Sudbury teacher Mike Mazzuchin has taught all around the world, but as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine wages on, he’s set his sights on a new destination: Poland.
Since the war began in February, more than 5 million people have crossed over the Polish border from Ukraine, and nearly 1.3 million individuals have registered as refugees, according to the UN Refugee Agency,
Many of those refugees are children.
“They’ve lost everything; their homes, their culture,” said Mazzuchin. “I want to instill some more positives back into their lives.”
On Aug. 17, Mazzuchin will depart Canada and fly across the Pacific Ocean to Poland, where he will spend the next year teaching a class of fourth grade students at the American School of Wroclaw.
Established in 2011, the school offers the Polish National Education Program for students from kindergarten to eighth grade, with an emphasis on both Polish and English languages.
Among Mazzuchin’s 20 or so students from Poland and around the world, will be a handful of young refugees, who were forced to flee their homes in Ukraine.
“The Polish people, they’re taking in so many Ukrainian refugees,” said Mazzuchin. “You can see the closeness of the relationship between Poland and the Ukraine.”
Over the years, he’s traveled to 23 countries around the world and has taught extensively overseas in places like South Korea, China, and Mexico.
Like many Canadians, Mazzuchin said he was deeply affected by Russia’s attack on Ukraine. In the last few months, he said he was motivated to find a way he could help out directly, a teaching was the obvious answer.
“I really got to develop a very deep respect for other traditions, cultures, and idiosyncrasies,” he said.
This will not be his first experience with students displaced from their home countries. Four year ago, he taught in the Dominican Republic, where he had several students in his class who were refugees from Venezula when the country was in political turmoil.
It’s an experience he’ll be bringing to his work in Poland.
“You have to be open-minded and you have to be flexible,” he said. “You need a lot of compassion and a lot of respect for what these kids are going through, especially the Ukrainian kids. You have to be patient with them. You have to understand that they’re traumatized. That’s the bottom line: they’re traumatized.”
For Mazzuchin, opening up about his reasons for going to Poland to teach is not about putting the focus on himself; it’s about keeping the spotlight on what’s going on in Ukraine, and making sure nobody in Canada forgets.
“I really care about these kids, and when I see what’s going on with the conflict over there, it’s just not right,” he said. “I just want to serve the community.”
He added that he sees the attack on Ukraine as part of a larger global trend, one that deserves sustained attention.
“Democracy is under attack,” he said. “That’s what motivates me to try to help and do my part to try to ease the suffering. I just don’t want the community to lose sight.”
The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.
Mia Jensen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star