Dispatch From Abroad: “Polish Alaska”

By William Schreiber

“Polish Alaska” – that’s how Janusz Krajnik describes the region of Bieszczady to me.  Janusz, like many others of his generation, studied Russian and not English in school, but even I am hard-pressed to think of a better description. Bieszczady is a wild paradise with mountainous terrain, packs of bison and wolves, log cabins and even natural oil. During the winter it even looks like Alaska.

Janusz is the directior of the Jan Pawel II Gymnasium in Tarnawa Dolna. For four weeks I’m teaching English classes to 60-some students in this village. Equipped with one semester of Polish classes and a crash course in international affairs courtesy of the Elliott School, I’m standing in front of a classroom on Poland’s border with Slovakia and Ukraine, an area that just a few years ago was at the center of the history I’m studying at GW today. Although I can’t attest to the amount of English my students have picked up in four short weeks, I have certainly learned a lot by teaching and living in the beautiful homes, fields, and mountains of the Polish Alaska.

William is a sophomore in the Elliott School of International Affairs, majoring in International Affairs and concentrating in Europe and Eurasian Studies. In the summer of 2009, he taught students in Poland through Learning Enterprises and has also taught in D.C. with the AnBryce Institute.

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