What's the toughest thing you can do to a Ukrainian student sitting an important English oral exam?  How about bringing in the British ambassador to watch your conversational efforts, together with the head of the training institute and a photographer?  That's what happens when I visit the Kharkiv Aviation University and am shown round the 4th Year English exams by the head of the University, Lieutenant General Tkachenko.

Kharkiv is famous both for its manufacturing and for its educational institutions.  There's plenty of human capital on display.  During the second part of my stay in the city I meet graduates of the John Smith Fellowships and Chevening programmes who have studied in the UK and returned to Ukraine.  Over lunch, two leading local journalists debate vigorously the state of press freedoms in the country.  I meet workers at the modern factory of a British tea company on the outskirts of the city, currently processing 6-8 tonnes of tea a day into tea-bags and loose-leaf tea for the Ukrainian market.  At the Aviation University I meet teachers who are continuing the invaluable English language training started by the UK's Peacekeeping English Project.  I visit the new Senior NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) School, where a new body of sergeants is being trained as part of British-supported efforts to help transform the Ukrainian Army into a modern fighting force.  And, on a sweltering June afternoon, I meet the Ukrainian Rugby League team who are playing the BARLA Under 23 team.

Actually the cadets doing their English exams cope well with their unannounced visitors, keeping their cool as their examiners pose questions.  Perhaps this kind of stress is nothing compared with active duty.  As for the rugby players, both sides put up a terrific display.  I've seen Ukrainian rugby players before and have been impressed by their physique and determination.  I look forward to Ukraine joining the ranks of the top rugby-playing nations.

Leigh Turner
British Ambassador to Ukraine

NOTE:  You can read all of Ambassador Turner's blogs by visiting:

Ukrayinska Dumka


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