Neighbor from Hell: Russian Businessman Alexei Zakharov (Intermediate News Lesson)

ESL Level: Intermediate – Upper-Intermediate
Lesson Plan Download: Neighbor-Russian-Zakharov-Bullying-Intermediate-02062011.doc

A fence between two neighbors

ESL News Lesson Plan : Warm-up

1)    Have you ever had a problem with a bully?

2)    What do you know about your neighbors? Do you get along with them?

3)    What is your neighborhood like? Is it becoming better or worse?

4)    What types of disagreements often arise between neighbors?

Neighbor from Hell: Russian Businessman Alexei Zakharov (June 2nd, 2011)

Rene Mandys has been living in Doln­ OleÅ¡nice in the Czech Republic for 40 years. Four years ago, Russian businessman Alexei Zakharov bought the chateau neighboring his property. Shortly afterward, a real estate agent began regularly visiting Mandys, insisting that he sell his land to Zakharov. When Mandys said that his property was not for sale, the agent replied, “Everything is for sale.”

Mandys has paid a high price for his refusal. He runs a gardening business from his home, which is suffering. His plants have been damaged, his windows broken, and his greenhouse burned down. Zakharov’s bodyguards prevent his customers from entering Mandys’ shop, and two paths leading to Mandys’ garden have also been blocked.

Last month, Mandys was walking in a forest near his house. He had the eerie feeling that someone was following him. Then he felt a sponge over his face. When Mandys regained consciousness, his left leg was covered in blood and bruises. His wife heard him screaming and took him to the hospital. After 3 months of recovery, Mandys can now walk with the aid of a walking stick.

The police have charged one of Zakharov’s bodyguards with the attack. However, they lack evidence to prove Zakharov ordered it. Mandys has hired a lawyer to have the paths to his property reopened. The lawyer is confident they will win the case, but he is also aware that a fine of 50,000 crowns will not likely make the rich bully start obeying the law.

The townsfolk are afraid of Zakharov, who seems to want more land in their valley. No one knows what is happening up in the chateau. “The rumor is that they are shooting porn films there”, says the town’s mayor. [289 words]


Neighbors ESL Lesson Plan: Comprehension Questions

  1. True or False: Mandys has hired a real estate agent to sell his home.
  2. Why is Mandys’ business suffering?
  3. Why was Mandys screaming from the forest?
  4. True or False: a bodyguard has been charged with the attack on Mandys.
  5. What does Mandys’ lawyer think Zacharov will do if he gets fined?
  6. According to a rumor, what is happening in the chateau?
1 – False. Mandys was asked to sell his home, but he does not want to.

2 – His business is suffering because his property is being damaged and his customers are being prevented from accessing his home.

3 – He was screaming because he was in pain. His had just been attacked and his leg was badly injured.

4 – True.

5 – He thinks he will not do anything because Zacharov can afford to pay small fines.

6 – Pornographic films are being shot there, according to a rumor.

Neighbors ESL Lesson Plan: Vocabulary Matching

Match the words with their meaning as used in the news lesson.
aid (noun)
fine (noun)
shoot (e.g. a movie)
  • insist – demand, urge, ask strongly
  • bully – a stronger person who hurts weaker people
  • suffer – badly affected by pain, hurt, be in pain
  • eerie – strange, mysterious, and frightening
  • sponge – soft material that can hold water easily
  • consciousness – understanding, awareness
  • recovery – the process of becoming well after injury
  • aid – assistance, help
  • evidence – proof
  • fine – money paid as punishment
  • obey – do what someone says, comply
  • shoot – to record on film

Neighbors ESL Lesson Plan: Connect the below idea(s) to make a sentence.

government / uprising
insist / hospital
sponge / floor
bully / lose / consciousness
suffer / disease
eerie / feeling
recovery / 6 months
fine / $100,000
obey / new law
shoot / documentary
Possible Answers:
  • My wife insisted that I go to the hospital so a doctor could look at my injury.
  • I used a sponge to clean up the wine that had spilled on the floor.
  • The little boy lost consciousness after being hit in the head by the school bully.
  • Cancer is a disease that many people suffer from.
  • I have an eerie feeling that someone is watching me.
  • It took me six months to make a full recovery.
  • The billionaire was fined $100,000 for not paying his taxes.
  • Bar owners believe that many people won’t obey the new anti-smoking law.
  • Peter is in Africa to shoot a documentary on elephants.

Neighbors ESL Lesson Plan: Role-Play #1

Student A: Your neighbor has a dog. It barks all day and all night. You and your family can’t sleep. The dog also leaves droppings in your yard. Knock on your neighbor’s door and tell him to take care of his dog…. or you will do something.

Student B: Your neighbor wants to speak with you about your lovely dog.

Neighbors ESL Lesson Plan: Role-Play #2

Student A: You repair cars as a hobby. Your neighbor wants to speak with you.

Student B: Your neighbor moved to the neighborhood two months ago. Since then, he has filled his yard with old car parts and broken machines. He has old cars in his driveway and parked on the street. He also doesn’t cut his grass. His yard is a mess, and it makes the neighborhood look really bad. Knock on his door and try to convince him to clean it up.

ESL News Lesson Plan: Discussion Questions

(Write your answers in the Comments section below if you wish).

  1. What would you do if you were Rene Mandys?
  2. Everything is for sale.” What do you think of this statement?
  3. Have you ever had to take the law into your own hands?
  4. It is often said that “what a man does in the privacy of his own home is his business.” Is this true?
  5. Your son has just come home from school. He is crying because a bully at school beat him up. What do you tell your son?
News lesson plan copyright Matthew Barton of

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2 comments on “Neighbor from Hell: Russian Businessman Alexei Zakharov (Intermediate News Lesson)

  1. Keith Wicks (Posted on 2-13-2012 at 15:37) Reply

    Great topic, almost everybody has or will have a situation similar to this one.

  2. winifred (Posted on 11-13-2015 at 10:46) Reply


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