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Over one night, on March 12-13, Russian Federation army placed several blocks of children’s recreational camp "Perlyna Donechchyny" under fire (located in Sviatohirsk, Donetsk Oblast). In 2019, the first Youth Forum "Мyropolis" was held there in the framework of United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme, gathering over 200 young women and men from Donetsk, Luhansk and other oblasts. 

In 2020 and 2021, Мyropolis took place in other formats but with the same aim set initially – to involve young people in the recovery and peacebuilding process within their communities. In February 2022, they were about to start the preparation of Мyropolis 2022 - summer active youth gathering called "More of Myropolis" at the Azov seaside close to Mariupol. But these plans were ruined by the full-scale war and attempt to occupy our country with uninterrupted shellfire and air raids, forcing young people to evacuate from the hot spots with their families, join the defense forces to protect their homeland, join numerous protests in occupied settlements and engage in volunteering.  

UNFPA is one of four UN agencies tasked to implement the United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme in eastern regions of Ukraine. We would like to introduce seven stories told by young people who had been actively involved in the process of strengthening the peaceful community development and were participants of Myropolis. In these letters young women and men tell about changes in their lives, their feelings, and current activities.

 

Oleksandr is one of the participants of Myropolis in 2021 "Youth Journey to the east". He, like thousands of other young people, did not stay away after the start of hostilities and started helping his community.

 

Oleksandr, 21 y.o., Kryvyi Rih

Мy name is Oleksandr Bohun, I am 22 y.o. I live in Kryvyi Rih, Dnipropetrovsk region.

Currently I’m at last Bachelor’s year in internally displaced Donetsk National Economy and Trade University named by Mykhailo Tuhan-Baranovsky, with «Мanagement» major. University was displaced from Donetsk to Kryvyi Rih in 2014 because of the war in the east of Ukraine.

My life is not filled just with lectures – I am also a keen civic activist, leading the Youth Executive Council of Metallurgic district which unites almost all students in Kryvyi Rih: 6 higher educational establishments, 4 vocational schools and 2 colleges. As a member of students’ self-governance body I am responsible for PR sector (deputy head). My favorite format of civic activity is the delivery of trainings. I adore all kinds of public presentations and speeches, using my own example to inspire people to become activists and youth project participants.

At the beginning of 2022 our wonderful proactive team officially registered a separate Kryvyi Rih Unit of All-Ukrainian Youth CSO «Regional Initiative Foundation». This was the only functioning youth organization in Kryvyi Rih. We had huge ambitions. The team prepared the first set of events and social projects. But the full-scale invasion took place.

February 24th. The first news we saw announced of missiles hitting the military base in Kryvyi Rih. Then we heard of Russian massive attack on Ukraine. It was really frightening. At first we packed our emergency suitcases and found the shelter nearby. You just think of the previous day with normal life and suddenly you dive into this endless fear for future, for you beloved ones, air raid alerts and devastating news 24/7. On that day everyone knew their lives changed.

Since the first days of full-scale invasion, after 8 years of war in eastern Ukraine I had this deep urge to act and contribute. I immediately started helping people in my house and neighborhood. In several days I got a call from the executive committee – they asked to help with humanitarian aid unloading and sorting in a newly established Kryvyi Rih central refugee reception hub ("People’s house").

My first thought was «well, that is the way for me to be useful». I knew very well that if you wanted to engage youth in volunteering, someone had to meet them directly at location and provide certain guidelines. The perfect option is to get a young person or someone you know, it decreases the tension.

So I instantly posted a story on Instagram about the search for volunteers and tagged almost every educational establishment in the city, published the announcement in Telegram-channels with my contact number and immediately went to the hub with my younger brother. 

Within the first week I volunteered every working day in the refugee reception hub – welcomed new people who responded to my call and helped them to adapt. At the first weekend I personally coordinated around 40 volunteers at a separate spot outside the hub where we collected and sorted humanitarian aid. During the first week my phone was literally bursting with calls.

