App connects Ukrainian refugees to global messages of unity and hope

People around the world want Ukrainian refugees to know they’re not alone – and a US-based language learning app is helping to 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 countries where Ukrainians have fled since Russia attacked their country on February 24.

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

An unsigned letter from Dimona, Israel, reads: “I want you to know that we stand by you and understand you, we too have been through tough wars and stayed strong and so should you. You will be fine.

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

The Ukrainian-born CEO of Language Learning application Preply, which has an office in Kyiv, is piloting the project. Kirill Bigai said he launched the campaign because the company he co-founded in 2012 is well placed to collect and translate the letters.

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

“I call on everyone who reads this, who shares this value, who feels sadness and madness at the horrific impact on human life, to support Ukraine in any way possible,” said Mr. Bigai to The Washington Times in a statement.

Preply, headquartered in Brookline, Mass., has an office in Barcelona as well as in Ukraine’s beleaguered capital.

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

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

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

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

In a letter from Kabul, Afghanistan, translated from Persian, a man named Hussain writes: “As an Afghan these days I feel with all my being the suffering of the Ukrainian people. The Afghan government collapsed six months ago, we were in 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 notice boards.

About Stuart M. McFarland

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