In late February 2022, dozens of high school students in the United States logged onto Zoom for a Black History Month workshop. The presenter appeared on screen with a virtual background featuring a picture of civil rights marchers. It wasn’t until Atnre Alleyne began speaking that it became clear this was not a typical Black History Month presentation.
Alleyne was in Ukraine, sitting in a hotel bathroom as his family fled the Russian military.
Journalist Brendan Lowe's story centers on two educators, Alleyne and his wife, Tatiana Poladko. The couple met years ago in the U.S. but moved during the pandemic to her native Ukraine, where they ran their college-access program remotely. On February 24, as bombs fell 20 miles away, they fled with their three young children and Poladko’s 81-year-old father.
Today, Alleyne, Poladko, and their kids share a single bedroom in Warsaw. Over the last three months, the couple hasn’t missed a single workshop with the hundreds of students they support in the U.S. Instead, Alleyne and Poladko have leveraged the crisis as a teachable moment, a chance to bring a faraway conflict home to teenagers and their families and encourage them to advocate for change.
Lowe's story comes as the U.S. looks inward, banning books and limiting lessons on sensitive subjects. Alleyne, Poladko, and their peers are committed to connecting their students to this conflict.