Volunteering was not just something my soul called for, but also a way to save myself from depression. Every day I met new people, hugged someone, was always busy and had the feeling of being extremely useful. We shared some funny stories, supported each other and became friends in social networks – everything young people usually do. Every new person just seemed to be another old friend of mine and it lifted the overall spirit – it’s like we were completely absorbed by the moment and managed to get distracted from the news flow. It was a thrilling discovery.

On the second week I found out that my friend Ivan Pokydko died in the line of duty… he was 19, born in Kryvyi Rih. He always dreamed of becoming a military officer and told a lot of interesting stuff about this profession. He was a brave and light-hearted patriot. 

Later my family lost any connection with relatives in Mariupol. We tried to use different options but with no result. We were extremely worried. In three weeks they finally contacted us and informed that they managed to flee to safe place. 

My family and I decided to stay in Kryvyi Rih. This is our land, we are welcomed and needed here. My mom is a doctor and we are so proud of her. 

Кryvyi Rih is alive and moves on. We have poetry sessions, stand-up and other gatherings in the bomb shelter. Our spirit is truly unbreakable! We unite to fill our lives with meaning and hope.

I never believed that such war can take place in the 21st century. Previously we had like two parallel universes we lived in: Ukraine was divided into a part with hostilities and a safe one. Now we live in one reality – it had been there for 8 years but now everybody feels this tragic moment in the same way.  

In these turbulent times we can find peace and balance whilst supporting each other, in nature, love and self-development: intellectual, physical and emotional. It is also important to set these small goals and complete it. This all helps to shape this feeling of affecting and changing the situation, first and foremost in our lives. It is crucial for everyone who struggles with something, no matter where they are.

A letter dated 2 May 2022

 

 

This is a story from Natalia, who works in travel media. Together with her colleagues from different regions, she drove all around Ukraine, they produced over 600 articles, guidebooks, and stories inspiring to explore Ukraine. In 2021, she became a coach of Myropolis "Youth Journey to the east" and helped form routes, establish connections among Ukrainian youth from different corners of Ukraine, and show the picturesque and unique Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

Natalia, Dnipro

My name is Nataliia Mykhalchenko, I’ve lived in Donetsk for 30 years, then moved to Dnipro. Since 2015 I’ve worked as an editor for UA-TRAVELS – a website for independent travelers. 

For the previous three years, I’ve been an active blogger as the Ukrainian East Ambassador, aiming to familiarize Ukrainians with Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, destroy stereotypes and build connections between communities. Popularizing the “Salt-marked route” both in East and West, delivering a speech at the international conference “Podorozhui”, participating in the intensive program “Тop-routes to travel in Ukraine 2021”, performing as a trainer at UN RPP project “Мyropolis” and facilitating the Donetsk and Luhansk regional tourist routes creation by youth, participating in international residence “Zazemlennia” by IZOLYATSIA cultural platform (Donetsk Oblast), “Opinion Festival” (Luhansk Oblast), preparing an extended blog-tour to Mariupol – we planned to launch it in April 2022… all this work was valuable, it connected thousands of people, and we have to keep going. Not after we win but now.  

There is a huge global demand now for Ukraine – people living in the EU, USA, and Ukrainian diaspora strive not only for the news about war but also want to know more about our history, culture, and people. For two months, I’ve struggled to respond to such requests, as first we stayed too close to the front line, then together with my friends from Mariupol we left for relatively safe western regions. Now both Dnipro and Lviv, my two homes are like a small hub for ones who need rest and friendly support. Yet, like many of us, I consider everything that I am doing is still not enough. That is why, apart from volunteering and work, I try to keep my blog alive – its mission hasn’t changed but has become even more focused. I realize we’ve stepped on a long path to victory and recovery – I do get this feeling of comfort and home everywhere in Ukraine, but I really strive for spring in the steppe of Donetsk. The one we missed this year and yet to come. We never lose faith.

A letter dated 2 May 2022

 

This story is about Zhanna from Berdychiv, Zhytomyr oblast. She is a curator of the Youth centre "М-Formation". In 2021 Zhanna participated in Myropolis - Youth Trip to the East, where she shared her youth engagement experience in her city and found out how it works in other cities of Ukraine. 

