Marco Werman: The tensions in Ukraine are affecting travel to and from the region. That includes student groups that just happen to be planning to visit the country. Let me take you to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan up in Canada where some high schoolers will not be going on a scheduled trip to Ukraine over their upcoming break. Their exchange has been called off because of the crisis. Laurianne Gabruch is a teacher at Bethlehem High School. You've been organizing these trips to Ukraine since 1996, so this has got to be a big disappointment not just for the kids but for you too.
Laurianne Gabruch: It's definitely a big disappointment. Relations that have been fostered over the years and me not being able to see my friends and collaborate with my colleagues there. Not just that but this trip was going to have some differences in it from previous trips and we were quite looking forward to that.
Werman: What was going to be different about this trip?
Gabruch: We were going to be centered closer to Lviv as opposed to the Chechnya, which is the city that we have exchanged with in the past. Lviv is a more a more Ukrainian-speaking area. There was also an excursion into the Carpathian mountains planned, giving the kids some other cultural and linguistic opportunities to use their language and hear some of the other Ukrainian dialects that do exist.
Werman: Sounds like fun. Why was the trip cancelled?
Gabruch: The trip was cancelled because of the volatility and the situation in Ukraine. The school board was taking into consideration our safety of the students and of myself.
Werman: Fear of getting caught up in a revolution - were you already thinking about cancelling the trip before Russian troops went into Crimea?
Gabruch: We were trying to wait it out and see what was going to be happening.
Werman: For you, what's the highlight of these trips? Why do you keep going back?
Gabruch: For me the highlight has to be - I do teach Ukrainian at Bethlehem High School. Our students have an opportunity to study Ukrainian as an additional language. Along with the language, we of course cover some of the history, some of the cultural components of Ukraine and of being Ukrainian. So many times it's the "Ah-ha" moments that the students have when they walk into one of the historic church buildings which we would have talked about and the history goes back a thousand years and they realize that this is where it happened. Or the moments when the students get to a village from where their ancestors come and realize that that's really where their roots are. It is really touching and it is very emotional sometimes, how it does touch the students even the students who do go are very Canadian, very North American but realizing their Ukrainian roots.
Werman: Even though the exchange is not happening now, I assume the Ukrainian are not coming to Saskatoon either?
Gabruch: It's still in negotiation and we're still going to invite and try and have the Ukrainian students come to Saskatoon in probably late August. Hopefully if things settle down in Ukraine a little bit then our group may be able to travel next Easter.
Werman: Are you encouraging your students anyway to just reach out through social media to those Ukrainian students just to find out what is going on?
Gabruch: They're definitely encouraged. What my students do is they do write up a biography and they send it to their partners in Ukraine and some of them have started to Skype, so I do encourage them to keep up with what is going on as well and sharing it with their classmates because it is a world issue. I think it's bigger than just our exchange. They need to spread the word too.
Werman: Definitely. What about you Laurianne? What are some of the things about Ukraine from your friends there?
Gabruch: My friends that are living in western Ukraine - life is, for the most part for them, is going on. They're going to work, the kids are going to school. Of course it's tense and there is a lot of heartache for the losses that were suffered in Kiev in February -
Werman: But as you say, these are people in western Ukraine far from what's happening in Crimea?
Gabruch: That's right but life does go on for them.
Werman: Laurianne Gabruch, thanks very much for speaking with us today.
Gabruch: You're very welcome.