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Georgia students surprise their Ukranian custodian, line school halls with drawings and messages of hope

Lana Gazhenko has been the custodian at Oak Hill Elementary school since its inception in 2001 and is loved by students and staff.

Georgia students surprise their Ukranian custodian, line school halls with drawings and messages of hope
Image source: GoFundMe

A huge Ukrainian banner adorned the walls of the school hall and it read: "We love you, Mrs. Lana." Ukrainian-born Lana Gazhenko has been teaching at Oak Hill Elementary school in Covington, Georgia, for more than 20 years but she has never been this emotional walking into school until now. Gazhenko has been distressed ever since learning of Russia's attack on her home country. She has more than 30 relatives back home in Ukraine, so naturally, she was riddled with anxiety. Following the attack on Ukraine, students and teachers at Oak Hill Elementary school wanted to show their support for "Mrs. Lana," as she's known, and put up drawings, sunflowers (Ukraine's national flower) and notes of love and support in the halls of the school. She got emotional seeing all the artwork and sunflowers on the walls. "I cannot talk. Just speechless and I start crying," she said, reported Newsweek.


The video of her reaction has gone viral. Jennifer McDonald, a third-grade teacher at Oak Hill, said Gazhenko has always been a key part of the community. "We supported her as she studied to become a U.S. citizen," said McDonald. Gazhenko considers Oak Hill her second family and is loved by students and staff at the school. She has been in touch with nearly 30 of her relatives who are stuck in Ukraine and follows the news closely. "She said that everyone takes everyone in because they said that today the others need help and tomorrow it could be them needing help. So, they are really helping each other," said McDonald.


As soon as staff and students learned that Gazhenko was anxious about her family back home, they decided to show support for her. Students drew pictures to support their beloved Mrs. Lana and painted sunflowers, which have become a symbol of Ukraine and one of hope. Teachers stayed back to decorate the school with the students' drawings. When Gazhenko walked in the next morning, she saw the drawings and pictures of sunflowers along the walls of the halls. She could be seen getting emotional on seeing the decorations.

Mrs. Lana/GoFundMe


The show of support from staff and students at Oak Hill represents a large part of America as well. While a majority of refugees are moving to Europe, many other countries including America are opening their doors to welcome Ukrainian refugees. The White House announced that the U.S. will accept 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and others fleeing Russia's invasion. America is also committed to providing more than $1 billion in new humanitarian aid. The fund will be used to pay for food, shelter, clean water, medical supplies and other forms of assistance.


Russia is resorting to more aggressive action while Ukraine has announced it will not concede to any of Russia's demands. America will reassess how long it can continue to arm Ukraine in the face of such aggression, reported CNN. When asked if the U.S. announcement of $800 million in military aid to bolster Ukraine's forces in the Donbas would be enough, Ukraine President Zelenskyy replied, "Of course, we need more. There will never be enough. Enough isn't possible." He added, "There is a full-scale war ongoing today, so we still need a lot more than what we have today ... We do not have technical advantages over our enemy. We're just not on the same level there."


Zelenskyy is urging intervention from other countries. “This is not a movie. This is real life,” he said during an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” reported Politico. He said Ukraine was fighting for the right to live. "We’ve shown we are not afraid. We are defending the ability of a person to live in the modern world,” he said. “We are defending the right to live. I never thought this right was so costly. These are human values. So that Russia doesn’t choose what we should do and how I’m exercising my rights. That right was given to me by God and my parents.” A total of 4.9 million refugees have fled Ukraine in the wake of the war with 2.7 million fleeing to Poland, according to UNHCR.

Jennifer McDonald has started a GoFundMe to help raise money for Ukrainian families in need.

Russia's attack on Ukraine is a developing story, and we’ll update as we learn more. Information is swiftly changing and Upworthy is committed to providing the most recent and verified updates in our articles and reportage. However, considering the frequency of developments, some of the information/data in this article may have changed since the time of publication.

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