Activists from central and eastern Ukraine travel to Donetsk region on a train to present arts and talk to locals. Ahead are new missions to Luhansk region and to the west.
Kyiv, May 18, 2016. First volunteer Agit-train consisting of 10 carriages and 200 volunteers and artists successfully completed its first mission to the east. The trip to Donetsk region was organized in cooperation with various authorities, schools, civil society organizations in particular with family members of the Heaven’s Hundred heroes as well as with the military. The mission lasted for nine days – from 20 to 29 April. “We’ve managed to reach to over 40 thousand people. These were mainly children, civilians and servicemen […]. Evaluating our first trip we learnt that they have an even greater need in that than we expected,” said Mykola Bondar, Head of “Kolo.Media” NGO at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. “There is an ongoing struggle for the hearts and souls of people both in the east and in the west. The train provided a chance to expand the Ukrainian space, enabled people in the east feel part of the Ukrainian nation and of Ukraine’s cultural space. Such communication between the regions of Ukraine will foster unity,” noted Volodymyr Bondarchuk, son of Serhiy Bondarchuk Heaven’s Hundred hero, fallen Euromaidan activist.
Activists noted that even over the short period of time direct contact with the people helped find understanding. “We were welcomed more warmly than before. We met no aggression. When you give people a chance to speak and express themselves and when you are provided such a chance youself mutual understanding is achieved,” said Mykola Bondar. Family members of Heaven’s Hundred heroes played significant role in establishing a dialogue. “When they started talking about their fallen family members the aggression that people might have had disappeared. People discovered that those events were actually different,” noted Bondar. Activists brought back to Kyiv an exhibition of hand-made items produced by the children from the east as a gesture of response to gifts from children from central and western Ukraine. The exhibition is currently hosted by the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra.
“We are travelling there not to teach anyone anything but to learn something from them,” said Mykola Bondar. It turned to be volunteers from the east who provided interesting ideas for new work directions. The mission also helped discover a series of topical problems that need to be addressed swiftly. “Unfortunately we keep making same mistakes today – some regions are not communicating sufficiently what events they have going on. It may once again lead to disruption of the country’s unity,” noted Bondar. In the future such cultural trips will be organized not only from the west to the east but also from the east to the west – so that people have a chance to speak to each other and get rid of the stereotypes that concern each other.
Activists are now preparing the next trip, this time to Luhansk region that is tentatively to happen on May 21-26. They plan to visit 96 schools. Second volunteer Agit-train is to include seven carriages. “It is to include two cinema halls, a carriage with an exhibition and four carriages that would accommodate volunteers and artists travelling with us,” explained Bondar. Volunteers from Donetsk region whom the activists met during their first mission will travel with them. “In such a way we want to introduce patriotically spirited people who live in the east to each other. When our train goes to the west they will join us as well,” noted Bondar.