Criss' Crossin' Ukraine, 2000

Environmental youth exchange project
Netherlands, Germany, Ukraine, Georgia

Daily report

photos: Niels Weigelt, Germany



This report is written by several participants from all four countries. They wrote their impressions by email afterwards. Also there are some parts taken out of 'Tammo' , our diary.

(Tammo also went to Poland , our first exchange project, and he was a very popular guy). More detailed information from workshops and seminars are written in different blocks.

'Headquarters' was the apartment in the centre of Kiev where we gathered several times before going on a trip into the city or to other places. We hired three apartments and the rest stayed at people's homes.

Lars, Marij and I (Janita) came by train from Finland , through Russia , to Ukraine . At a yearly gathering for environmental activists from whole Europe (Ecotopia) in Finland , we had a preparation meeting with the Ukrainian co-ordinator, Maxim. Together with him and a few other 'Ukrainians' we travelled to Kiev .


Friday 18th august

When I woke up, Max put a big cup of coffee in front of me. We were in a Russian train, third class, and the only Western people. From the enormous chaos between our beds, I found some bread and Tartex (vegetarian spread, bought in Finland to survive in meat-counties). In our wagon the windows couldn't be opened and it was very hot. So we went to the second class to get some fresh air and have a good view at this unknown country: Ukraine !  We saw sunflowers, horses and wagons,little stations without platforms. It was a green landscape, compared to the landscape more south we saw later.

Galya, Max' sister, brought us to their house, a little apartment in the centre of Kiev where they lived with their parents. We got a delicious lunch and had time to rest and fresh up. The house was full of little carpets, flower wallpaper (even at the ceiling!) and pictures. We saw the Russian MTV and news about the Russian submarine.

Late in the afternoon they brought us to our apartment. They hired an apartment for us because that was cheaper than a hotel. It was a very big apartment with large beds, a very nice kitchen AND in the centre of Kiev , near the Independence Square (Maidan). Some people from the environmental movement in Kiev and Charkov welcomed us. They took us out for a dinner in a fast-food restaurant with Ukrainian food. It was a very strange experience for us to go with environmental activists to a fast-food restaurant. Some Ukrainian persons were sitting apart from us, because they were eating meat. We were thinking of a way to say that we didn't like to eat there again, because of all the plastics.

Above us, at the main street, hundreds of soldiers were practising for the parade at Independence Day. I never saw such a military event. It gave me a cold feeling to see the colonel with his arm straight in the air and all the soldiers shouting and marching. The Ukrainian people seemed to like it and were proud of their army.

At the square we drunk some beer and Ukrainian drinks, watched a band playing and then went to our comfortable beds.

( Janita , Netherlands )


Saturday 19th august

After the breakfast in the beautiful sunny kitchen Max picked us up to go to the UYEL office. There we worked for almost all day. Actually, the Ukrainian people were working and we were waiting to talk with them, waiting to be able to help organising. In the end we did talk about the program and could make some agreements. It became clear to us that for both groups it was going to be hard to work together, because we had such different styles of working and organising.

That evening Max' mother made a terrific dinner for us at home. It was so beautiful, I had the feeling that it was a Christmas dinner. We had to eat and drink a lot, more than we could bear. But of course it was hard to say no. The women were allowed to stop eating after a while, but the men not. Poor Lars.

We ended the day with a discussion in the apartment about the organising and communication problems. Next morning we were going to talk with the Ukrainian co-ordinators again.

( Janita , Netherlands )

Preparation: In preparation we collided with lot of problems and questions which we successfully solved. Like example, we didn't knew until the last moment when and how the people from Georgia would come, they waited for the last moment with answer about project financing, so they could arrive only in 21st of August. It made organisation part for us more complicated - we could not start boat trip without Georgians. So we changed almost everything .

(Max, Ukraine )


Sunday 20th august

This is to be our first and maybe longest day in Ukraine as we arrive at five o'clock with the night-train in Kiev . There we are picked up by our Ukrainian hosts and brought to the flat where the rest of the group (except the participants from Georgia ) are staying. A first supply of black sweet tea and cookies is our welcome and the first hours are occupied with getting to know each others: learning names, a first introduction to the programme and the next few days, hearing about Ecotopia in Finland . On our way to our accommodations we get first impressions of Kiev on a Sunday-morning and visit an orthodox service.

