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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.

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