Zhanna, 24 y.o. Berdychiv, Zhytomyr oblast

Since the first days of the war, we were delivering training (these projects are sustainable, launched before the war) to prepare people for any emergency situations, upgrade their first aid and psychological support skills, sessions on art therapy, forum-theatre etc. We held these frequently as so many people wanted to participate, we mastered new skills, and shared our thoughts and observations.

We called our volunteers, locals also came to help us, and all rooms of our Youth Center "М-Formation" were packed.

It should be noted that everything was relatively calm in our area. The only clear signal of war we noticed was the mad traffic in the town…someone was leaving Berdychiv, others were entering the town as it was still a safe place, queues in shops, some even with empty shelves, also limited reserve of fuel at gas stations.

February 24th became a sort of "groundhog day" for all of us... We had no weekends in the Youth Center – even if sometimes we did, everyone was still involved in useful activities elsewhere. We tried to lift our spirits and support each other – our director was the key "source" of light and faith, and she still is.

In Telegram chat of "М-Formation", popular among locals and volunteers, we were flushed with a wave of different requests for help as many IDPs came to Berdychiv in need of accommodation, food, and clothes.  We all were focused on this task and responded to these requests – at first at the expense of our employees. Later we launched training, campaigns, and fairs to sell various items produced by youth.

We managed to get distracted a little while being absorbed with specific activities, tasks, and searching for IDPs’ accommodation. We had more IDPs coming to the town. We decided to hold entertaining programs and sessions for adults and children who were forced to leave their homes – sharing our smiles and enthusiasm and giving books and toys. We never forgot of ones living in the "hot spots" – we collected humanitarian aid and sent it to Chernihiv. 

If you ask about our life before the war – well, we did the same stuff, but there was no fear of losing everything in one day.

All the projects we launched before the war was successfully continued – we are pleased to see the graduates of the Volunteering School supporting us substantially in this challenging time.

All big festivals, fairs, national campaigns and other projects we prepared will be held! 

I am 24. Could I ever imagine the war would become a part of my life? This period changed us so radically and quickly. The only thing left unchanged is our desire to protect what we love.

A letter dated 2 May 2022

 

Аnton is a miner from a town called Soledar in Donetsk oblast, famous for its salt mines. He managed to turn his childhood dream into a real project – launch music studio for young people in his hometown in 2020, thanks to participation in Myropolis and with the support of the United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme (UN RPP). They picked a name for it - “Radio Dja”. But it hadn’t just helped the young talents to thrive, it eventually promoted the emergence of a community with active and caring youth. Those barely attaining majority and known by everyone as activists established an action team in 2021 to create a youth council – an advisory body in Soledar town hall.

Anton, 38 y.o. Soledar, Donetsk oblast. 

“My name is Anton, I am 38, I am from Soledar, keen on music and also I am a leader of NGO "Radio Dja".

By 2014 I hadn’t been so attentive and concerned with the news from countries where the hostilities took place until I witnessed this nightmare. As always, it’s very frightening at first, but then people somehow get used to explosions and even ignore them – this is really scary as the self-defense instinct is off. 

Since 2017 I’ve been trying to fulfill the dream – launched the "Radio Dja" aimed to involve young people in creative activity with a special environment for musicians. I promoted my NGO to creative youth in Soledar and together we formed a band "Raise The Seventh" with boys aged 16 - 25.

In 2020 our NGO entered an active development phase. We took part in programs facilitated by Lviv Educational Foundation “Building Ukraine Together” – refurbished our studio and creative space.

And we had this great chance to participate in "Мyropolis 2020" and received grant support to hold a cool festival for youth! In 2020 these events inspired young people to dive into music – boys formed a band, and they had a chance to meet and talk to musicians, getting some great emotions and motivation for further achievements.  

In 2020-2021 we’ve managed to inspire our young people, show the locals how talented they are, and able to impress not only the dwellers and guests but the whole country as well.

In June our team took part in the travel-ideathon “Мy tourist community - Myropolis” aimed at the development of a tourist route in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts with our Soledar as one of the locations. We were happy to take part in this event. We got loads of new knowledge, and emotions and met many great people.

