Fairfax Co. principal travels overseas to help Ukrainian refugees

A photo of Principal Nichola Zapadka.
Freedom Hill Elementary School Principal Nichola Zapadka in Cologne, Germany, volunteering at a Red cross refugee camp.

Students used tools like Google Translate to create cards for Ukrainian refugees in their language.
Freedom Hill Elementary School students used tools like Google Translate to create cards for Ukrainian refugees in their language.

Principal Nichola Zapadka' students hold some of the cards made for Ukrainian refugees.
Principal Nichola Zapadka’ students hold some of the cards made for Ukrainian refugees.

Principal Nichola Zapadka' students hold some of the cards made for Ukrainian refugees.
Some of the Ukrainian refugees cried and appreciated the student’s cards, Zapadka said.

Principal Nichola Zapadka' students made several cards for Ukrainian refugees.
The school community also wanted to do more along with the students’ letters, including making contributions and knitting hats for refugees.

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A photo of Principal Nichola Zapadka.
Students used tools like Google Translate to create cards for Ukrainian refugees in their language.
Principal Nichola Zapadka' students hold some of the cards made for Ukrainian refugees.
Principal Nichola Zapadka' students hold some of the cards made for Ukrainian refugees.
Principal Nichola Zapadka' students made several cards for Ukrainian refugees.

A Fairfax County, Virginia, principal and his students are making a difference by helping Ukrainian refugees.

Over spring break, Freedom Hill Elementary School Principal Nicholas Zapadka traveled to Cologne, Germany, where some Ukrainian people have gone to seek refuge.



Zapadka told WTOP that his students made cards for him to pass out that they wrote in Ukrainian.

“Just to see them holding a card that was written in Ukrainian, they make that connection, ‘wait this is from the United States, written by students in Ukrainian,’ you could just… you could see the tears and the appreciation,” Zapadka said.

He added that his students learned that their actions can cause a ripple effect across the world, and create a lot of happiness.

“For our kids to know that had that kind of an impact was pretty cool,“ he says.

Zapadka planned the trip at the last minute and had no spring break plans. He previously spent time studying in Cologne during college. Some of the families he met shared stories of homes bombed, fathers killed, and grandparents lost.

In a Fairfax County schools news article, Zapadka said he shared his spring break plans with school staff and offered to take any donations possible. Their response is swift.

“Right away, our students wanted to make cards. Staff members wanted to make contributions. A teacher’s mother began knitting hats,” Zapadka said. “It’s very emblematic of our community here at our school. They just want to help in any way possible.”

Kyle Cooper

Anchor and reporter Kyle Cooper, has been with WTOP since 1992. Over those 25 years Kyle has worked as a street reporter, editor and anchor. Prior to WTOP Kyle worked at several radio stations in Indiana, and at the Indianapolis Star Newspaper.

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