I don’t like changes. I find it very hard to leave behind people, memories, things that you shared with dear ones at some point in time. I think I very well represent the cliché that one leaves part of his heart when leaving. I cannot forget. And I don’t want to.
The Donbas was a revealing, unforgettable experience for me. Apart from the wonderful people that I met and I’ve worked with, who inspired me and encouraged me whenever I needed it, this place must be my-kind-of-place. Since the times of Katherine the Second, people from different regions and countries arrived either to populate the empty lands for agricultural purposes, or being sent here for isolation reasons. The result is a young-like society, where people are not afraid to say what they think, and many elderly people are able and more than willing to go out of their comfort zone and have fun.
Severodonetsk has revealed to me slowly, from the grey days of January, with almost no one on the streets and temperatures around -10 degrees Celsius to the glowing days of summer, when everybody goes to one of the numerous lakes in the area for a shashlyk and beer with family and friends.
All of the projects I’ve engaged in here are special to me, but among them I have to first mention the Active picnics. Nature is always a good friend and an awesome excuse for us all to follow suit. This is why I couldn’t wait for the good weather and I tried to stick to the outdoors environment for my lessons whenever it’s been possible. And the energy jumps out of the Active picnics’ photos. This is just one of the projects I’ve been implementing with Sasha (Voroshilova) and which provided me with the opportunity to meet wonderful youngsters in Severodonetsk’ parks and talk about different things, play a lot of games with them and listen to their interests and dreams and… be overwhelmed by the whole thing.
The children are sparkling of curiosity and big dreams. Some would use any chance to ask about our [the volunteers’] countries and opinions about Ukraine, the conflict situation or other serious issues. They are eager to learn, open to engage in new activities and grow. I’m thus sure that their determination will one day bear fruit, making Ukraine known for what it is, a country of huge potential.
I’ve met very different people with sometimes opposing opinions and I admit I’ve tried to test limits. But the adults who attended my English classes or the film club focused on human rights have made it too easy for me; every time we would discuss a hot topic, such as political incorrectness, black humor, human rights in conflict, discrimination, war or the communist past, people – of very different ages – respected the others and engaged in it admirably, however difficult.
I’ve also met many activists for diverse social and political issues, who are no different in their convictions from those residing in the EU, but they could be a little stronger in terms of resilience. I will never forget the House of Human Rights in Chernihiv, where I went for one of Vostok-SOS & Mondo’s projects and I had my first lecture in Russian ever (and I couldn’t have been more scared). This is an open house for initiatives that matter and all sorts of activists, a network linked also to countries in the region.
Here I tried several things that I’ve always dreamt of doing, such as teaching in high schools and working on human rights in a creative way, organizing debates, educative games and so on. At every step, my lovely colleagues were there for me as much as I tried – at least – to be there for them. So I’d like to use this opportunity to thank them again for everything!
How can I leave this place?… I was talking with a friend, who at some point told me with unhidden jealousy “and you are paid to do that?!” and I thought “well that’s that”. One for sure needs full energy and flexibility for this journey, but it’s definitely worth it.
Autor: Ana Mavlea