Travelling festival “From Country to Ukraine” gathers over 17,000 visitors in its final city


The two-day festival in Mariupol fosters community, culture, cooperation, social activity, and sports in the city.

Kyiv, August 2, 2016.  The traveling festival “From country to Ukraine” brought two days of holiday to Mariupol, a large southeast city on the boarder of the Azov Sea close to the frontline. There were sport & art locations in the downtown and on the beach areas, small street food vendors offered dishes of various countries, civil activists presented their projects, and a number of bands played on several stages.

“The festival was a success. We invited many art activists, intellectuals, and sportsmen to the festival – and a lot of them participated. I’m very happy to see there are so many creative and active people in our city,” said Ksenia Tkachuk, festival organizer from Mariupol, at a press conference in Ukraine Crisis Media Center, held as a part of UCMC project “Spokesperson of peaceful life, supported by the German Embassy in Kyiv. “We tried to choose locations that would be easy for the visitors to get to and where a lot of people would end up at even if they did not know about the festival”, noted Maksym Svetlov, administrative manager of the festival. According to the organizers’ estimates, over these two days, the festival hosted up to 17,000-19,000 of visitors.  The backbone of the organizers’ team consisted of 30 people, while 40 more took part as volunteers.

New leisure activities for a frontline town

At the hackathon, the activists presented their start-ups: concepts of social projects aimed to make the life in Mariupol more comfortable and pleasant. There were also a photo exhibition and a film contest where the visitors could see 10 films by directors from various cities. “Among the particularly interesting achievements are the four murals created by the festival artist. Four groups worked there, from Dnipro (former Dnipropetrovsk), Zaporizhia and two more of local artists. This is a great gift for our city,” said Maksym Svetlov. In art locations, one could take part in various workshops. In sports locations, there was an opportunity to play football, basketball, beach volleyball, to try Greco-Roman wrestling, English boxing, roller-skating, sailing, kayaking, yoga or equilibristics. “In fact, there are a lot of sport activities available in Mariupol, as there are a lot of coaches and teams here. I guess this festival gave people more ideas about which sports their children could participate in”, says Semen Fisinchuk, curator of the sports section of the festival. One of the most outstanding events was a quadcopters race through an obstacle course in a specially equipped space.

Festival as a starting point for cooperation between authorities and activists

The best result of the festival is that the unity between people has strengthened, the organizers say. “We succeeded to create a powerful local team. This is the most important result, that people were united by a common idea to show Mariupol as a city of happy people,” noted Maksym Svetlov. Local activists have already decided to continue the hackathon on a regular basis as a platform for new ideas and social activity.  “The city authorities were incredibly helpful – they did for us almost everything that we asked. It is pleasant to see that not only ordinary people have changed, but the authorities have changed as well. […] Civil society often saw itself as an alternative to the authorities, but now things took a new turn. The activists found out that the authorities can support their initiatives and now consider them as a partner for creating positive changes in our city. And we can already see this” says Oleksiy Semanin, technical director of the festival.

Two days of holiday in Mariupol were the final chord of the vagrant festival “From country to Ukraine”, sponsored by the USAID. The festival started on July, 1 and wandered through 11 cities in the east of Ukraine – Polkovsk, Kostyantynivka, Bakhmut, Lysychansk, Severodonetsk, Starobilsk, Nikopol, Kryvyi Rig, Zaporizdzhya, Berdyansk and finally Mariupol. For the latter, it is already the second festival.