Final-year student from Mariupol aims to graduate Latvian school

The examination session for high schoolers is coming to a close. Among them are some students who came from Ukraine last year or this year. LSM's Latvian-language service spoke to Ukrainian Yaroslav, who is residing in Daugavpils and about to graduate high school there.

Yaroslav Zinchenko has been living in Daugavpils for over a year. At the time of the interview, he has already taken the centralized exams in mathematics, sociology, and the written part of Latvian language exam. "The mathematics exam was translated into Ukrainian so I think I've definitely managed the minimum percentage – 15%. I've never had issues with maths," said Yaroslav.

For the sociology exam, he had the option to use an auto-translator, whereas for the Latvian language exam, he had more time.  The Cabinet regulations on the centralized exam process state that Ukrainian students get support during examinations, including extended time and translation options. Ukrainians can also refuse to take the exams but then they must repeat the year if they plan on staying.

Daugavpils State City High School principal Ilmārs Zučiks told LSM that Yaroslav is the only Ukrainian in the final year but several are in year 9, the stage before high school where exams are also passed.

When LSM spoke to Yaroslav, he still had his English exam and the oral part of Latvian exam ahead. "I think I'll manage English somehow but I have great doubts and worries about Latvian. I don't know how it'll be," he said. Before the war, he studied at the Mariupol Marine Lyceum (Маріупольський морський ліцей), where English was taught at a lower level than here. Learning Latvian is also not easy.

Yaroslav thinks his Latvian is not that good, but he has studied hard. "Last summer I went to A1-level courses, which I completed. This spring I went to A2 level. At school, I had special Latvian-language lessons for Ukrainians. I think I have basic knowledge but are they enough to pass the exam – I'm not sure."

He added that he is embarrassed to speak Latvian. "It's easier for me to write than talk. I am sometimes very embarrassed to speak Latvian to teachers because you know they hear all your mistakes and mispronunciation. I think I look stupid," said Yaroslav.

The principal Zučiks said that Ukrainian children have different levels of Latvian language but the teachers try to provide support. Still, all subjects are acquired in Latvian. "It's probably too little to learn Latvian fluently and freely or even study in Latvian, since there is no translation during lessons or it is minimal," said Zučiks.

Yaroslav said that the environment in Daugavpils hampers his opportunities to learn Latvian, since he usually speaks Russian to his peers, except one with whom communication in Latvian is deliberate.

"He finds it difficult to communicate in Russian. We arranged that we would speak Latvian so that I could improve my skill. I only have one acquaintance like that, with the rest of my friends in Daugavpils I speak Russian," said the student.

The principal agreed that Latvian usually is heard only during classes; at breaktime, students speak how they wish, usually Russian. 

Yaroslav is unclear about his future plans but he would like to stay in Latvia.  He added he would like to study at the Latvian Maritime Academy. "As far as I remember I have always wanted to work at sea. I used to study at the Mariupol Maritime Lyceum. The war began and I didn't manage to finish year 2. It is still my unfulfilled dream which I don't want to leave behind."

To enroll in the Maritime Academy, centralized exam results matter. Yaroslav is most worried about the exam results in Latvian. He is attracted to Rīga as a city and as an opportunity hub. "If I realize I have education opportunities in Latvia I'd really like to stay. I think it would be cool," he said. 

According to the Education and Science Ministry data, nine Ukrainians will finish the final year of school this summer and 198 will finish year 9.




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