Interview with Sabra Ayres, March 28, 2023
Project: Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project
Interview SummarySabra Ayres served as a Peace Corps volunteer Ukraine from 1995-1997, teaching English as a foreign language to secondary school students in Kaniv, Cherkassy. Sabra, now an award-winning journalist covering Ukraine and Russia, initially joined Peace Corps with only an open mind and sense of adventure in hopes of learning a new language and more about herself. She recalls the dismal landscape upon her arrive in Kyiv, how Ukrainian language training presented challenges to many in her cohort who were placed in Russian-speaking regions and how the technical training she received did not prepare her for her teaching role at site. Sabra also discusses the economic hardship of a post-Soviet Ukraine where her fellow teachers were paid in potatoes and her Ukrainian friends remained ambivalent even when the “hrivnya”, Ukraine’s new currency, was introduced. Sabra talks about how much the country has evolved economically, socially, and politically since her service and that the one thing which remains the same is the resolve of the Ukrainian people, even in the face of Russia’s aggression today.
Interview KeywordTEFL Kaniv, Cherkassy Taras Shevchenko Richmond, Virginia Journalist Europe wanderlust application process Peace Corps diplomatic service University of Vermont ski bum Continental Airlines open flight ticket backpacking Peace Corps Poland Gdynia, Poland Russia Bachelors of Science (BSc) in Consumer Economics Soviet Union Bill Clinton Budapest Memorandum sovereignty of Ukraine nuclear arms US foreign aid soft diplomacy packing list Lutsk training coordinator Kreschatik Street Kiev Kyiv Metro Ukrainian Diaspora expat community US Embassy Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) karbovanets (coupons) Ukrainian Hryvnia teacher salary paychecks potatoes Baptists Bible Camps Training Center host families Ukrainian Russian Russia Carpathians Kerch Krivi Riig Kerch, Crimea Crimean Tartars Ukrainian Schools Russian Schools surzhyk technical training three goals of Peace Corps krichevsky style buildings hydrofoil to Kyiv apricot trees vitamins phones LAN lines post office Mayor’s office mail Meest international shipping courier Ramen Noodles bush legs telegrams individuality Russian chauvinism Orange Revolution Moscow Kyiv Post Yalta annexation of Crimea close of service (COS)
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Interview UsageInterviews may only be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Interviews may only be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.
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Ayres, Sabra Interview by Urvi Mehta. 28 Mar. 2023. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Ayres, S. (2023, March 28). Interview by U. Mehta. Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.
Ayres, Sabra, interview by Urvi Mehta. March 28, 2023, Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
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