Granted the Lorant Fellowship for Most Earnest Endeavor, Amina Hurd ’23 spent two weeks of her summer at the Polish-Ukrainian border, preparing and serving freshly cooked foods to the many Ukranians fleeing war and violence. Hurd took that stage at All-School Meeting on November 4 to speak about her experience at the border in August.
The Lorant Fellowship is an award presented annually to the Andover student who has exhibited the “greatest desire to succeed,” which includes funding for their service trip of choice to Africa, Europe, or the Near East. Along with Hurd, Semira Robinson ’23 and Amelia Vinton ’23 were awarded medals as finalists for the fellowship.
Motivated by the burgeoning humanitarian crisis following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Hurd applied her culinary interests and linguistic studies to her proposal. As a volunteer for the organization Fundacja Wolne Miejsce, she provided coffee, soups, and tea to people crossing the Poland-Ukraine border of Medyka every day. Candy and other snacks were also available for children.
“Those of you who know me on this campus know I love to cook and bake, so I returned to those interests while I was thinking about the Lorant Fellowship…. I knew there was a way that I could use my skills for good and for the benefit of others out of my immediate circle. In addition, I’m learning Russian here at Andover, and since the Lorant is specifically for travel abroad, I knew I wanted to use my language skills. Given my two passions [and] the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, the choice seemed almost obvious,” said Hurd in her presentation at ASM.
Hurd learned several daily Ukrainian phrases to communicate with others. She described her conflicted emotions when speaking Russian at the border, given the context of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
“I felt really bad about only having Russian as my medium for communication, because a lot of people from Eastern Ukraine know both Russian and Ukrainian by force…I witnessed a lot of people [begin to] order coffee or soup in Russian and then quickly change to Ukrainian, as if there was a shame attached to it. I wished that I could communicate in Ukrainian… But again, education requires taking steps to learn. And in this case, [I was] learning a different language,” said Hurd in an interview with The Phillipian.
Viktoria Georgieva ’23 was moved by Hurd’s presentation. As a student from Eastern Europe, she felt a connection to Hurd’s presentation, and similarly hopes that conversations about the Russia-Ukraine war will be revived on campus.
“I was very emotional throughout the whole speech. At the end, I actually started crying because of how important and how pressing all of these issues [are]. From an American standpoint, it’s very easy to neglect [the war], but I’m from Bulgaria, I live in Eastern Europe, and it’s very close to home. So it’s very impactful to hear people acknowledging it… I feel like other people that I’ve talked to [on campus] have also started to forget about it. I’ve been noticing that in American media, they don’t really [report on the conflict] as much. I think for them it has lost that market value… It looks like people have stopped caring,” said Georgieva.
Hurd emphasized the importance of spreading awareness and being well-informed on the conflict. She recognized a global responsibility to fight misinformation.
“As a student studying the Russian language and as a citizen of this world, I felt, and I still feel, as if it is my responsibility to learn and to keep myself informed on the emergent conflict… It is all of our responsibilities to stay informed about the ongoing invasion. Education is power, and making the active choice to stay knowledgeable about what is happening in Ukraine from trusted sources means that you are taking an active stance against the prevalence of misinformation,” said Hurd.
Ashiq Kibria ’26 agreed with Hurd’s emphasis on reading the news. According to Kibria, Hurd’s talk evoked his interest in learning more about the Russia-Ukraine war and inspired him to conduct further research into the subject.
“It is important to acknowledge [the war], especially because Amina talked about fake news and how crucial it is to spread the message that the war is still going on. Just because American news lines don’t promote [them], it doesn’t mean that a ton of tragedies aren’t currently happening… I’m planning to research the topic later on, so I can understand it better,” said Kibria.
Hurd hopes students will be inspired to channel their interests and abilities to help others. She encouraged every student to use the opportunities offered to them for productive and positive causes.
“I want people to take away that there is a way to use their passions and skills to positively impact others. It doesn’t always mean flying to another country, it can mean doing a community engagement program here on campus, or doing something back at home. Everyone is good at something, and everyone has the capability to use their skills for good,” said Hurd.