On August 28th, 2021 our boys’ team had a chance to step out as mythbusters and prove that Soledar was more than just a purely industrial spot – members of numerous youth councils from different regions were familiarized with our talents in the framework of “Мyropolis – Youth Trip to East”. It was a huge achievement and pride for young people from a small town to present their location also as a place where music is appreciated.

In autumn we recorded two songs for "Raise The Seventh", shaping the repertoire.  On January 14th, 2022 we had the first online-concert held in Radio Dja studio – it was amazing…We had so many plans but February 24th was the day when these were destroyed…

Currently, our daily offline sessions are suspended as my primary responsibility is to look after three children, I have to stay with my family now.

We still communicate a lot in chats, I try to distract the band from these atrocities we all suffer from and search for any useful material they can use to study independently. All six members of the band stay in touch – they don’t leave the town and help volunteers to unload the humanitarian aid; once per week we meet and play football to forget about the war, just for a moment. We are making new plans for the future! We know that peaceful life is about to restart soon and we’ll hit again like we used to…"

Letter dated 13 of May 2022

 

 

This story is about young activist Olena. Her Red Line sport laser tag club was a project supported by the UN RPP component on community security and social cohesion. Kostiantynivka, where Red Line is located, lacks similar places for youth and adults. It was presented as an innovative team-building activity.

The general outcome of the participation in various projects of UN RPP, including Myropolis, is enhanced civic activity recognised, among other things, through membership in the civic council of Donetsk RSA, which Olena gained in 2021. 

 

Оlena, 35 y.o, Коstiantynivka, Donetsk Oblast

"Мy motto in life is to remain “humane” under any circumstances. Some people might think these are empty words, but they are not. 

The experience I’ve gained since the beginning of the armed conflict in 2014 taught me to be as considerate and kind as possible, especially when I saw people panicking in Коstiantynivka.

My faith kept me balanced. I stayed in Kostiantynivka and began working at a school, providing psychological support to children, colleagues, and my family. 

I was surprised by my calmness while carrying out the routine activities despite the precarious situation. I understood then that I wanted to help as many people as I could.

I managed to get some fine results as a professional since 2016. I am an author of a unique methodology in the psychological sphere. In 2021, I took on another degree in psychology and was successfully recognised as a methodologist. 

I also got my first grant to set a space for children with special educational needs. I work with these children, help them with their educational needs and social skills and improve their social skills. Then I got some more grants to implement social projects «Youth and authorities», «Еco-space «PARKovka», «Workout» etc. In 2021, I received an award from the oblast state administration for the results of my charitable activities. 

In 2018, my husband and I established a sport laser tag club we called “Red Line”. We planned to develop our local potential and open the way to investment flow. Then I decided to involve more actively in political processes and civic movements. 

It was a completely new part of my life. My participation in youth projects like regional forum  «Youth Wave», as well as initiatives promoted by the United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme – travel-ideathon «Мy tourist community-Мyropolis», «Мyropolis – youth trip to East», summer camps was a truly fantastic period because I’ve found so many new friends. In 2021, I launched my civic association «Donechchyna Impulse» to support various educational, sport, cultural and charitable activities. and became a member of the civic council of Donetsk Oblast State Administration and took a Master’s course in public administration.

2022 brought another set of challenges to test my Humanity: devastating and catastrophic war.  At first, I was literally choked by fear, confusion and despair. But fear for my elderly parents, son, relatives, friends, my town and my country made me decide to staytill the very last minute… and I got full support from those people I always admired, volunteers and youth centers…Now, Together with CSO «Donechchyna Impulse» we help people get official information and contact numbers, we help them evacuate and we provide psychological consultations to handle the anxiety and panic and identify emotional response caused by the stress. With support from CSOs «Vostok SOS» and «Kramatorsk Community Development Foundation», we received humanitarian cargo and monitored its delivery to IDPs from Volnovakha, Kharkiv, Izium, Novotroitske, rescue workers and children’s hospitals. 

I’ve experienced all the difficulties of aid delivery under the martial law, when people are so discouraged and almost broken… but I believe in God’s power, I pray everyday for my people and my country!"

