“Free Courses of Ukrainian” / Програма про «Безкоштовні курси української мови»

This issue of “UNconditional” will tell about an extremely original and useful project – “Free Courses of Ukrainian”. Olena Olshanska, its leader and organizer in Zaporizhzhia, will share with our audience the details of this extraordinary all-Ukrainian volunteer initiative and its outstanding participants.

У цьому випуску проекту «Неумовно» йдеться про надзвичайно оригінальний і корисний проект – «Безкоштовні курси української мови». Його запорізька організаторка й керівниця Олена Ольшанська поділиться зі слухачами подробицями про цю непересічну всеукраїнську волонтерську ініціативу та її непересічних учасників.

Free Courses of Ukrainian

To think to speak their mother tongue is the natural right of any person of any country in the world. This statement seems difficult to disagree with, but the real life in a real country with a difficult history and dramatic modernity proves its axiomatic character. History has it that … This is how they often explain the rise of sometimes weird and paradoxical things and phenomena of our lives. These words can also be used to describe the history of Zaporizhzhia as a Russian speaking region with a low demand for Ukrainian despite the fact that it is the official language and is the mother tongue for the majority of the region citizens.

I am very much troubled that people stubbornly consider Zaporizhzhia to be a Russian speaking region. Not so long ago, I came across some information that according to the census during the times when our city was called Oleksandrivsk the majority of people, well, the overwhelming majority of people mentioned Ukrainian as their mother tongue and Russian ranked third, not even second. This is why it is not the problem of self-identification or linguistic self-identification. I think it more of a problem of self-justification “I do not speak Ukrainian because everybody around does not”, said Olena Olshanska, the coordinator of the project “Free Courses of Ukrainian in Zaporizhzhia”. She is also a linguist by profession, poetess, and the pioneer of literary and arts events such as “Literary Wednesday”, “Literary Underground”, “Literary Club in the Bookstore Yard”.

Olena Olshanska, who works for Zaporizhzhia Regional Library for Youth, is the host of the program “A Lesson of Ukrainian” at the public broadcasting company “Suspilne: Zaporizhzhia”. She sincerely tries to help many Ukrainians to realize their natural right to speak Ukrainian.

It does not depend on the age of the person, their gender, nationality, or walks of life. Nothing matters but the desire to learn Ukrainian, to find like-minded people, companions, those who speak the same language …

This can be viewed as the general basis for the “Free Courses of Ukrainian” – an all-Ukrainian volunteer initiative. It was launched in late 2013 and is not going to wind down as nowadays, according to the network, the project has been realized in 31 towns and cities. About 1500 people from 67 places from all over Ukraine annually apply for the courses of Ukrainian. Every year 20 cities open the doors for those who want to master Ukrainian. Then the classes begin. Zaporizhzhia belongs to these 20 cities. Since January 2014, local students have been attending “Free Courses of Ukrainian”.

We have students of different ages. So far, our youngest student is 8, if I am not mistaken, and the oldest ones are about 75. Our peculiarity is that whole families attend our classes, for example, a mother, father and son, or, a mother, daughter, grandmother, and godmother. Thus, there are many people here, they are all different, but they are united by one common aim – to improve their Ukrainian and find like-minded people.”

In our country, these are the first free courses of Ukrainian for everyone interested, organized on a voluntary basis. In their work the teachers use advanced teaching methods as well as different game formats. Non-standard approaches to language teaching are not a tribute to fashion, but judging from the situation, the natural need for the extraordinary teaching volunteers.

The teachers are professional linguists with a university degree, though not all of them now teach in their main jobs, but each and every of them is an extraordinary personality. One of our teachers is Natalia Ignatieva who is well-known theater historian in Zaporizhzhia. She is both a linguist and a theater historian as she has two degrees. Consequently, she can deliver to the students a rich cultural aspect of Ukrainian literature which is very interesting. Oksana Gladii also teaches here, but she works for a radio station. She is a professional journalist and can also add some highlights when teaching our students as she knows much about the region and the interesting people of our city. We also have a school teacher – Olha Pavlik – who teaches Ukrainian in “Elint” school. All these people are very different, but their firm knowledge of Ukrainian and the great desire to share it unite them”. The unconditional approach of Olena Olshanska and her companions’ was warmly met by many citizens of Zaporizhzhia. Many of them, even after receiving their certificates, regularly meet with the people they share their language with, for example, in the “Club of the Ukrainian Language”. It works in summer in Zaporizhzhia Regional Library for Youth. This autumn, the “Free Courses of Ukrainian in Zaporizhzhia” will open for new students. It seems natural to add here “History has it that …

The program was prepared by Yelizaveta Kryvytska, Pavlo Miroshnichenko, and Rostyslav Diagelev. The text was read by Pavlo Miroshnichenko.

“UNconditional” Project, supported by the US Embassy in Ukraine.