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UI student starts a Ukrainian Conversation Hour to bring the country closer to home

University of Iowa Center for Language and Culture Learning
Oksana Hirchak is the mastermind behind the University of Iowa's newest club: Ukrainian Conversation Hour. She is from Ukraine and hopes to teach other students about the language and culture. "I just hope that I'll do my best for students and for whoever comes to the club," she said.

A University of Iowa student from western Ukraine is starting a Ukrainian Conversation Hour to help teach about her language and her culture amidst the war in her home country.

Psychology student Oksana Hirchak is from Lviv and she still has family and most of her friends there. Fortunately, they don't live near the capital Kiev or other major cities targeted by Russian troops. She described looking at sensitive content on social media—seeing dead bodies and destruction—as a new reality for her.

She decided to do something about it on a local level. She went to the University’s Center for Language and Culture Learning with the idea to start the Ukrainian Conversation Hour. Hirchak plans to teach students about the language and culture and provide a safe space.

"I'm ready to answer any questions they might have, you know, because it feels like Ukraine is far, it's like really, really far. But...and they might not know a lot about this country. So I want to make it closer to them," she explained.

She said when she had the idea to start this new group, the university immediately said yes—she added she has seen so much support from her school during this time.

Hirchak is able to combine her love of her culture with her love of teaching with the new group. She hopes she can help fellow students benefit from extended knowledge of a place so prevalent in the news.

“I thought it would be nice to have, like, especially right now when people hear a lot about Ukraine. And maybe there will be students who are interested in the Ukrainian language or culture and I want them to have where to come and who to talk to, who could help them," she said.

Hirchak will start with the alphabet, Ukrainian uses the Cyrillic alphabet. She also plans on introducing games to make the Conversation Hour more fun and engaging.

The group will start next Tuesday evening and will take place every Tuesday and Thursday on campus.

Kassidy was a reporter based in Des Moines