Letter dated 23 March 2022

 

Khrystyna * is a representative of a local self-governmenсу body. She helps the youth council to develop community youth policy and works in the field of agriculture and science. In 2021, Khrystyna joined “Myropolis - the youth journey to the East”, where, together with other participants representing various youth councils, she traveled through the cities and towns of the Ukrainian Donbas.

Khrystyna, Kherson oblast, 31 y.o.

(we used a different name due to safety considerations as she resides in the occupied settlement)

"War is nothing but death and suffering, affecting every family and leaving deep scars on our souls.

I had many difficult moments in my life – lost my mom quite early and had to start my life on my own. I‘ve always been strong and determined and had clear plans for the future. 

What can I tell you about myself? I am the youngest representative of the local self-governance body. I help the youth council to implement the designed policy, it is an honor for me to be a part of the educational sector, I do love my work and want to do much more to develop agricultural science in Ukraine. However, these achievements were prior to the war. 

This unimaginable chaos caught up with me in Kyiv. I was on a business trip in Kyiv, 700 km away from home! Tickets were sold out, buses were overloaded, and traffic jams everywhere were accompanied by blasts and explosions. Yet, I had to find a way to go home and be reunited with my family.

Returning home was stressful. On the way, I saw so much war gear and equipment, so many checkpoints.. I kept hoping I'd get home uninjured. Finally there, I had to hide in the shelter with my family as sirens would blast loud warning us of upcoming dangers and shellings.

Despite being filled with despair. I write and support, and I try to do everything I can to help knowing it’s not enough. But I believe strongly that we have to keep this humanity in us: share the resources available and help those in need.

On the eighth day of this eight-year war I suddenly just opened my eyes and saw that we were on the brink of a humanitarian crisis. So I decided to engage in volunteering, аdapting to these unexpected changes, gathering with like-minded people – now, together, we actively work with farmers and the agricultural industry, collect food packages, help the lonely elderly, extended families, and everyone in need. We’ve set a hub to collect and deliver medications and other vital commodities. I am slowly adapting to this new reality, and every day I get more and more engaged. I, now know what value I can add. 

 I’ve never been more proud! Nobody can break our spirit, we are united".

A letter dated 17 March 2022

 

Arkadii participated in Myropolis 2020 co-organized by the Donetsk Regional Youth Council. Back then, Arkadii was one of the few heads of the newly-established youth councils in Donetsk region. 

Youth councils became widespread and got more powers in local and regional  decision-making following the active work of those established first, in 2020 and before.

Аrkadii, Bakhmut, 23 y.o., IDP from Horlivka

"In 2014, when war broke out, I was a naïve 15-year-old teen living in Horlivka. The truth is, I can’t say I was aware of all these political processes. But after the hostilities had reached our area with all the atrocities that came with it, I dived into history books. 

Later my parents managed to relocate me, crossing those minefields, to controlled territory and we traveled to Israel to be with our relatives. There, I witnessed unconditional love people have for their country, powerful volunteer movement and civic activities. I really wanted to try something similar in Ukraine, in particular here, in Donetsk region. 

When we returned I decided to enter the evacuated Horlivka Institute of Foreign Languages in Bakhmut to become a history teacher. As students, we’ve been involved actively in civic activities within the region, established our own CSO «Our Dignity» to explore the Donetsk oblast historical heritage and popularise the non-formal civic education among youth.  

In 2019, I was appointed a head of Bakhmut Youth Council. We had many events organised for young people and were involved in regional ones as well. There was a very special eventcalled «Мyropolis – Youth Wawes 2020». I made so many new friends representing other local youth councils and were excited to initiate some great projects together. 

In January 2022, I graduated from university and wanted to start my career. I can say we were mentally ready for this war and instantly found the best options to help people. Thanks to our extended contact network,  we established Telegram channels reaching nearby towns and started delivering  food to displaced women and children.. This war is a huge tragedy for our country but I am trying to stay positive and support people in every possible way".  

A letter dated 18 March 2022

 

After taking part in Myropolis 2021, Olha created a youth council in her small community being inspired by one of the Myropolis co-organisers. Although failry new, the youth council of Chasiv Yar held numerous projects for children and youth in the community. The participation in Myropolis in 2021, when representatives of different Ukrainian regions visited and got to know more about Chasiv Yar, greatly contributed to the capacity of the youth council. Ever since, they managed to ‘win hearts and minds’ of the community members and local authorities. 

