ukraine come alive with the spirit of unity when different festivals are organized. This year, the festival in the Lyceum served several purposes. In addition to bringing the community together, it was organized to provide much-needed assistance to children in need and the brave men and women in the army.

Due to the war a lot of people, especially children, were forced to flee from the eastern parts of the country. They lost their parents and friends, houses and other belongings. So, they need both psychological and financial help.

In a perogy festival, students, parents, and teachers worked to prepare several kinds of foods, including dumplings. The school became a center of culinary creativity, with everyone working together to create the tastiest varenyky. The place of education became a colorful market decorated with pumpkins and snowball trees. Food and dumplings included many fillings, from classic potato and cheese to sweet fruit-filled varieties, salmon, ricotta, herring, and beans.

Beyond food, the perogy festival was also a beacon of hope for those who need it most.

Children, who are often the most vulnerable members of society, received support from this festival. Andriy Nazarenko (grade 5-D) moved to Vinnytsia from Bakhmut. This town is completely destroyed nowadays. He was excited to take part in the event.

"I did not expect to get such support from my new teachers and classmates. I am really touched," said the boy.

Money raised from the festival also went to soldiers who defend the nation and provide equipment and supplies for the Ukrainian military.

Through their involvement in the festival, students learned that they can make a difference in the world, no matter their age.

I'm Andrew Smith.


About the Writer

Olha Balukh lives and teaches in Vinnytsia. She has been teaching for nearly 19 years. She says school is her favorite place, and she adores spending time with her students."I understand that so many challenges are in front of us nowadays. But we must keep up with the times to be modern and interesting teachers for our pupils," says Olha.

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