Sviatohirsk students show off their artwork to Helen Keller Middle School students. Image courtesy of Ukraine Aid International

The students in the seventh grade at Helen Keller Middle School held a video call on Oct. 10 with students in Sviatohirsk, Easton’s sister city in Ukraine. One of the exciting connections that Ukrainian students learned about during the call was that Igor Sikorsky, a countryman who was a pioneer in aircraft design and a developer of the helicopter, spent the latter part of his career in Easton, where he died in 1972.

Ukraine Aid International (UAI) facilitated the 45-minute call, connecting Jennifer Rose’s seventh-grade class with their peers in Sviatohirsk as a learning experience and a way to strengthen the bonds between Easton and Sviatohirsk.

Students asked each other about their schools, hobbies, countries, and the regions they live in. The Ukrainian students promised to learn a bit more about Helen Keller before the next call in November.

Easton-Sviatohirsk virtual call attendees. Contributed photo

Earlier this year, Easton set up a partnership as a sister city with Sviatohirsk. The community has rallied around the residents left in the war-torn town and has raised money to purchase necessary equipment to help residents with food and heat.

In addition to the students, others on the call included First Selectman David Bindelglass. UAI Director of Development Katya Wauchope, Easton-Sviatohirsk Committee members Claire Wilkes and Kelly Higgins, HKMS Principal Dr. Steven Clapp, and Vice Principal Annie Mohr.

UAI President Marshall Mayer said that the video call was invaluable to the students in Ukraine.

Students from Helen Keller Middle School connect with students in Sviatohirsk. Contributed photo

“The importance of feeling connected to the outside world, especially for these students in Sviatohirsk who live daily in the shadow of conflict, cannot be overstated. This virtual meeting with their sister city, Easton, was a beacon of hope, a connection to the global community, and a reminder that they are not forgotten,” said Mayer in a press release.

The intention for the initiative is to promote cultural exchange, build friendship, and provide community support, according to Bindelglass.

“Mayor Rybalkin and I have always wanted the relationship between our towns to be more than just material support. The session between our children was a great example and very touching to be a part of. We hope to be able to grow the personal connection between our children and all of us,” said Bindelglass in a press release.

After the rendition of the Ukrainian national anthem, Easton and Ukrainian students exchanged goodbyes to conclude their video call.

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