Apart from being a youth activist, Olha is also a visual artist - she won several national art competitions among youth over the past few years.

Оlha, 20 y.o., Chasiv Yar, Donetsk Oblast

"I am a head of youth council of Chasiv Yar, in Donetsk Oblast, established six months ago. Although fairly new, the council was actively engaged in drafting youth-centred policies for the town. Within six months, we managed to make effective change in our community. We reached out to young people, organised projects targetting them and organised trainings for them. Our work received positive feedback and many young people were eager to join our council, and that’s why we began drafting a plan for our upcoming activities based on youth’s preference and trends.

But all ours plans were put on hold because of the war. Our enthusiasm and plans were suddenly ceased. As well as we ourselves were different before the war. That is why I joined the newly established humanitarian hub tasked to help refugees and people at the frontline. We have already collected and delivered plenty of aid to hospitals and to those in need. We are also doing  our best to protect civilians from the danger of mines: we creating warning signs to alert people about locations where there is a risk of obtaining mine-related injuries.
We will continue to do our best to help Ukrainians in every possible way; we will not give up on our communities. Honestly, all we want right now is for this senseless war to end so we can go back to our normal life".

A letter dated 18 March 2022

 

This is Illia, one of the creators of the Radio Dja studio, where any music band has an opportunity to record its tracks for free, and the musicians teach local adolescents to play musical instruments. Radio Dja is a first of its kind initiative for the Soledar community in Donetsk region - a highly industrial area of salt mines; run by young people for young people.

llia, 29 y.o., Soledar, Donetsk oblast

"I am from Soledar, in Donetsk oblast. My town is known for its a its picturesque landscapes and salt mine routes, going almost 300m deep! It is famous for being the  place where the rock salt is mined. 

I am a youth activist and volunteer and I am involved in many youth development initiatives. Together with other young people we set up a music space RadioDja backed by Building Ukraine Together and Myropolis initiatives in 2020. 

But life changed drastically after February 24. 

Initially, I wanted to leave. But after thorough thinking, I decided to stay: this is my country, and I made it my priority to help people escaping war.

With friends and support from the locals, we established a Volunteer Centre to help those displaced. We assist people in finding accommodation, clothes, food, etc. I am proud of our work because we are supporting our country in our own way".

A letter dated 29 March 2022

 

 

Аndrii, 29 y.o., Dnipro, IDP from Donetsk

"Human psyche has many protective mechanisms – those are acceptance, adaptation and then you move to this «life or nothing» condition. You can get used to anything except war – it is something that will stay inside you forever, almost palpable even after the hostilities are over and the expected victory day is officially announced. 

For someone this war is only tied to 2014 with a new stage in 2022 but for me this has always been a continuous process.

It’s like getting a new cut every day. Why? In 2014 I was just taking the first steps as a professional. I survived the relocation, the hostilities. Yep, I am Donetsk born. In 2014 it was a real pain to know that our leading university was not relocated fully, just separate departments. In 2014 Donetsk National Technical University was in Ukrainian top-5 ranking, now somewhere among the top-30, and the majority of other Donbas universities and institutes just…vanished. 

 In 2014-2016 we heard the missiles exploding every evening, regular blackouts, curfews, water supply was once cut for, like, half a year. I am happy just with the fact there haven’t been any active operations. Мy parents and relatives are there so for us it is a kind of “routine” – nobody is surprised that even in 2022 you have to keep a substantial food reserve, our basement is no longer the one but a bomb shelter. And this endless fear of escalation. Someone marks this war with 2014, 2015, 2022, for me it never stopped. Since 2014. Daily updates on Mаriinka, Аvdiivka as we have Novohrodivka, Myrnohrad and Pokrovsk in close proximity. Yes, they frightened us every day that the enemy was close. 

