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Soldiers build bridges with Polish students during cultural exchange

By Spc. Hubert Delany | 22ND MOBILE PUBLIC AFFAIRS DETACHMENT | January 29, 2018

ZAGAN, Poland — Soldiers from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, met with elementary school students in Nowa Sol, Poland, Jan. 17 as part of an effort to build upon Polish-U.S. relations.

     Throughout the day, a group of six Soldiers broke into discussion groups, talked about their experiences as service members, answered various questions from the students and listened to presentations on Polish culture. Despite a language barrier, the Soldiers from Fort Riley found ways to encourage laughs and conversation.

      Magda Krol, a teacher at the school who helped organize the event, applauded what she described as the success of the meeting.

      “I only regret that this hadn’t happened sooner,” Krol said. “This was a great experience and I think it should be done more often.”

      After the presentations by the students, the Soldiers exchanged tongue twisters, photos of family members, played a match of volleyball and even taught the Polish students a few dance moves.

     Spc. Daniel Hernandez-Sanchez, a Puerto Rico native and an information technology specialist with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd ABCT, 1st Inf. Div., was one of the Soldiers who engaged with students and believes his time with them made a difference.

      “I feel like we had a once-in-a-lifetime chance with the students,” Hernandez said. “We were able to give them a glimpse of what we do and what our culture looks like.”

     The Soldiers came to the cultural exchange through the school’s English teachers and a 2nd ABCT cultural advisor. The teachers have organized various cultural bi-weekly events for their students in an effort to broaden their worldview.

      Many of the school faculty and students had never spoken with an American prior to the cultural exchange, let alone a Soldier. This made for a slow start to the meeting, but the students gradually were able to set aside their concerns.

     “In the beginning, when the Soldiers began to introduce themselves, the students were shocked,” Krol said. “They were shocked because they thought that they would not understand the Soldiers, but after an hour they were all talking, they were speaking, they were singing, laughing and really had time to have fun.”

      In addition to broadening the Polish students’ worldview, the Soldiers also explained Atlantic Resolve to the Polish youth and why the U.S. is in Poland.

      Atlantic Resolve is a U.S. endeavor to fulfill NATO commitments by rotating units throughout the European theater to deter aggression against NATO allies and partners in Europe.

 

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