Anhelina and Caroline

Anhelina spent the summer with teacher Caroline. After losing her father, the teenager enjoyed a month of laughter and learning English.

Two years ago Anhelina was a regular teenager, living in Kyiv with her parents and younger brother. Her father was a high flying pilot in the Ukrainian military and Anhelina had dreams of following in his footsteps and taking to the skies herself. 

But everything changed as Russian troops invaded Ukraine. In March 2022, just weeks after the war broke out, Anhelina’s father Oleksiy was killed in combat when his plane was shot down during an airstrike.

Over the last year, Anhelina and her family have been forced not only to adapt to life in a war zone but figure out a new normal without their much loved father and husband. In that time, they’ve been supported by Children of Heroes, a Ukrainian non-profit helping over 6,000 children who have lost one or both parents during the war. 

In August 2023, BHSU teamed up with Children of Heroes to offer seven Ukrainian children the chance to spend a summer away from the harsh realities of war and take part in educational programmes across the UK. 

Anhelina was offered a place on a homestay programme run by Living Learning English where she spent a month living with a British family, immersed in a new language and culture.

Caroline and her husband were Anhelina’s hosts where she was joined by other students from Spain and France. Former IT teacher Caroline has been welcoming students into her home as part of the Living Learning English programmes since 2020.

A shy start

Anhelina was incredibly shy when she arrived. “She was just a shadow really”, as Caroline puts it. 

Caroline gave Anhelina time to get used to this new environment, safe in the knowledge that this was a place where she could relax without the ever-present threat of drones and missiles that have become part of the nightscape in Ukraine. 

A big helping hand was Sandra, a Spanish student who was also staying with Caroline. The two became fast friends and Anhelina began to grow in confidence and come out of her shell.

Exploring the UK

Daily English lessons taught by Caroline were combined with down time enjoying life in the UK. As part of the Living Learning English programme, students are encouraged to head out and about in their local area, exploring nearby shops or tourist spots. Caroline also organised day trips around the south of England. A big highlight was a trip to London where they took in all the sights, visiting Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square and Big Ben.

Week by week, Caroline watched Anhelina become more comfortable speaking English and able to joke around with the family and other students. 

It was clear for others to see as well. Calling home, her mum was able to see the difference in Anhelina. For Caroline, it was all the reward she needed: “The most wonderful thing for me was when she said I’ve just spoken to my mum and she said I’m happier than she’s seen me for a very long time.”

A special gift

Anhelina’s father was highly respected within the Ukrainian Army and awarded a Gold Star medal for his service. One of his accolades was being one of just four pilots featured on a set of stamps celebrating Ukrainian pilots.

During her stay, Anhelina shared pictures of the stamps with Caroline but didn’t have the originals. Caroline thought she should have the real thing: “Well, one of my superpowers is Google. I don’t know why but I can normally find things other people can’t.”

Sure enough, Caroline managed to track down original copies of the stamps, finding them on sale in Lithuania. “They arrived a couple of days before she went home and there was absolute delight on her face when I gave them to her.”

A step towards her dream of becoming a pilot

For Anhelina, the chance to improve her English was not just about time away from war torn Ukraine. It was also one step closer to her dream of becoming a pilot; something that has not changed since her father’s death. 

Pilots in Ukraine need to speak English to a high level and there’s no better way to learn a language than to be completely immersed in it. In the space of weeks, Caroline saw Anhelina go from being unsure how to respond to laughing across the dinner table and “by the time she left, she was teasing my husband, bantering across the table. She was just much more outgoing.”

Anhelina was worried about the challenges of her last year of secondary school. But since returning home she’s been in touch to say that things are going well at school. Caroline is sure “that’s partly because of everything she achieved while she was here.”

A huge thank you from the team at BHSU to Caroline for opening her home to Anhelina this summer. 

Anhelina’s mum, Natalia, can’t believe the impact it has had on her daughter and her words are testament to the benefit of Summer School programmes: “To say that my child is happy is simply not enough! It is difficult to express in words – she shines like a bright star in the sky!!! 60 hours of English and two people who were giving her so much. And how much effort was put into organising this wonderful journey to England itself, where we Ukrainians are respected and loved. Thank you very much!”