German and Ukrainian youth participate in a project examining the attitudes towards refugees in Germany and Ukraine. The project was organized to further understand these attitudes, while also sharing the stories of refugees that would otherwise not be heard.
Kyiv, August 19, 2016. Four personal stories of Ukrainian IDPs (internally displaced persons) in the form of four multimedia projects will be presented in Kyiv. This is the result of a week’s communication between young people from Germany, their Ukrainian colleagues, and IDPs within the framework of the project “Who Are These People: Faces of Forced Displacement in Ukraine and Germany”. The project started six months ago as a common idea of Ukrainian and German activists to explore society’s attitude towards refugees. Currently, it is the topical issue in both countries. “We wanted to erase the stereotypical attitude, the labels of “refugee” and “IDP”, and see who these people actually are through their personal stories,” said Yevgenia Reznichenko, NGO “Agency for Free Development”, Kyiv, at a press briefing held at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. “We wanted to meet young refugees, talented young people who have little chances to tell about themselves. Most of the time, they are seen as a huge crowd coming to Germany that don’t really have faces of their own, but they have interesting stories to tell. We wanted them to share their stories, so that we could listen to them and understand them,” said Ronja Lebeda, NGO “ESW”, Germany.
The project has two stages. The first stage started on August 13. A group of young people from Germany arrived in Kyiv for a week to communicate with IDPs and make a project about them. The participants did not only discuss the refugee’s phenomenon and related problems, but also arranged various cultural exchange activities to learn more about each other. “We got the chance to get first-hand experience as we talked to a person who lived in Crimea. He told us about his experiences. We also talked to volunteers working with IDPs. This helped us to really understand what is going on and what had happened,” said Greta Take, project member. “It is very interesting, not only to German young people, but to all to us. For the most part, we do not know who these people are, what problems they face, or what they dream about,” said Ester Petrovska, project member.
Analyzing the problem from a historical viewpoint, based on World War II examples, the project participants saw that despite different times and circumstances, there is much in common between the situation of Jewish refugees and today’s IDPs and refugees from Syria. “What struck us most was that the attitude towards people seeking refuge has not changed since that time. Then, they said that Jewish refugees could be agents of the Nazis, now some people say that IDPs from Donbas may be separatists and Syrian refugees – terrorists,” said Yevgenia Reznichenko.
Young IDPs from Donbas/Crimea and Syrian refugees proved to have similar problems – difficult financial situation, distrust of society, and problems with visas. There was a case even within the project: a participant from Germany, also a Syrian refugee, could not come to Ukraine because he had a refugee passport. “According to procedure, we had to issue the invitation through the Migration Service. The Migration Service said that they ‘do not know what to do with a refugee passport’ and we could not invite him. Unfortunately, neither the Ukrainian Embassy in Berlin, nor the Consulate in Düsseldorf expressed any desire to help or to make a step away from the set procedure,” explained Yevgenia Reznichenko. “It is significant for our theme, because Ukraine is a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees, under which he has his passport, and yet Ukraine allowed itself to ignore it.”
The second group, consisting of Ukrainians, will go to Germany in January. “They will examine the situation in Germany and talk to refugees. The only thing is that we have more experts on the multimedia while they – on the theater. So, they will work more with art tools,” noted Yevgenia Reznichenko.