You can’t forget war, you may just try to adapt and segregate somehow. In 2014 I moved from Donetsk, where hostilities took place, to Pokrovsk, a city in Donetsk Oblast controlled by Ukrainian government. My final year was marked with these evening «cannonades», I graduated from university and started building my career. Then the postgraduate study, thesis defense, employment at the institute and eventually relocation to Dnipro. In a «peaceful» city I resumed my civic activity. Currently I am appointed a secretary of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, head of Regional Meeting Office under this council and a secretary of Young Researchers Council at the Physics and Astronomy Department of National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. My scope of competence includes communication, development of national network of Young Researchers Councils, enhancement of youth interaction with local self-governance bodies. My duties also included regular visits to regional and administrative centres. Тhat is why in 2022 some new «patterns» were added to the war. For me every town is about people I know, familiar places, emotions and impressions.

I was in Dnipro on February 24. I’ve just returned from my business trip, had loads of plans. On that day we wanted to hold a regional meeting of Young Researchers Council from Chernihiv Oblast, then deliver the books to a hospital  under the project called «A book for defender», another council meeting was planned for the evening. But I was woken at 6 a.m. by a wave of calls from my colleagues. Couldn’t believe the news when I saw it. Never assumed that in 21 century something despicable could happen with full ignorance of all international acts, conventions and agreements. I was desperate. For many people I contacted it was a shock but this rascality demonstrated by the Russian Federation has become a new stage of conflict escalation. We knew that enemy’s most powerful weapon is the aggravation of panic and misinformation distribution. So we instantly launched a Telegram-channel to exchange the verified information and counter the fake flow. Initially our tasks also included delivery of psychological support, we tried to block the enemy’s channels, and presented a series of lectures on first aid in remote format.

Then we activated our cooperation with international partners to draw their attention to military aggression acts – sent letters to EU states’ leaders, researchers’ unions and associations, informed our colleagues from Russia and Belarus about the current situation. Of course, we are engaged in volunteering initiatives and support the IDPs. 

It is relatively calm here but raid alerts don’t stop so we spent many hours in shelters. Sometimes missiles hit my city. And I worry about my relatives staying so close to the battle areas. So far Dnipro is characterized as relatively calm but this is a relay point for people who flee from turbulent areas to western regions, so we witness a lot of pain, suffering and despair. I lost some of my friends, my colleagues lost relatives due to hostilities.  

I am in Dnipro, I am in Ukraine. I had a gazillion of chances to leave but I stay – this is my home. I stay because my faith is strong and I know that our country will have a bright future". 

A letter dated 14 March 2022

 

Каteryna, 24 y.o., Polohy, Zaporizhia oblast

"My name is Kateryna Chubar, I have a little daughter named Mariika. We live in Polohy, a town in Zaporizhia region.  I work as a history and geography teacher and lead the Polohy Youth Council. On February 23 we held a webinar «Career Guidance 2.0» for our youth. A lot of events had been planned but on that day our lives changed...

I found out about the war from social media and initially I just couldn’t believe it – I thought it was a fake but this fake appeared to be a horrible reality. 

War came to my town on March 2 – we had a massive blackout, heating was off, then water and finally the connection was cut – so were completely isolated from the civilized world. 

On March 3 the stage of massive hostilities started – we had this shooting, explosions, missiles everywhere, all the time; we even set these 2-hour shifts so as not to miss the raid alert, together with my husband we made a sort of a sofa with chairs and blankets. We cooked food on a stove, took water from wells (5 km to the closest one). Our dwellers still live  in this hell, on March 10 a huge convoy of 50-70 enemy’s vehicles entered the town, so we decided to flee.  

We were frightened to drive alone so had to find others ready to move with us – 3 cars at once with 6 people in each. There was no fuel anywhere so we tried to pick it everywhere, literally saving the drops. We placed white paper sheets with "CHILDREN" sign on the windows. On our way there were three occupants’ checkpoints, all of them checked our trunks, the driver had to explain everything in detail, it was a terrifying experience. 

So now we stay in Zaporizhia with stable electricity, water and heating supply, which is crucial. 

Local volunteers helped us with clothes, diapers and medications for my child, I am extremely grateful. 

We will stay in our country because this is our home!"

A letter dated 15 March 2022