«first days and impressions»
The day is the 19th of January 2019. It is a cold, but sunny morning in St.Gallen but nothing compared to the cold weather we were about to face in Ukraine! A part of the group met at the airport to travel together, another part would be travelling later the day. We arrived safely in Kiev and from there we got a taxi to “Our Kids” - a NGO and “Children Home” were we hosted for the three first days in Kiev. Even though it was dark we could already have an impression of the city. Big, broad streets. Very intense traffic. The soviet-style architecture is impressive and really stands out.
We finally arrived at “Our Kids” and were warmly welcomed by them. We were all so hungry then we decided to go to the supermarket across the street to buy some supplies! It was then our very first encounter with the local population. It was really interesting to see that almost everybody we saw on the way to the supermarket either looked at us very curiously or even stopped to talk to us.: “Hey, where are you guys from? What are you doing in Kiev? ”. That’s one of the most striking features of Ukrainian people: their eagerness to talk to foreigners! I think because not so many foreigners travel to Ukraine, maybe because of prejudices against the country (many have the impression is a dangerous country, with not so many attractions and the current war against Russia doesn’t make any easier to change that picture). After eating a nice and warm meal we decided to venture outside, despite the very cold weather! We had many interesting talks with the local population. We felt extremely welcome whenever we went and again we felt this need that especially the young generation has to talk, to exchange opinions. On Sunday we went to the city center. It was our first time in the there with daylight. Now we could see and behold the city’s architecture and really have a better view of the city. We then went to Maidan Square. It was extremely touching to see the pictures exhibition there telling the events of 2014. To see the faces of those killed. One thing is to see those events from the comfort of your house; something else is to be there, in person, at the place where those magnificent events took place; to be there, exposed to the freezing cold and looking at the pictures of those who died trying to get democracy in their country. Something remarkable is to see the young generation getting fed up with corruption and lack of perspective. Many young Ukrainians want to leave the country, because they see no future in their homeland but many young people we got in contact with said leaving is not an option: they want to stay there and to try to build a better country. That’s something really touching and encouraging to hear.
After three day in Kiev we traveled to Chernihiv were we spent another tree days with our Ukraine Partners and Students in the Movetia Project. Living there by guest families, sharing time, seminars and discussions was very valuable and fruitful. The Impressions there approved our feelings to the situation in Kiev. We just realised that we are not at all that different. Ukrainian, Swiss, Brazilian, no matter where we come from, we all wish the best for our countries, the best for your family and friends. Politics often divide us, but the intense contact we’ve had with the locals have shown us that we should try to bridge those divides and work together in making our societies a better place!
Our overall impression of Ukraine is a country very much divided into the past (mostly soviet-related) its present and trying to find a direction into the future. My personal opinion is that Europe should support Ukraine more in this moment of crisis and to offer the country a perspective and a possibility to be able to develop itself without having to fear for its existence. It was a very interesting, enriching but also exhausting experience. The fact that we got exposed to so many different aspects of life, that we got confronted with so much inequality, so much pain and suffering, so much but also so much hope for the future, so much passion, so much will to change their country to the best. We were truly touched by the hospitality of the Ukrainian people. We are looking forward to establishing a long-term relationship with our Ukrainian partners and to welcoming them all to the summer school in July!
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In January 2019, the Chernihiv National University of Technology (Ukraine) welcomed professors and students of the FHS St. Gallen (Switzerland) and Sukhoi State Technical University of Gomel (Belarus). This visit was carried out within the Movetia Project “Social work as a ‘seismograph’ for social change and social needs” and became a starting point in the process of joint comparative student researches on the current issues of social work and social transformations in the three countries.