- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 16, 2022

People around the world want Ukrainian refugees to know they are not alone — and a U.S.-based language learning app is helping share their messages.

More than 5,200 letters from 115 countries, written in 84 languages, have already been translated for display on digital billboards in three Eastern European nations where Ukrainians have fled since Russia attacked their country on Feb. 24.

“Loves! We are with you in this difficult situation and we hope that although our common past was difficult, we can now overcome evil with good and love,” writes Iza from Lodz, Poland, in one letter. “We strongly believe that you will live in a free country!”

An unsigned letter from Dimona, Israel, says: “I want you to know that we stand with you and understand you, we too have gone through difficult wars and remained strong and so should you. You’ll get through it.”

More than 3 million Ukrainians have fled their country, according to the United Nations.

The Ukraine-born CEO of the language learning app Preply, which has an office in Kyiv, is driving the project. Kirill Bigai said he launched the campaign because the company he co-founded in 2012 is well-positioned to collect and translate the letters.

Preply employs 430 language tutors and other workers in 150 countries.

“I’m calling on everybody reading this, who shares this value, who feels sadness and madness at the horrific impact on human life, to support Ukraine in any possible way,” Mr. Bigai told The Washington Times in a statement.

Preply, headquartered in Brookline, Massachusetts, maintains an office in Barcelona as well as in the besieged capital of Ukraine.

The company said it started gathering the letters by sharing a web link with its tutors and learners. It then posted the link on social media.

Launched Monday, Preply’s interactive online map allows anyone to submit a letter in any language for translation.

The website then shows each letter in the original language, Ukrainian and English. It pinpoints the city of the writer, name optional, on a global map.

“What is happening to you is terrible and unfair,” states an unsigned letter from New York City. “The world cares about you and is all on your side. Stay strong and keep on fighting!”

In a letter from Kabul, Afghanistan, translated out of Persian, a man named Hussain writes: “As an Afghan, these days I feel the suffering people of Ukraine with all my being. Afghanistan’s government collapsed six months ago, we were in a crisis and no one knew what would happen tomorrow. The pain of the Ukrainian people is understandable. My heart aches for them.”

Preply’s goal is to send 100,000 letters to Ukrainian refugees through the website and billboards.

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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