The programme for the day seems already packed. We have a quick delicious and vegetarian lunch. Than we make our way to the harbour, where we take a boat along the Djnepr. With the view over Kiev and the islands of the Djnepr we listen to two introductions into Ukrainian history and the river and its ecological situation. The coolness of the river makes the heat more bearable and on the boat we find more time for talking, exchanging and playing games. In the evening we take an amazing diner at the same restaurant, where more members of the youth environmental league join us. It seems that our hosts want us to taste all Ukrainian dishes and drinks at once and we get an introduction into the Ukrainian way of toasting. With this official welcoming dinner and informal evening our first day gets to an end.

( Sylvia , Germany )

The start of the program was the introduction workshop "How to survive in Ukraine ", This workshop was conducted by members of our League in the headquarters of the project.

After that we did a boat?trip to the hydroelectric power station on the Kiev 's sea. The trip started from the riverboat station which is situated near the centre of Kiev , on the Pochtovaya sqr. During the boattrip were conducted seminars about: "Environmental problems of polluting rivers" and "History of Ukraine". In the seminar we heard about the situation of drinking water and water pollution in Ukraine . This problem is keen interested in present time and will be more in near future.

This one part of the speech: Ukraine has 9 big rivers, largest of them are Dnieper and Dnester, 23 000 small rivers. But in the Southern part of Ukraine , people are suffering from water famine, and quality of water it leaves much to be desired. This problem is very actually in Ukraine now. From the river Dnieper are taking water largest cities, industry centres and agriculture. Non of them are using purification systems, but closing of non-profitable factories helped us to run over from the catastrophic situation. But water from farms with pesticides is going directly to the river, and this problem we have to solve in near future. ."

The another problem is man-made sea on the river Dnieper made in Soviet Union times. Hydro Dam which was built above the Kiev are using big territory of natural park and gives effects of gigantism of human being above the nature, but nobody didn't count after-effect. The Sea has only 2-3 meters high, this is gives water to warm in summer and to freeze in winter. So fish which leaves in river has no oxygen to breath, changed temperature and dampness of air. ."

After we came, we saw on our eyes Kiev 's sea what we heard about environmental problems which we collided in the past. (Max, Ukraine )


Monday 21st august

The program was changed and we decided to go to Andreivski Hill later.

Around 16.00 we visited the first Ukrainian NGO, "Green World" -"Zeleni Svit", the root of Ukrainian NGO movement after proclaiming Ukraine independent.

Little words about "Green World": Ukrainian Environmental Association "Green World" was created  in 1988, and  made registration in 1989. "Green World" was first ecological NGO in Ukraine , has 146 local departments in all regions of Ukraine . Also "Green World" is a member of "Friends of the Earth" and it's activities are based on the following items:

•  Antinuclear movement

•  Public aware and work with mass-media

•  Environmental education

•  Save of biodiversity and small rivers

•  Climate campaigns; - Work with Youth

On the seminar we heard interesting history of formation of NGO's in Ukraine , first period of "Umbelliferae organisation", second period about several strong and powerful NGO's, and last period was about lots of  small and active NGO's. Also we heard about main environmental problems in Ukraine and participation of NGO's to find answer on it.

(Max, Ukraine )

After a refreshing night for all the new-arrived, quite tired western participants and after breakfast, which each apartment arranged for itself, the day started with a meeting at the apartment Mihailovskiy provulok. There we talked about the day's program and then started a Kiev sightseeing tour. The tour was made by bus, so we got a good impression of the city centre. At some places the bus stopped, so that we had the opportunity to visit for example an exhibition on Kiev 's history, which takes part within the Golden Gate , a historical city gate of the 10th century. While crossing the city by bus we were told about the places and things we were passing and about Kievan history in general. The tour ended up in park, near the Kiev-Pecherska Larva, a monastery of the 11th century, which we visited after a break in the park.

In the afternoon we visited the office of 'Zeleni Svit'- 'Green World', which was one of the first environmental non-governmental organisations of Ukraine . In the office we met one of the Executive directors of Green World, who told us about the history of the organisation, the organisation structures (Green World is working nation-wide) and about campaigns and actions they made and recently are involved in.

At supper we were joint by some Ukrainians, who are involved in environmental issues, e.g. a journalist, who writes about environmental problems in Ukraine . They stayed the whole evening with us, so that it was possible to get into conversation about different topics.

( Stephan , Germany )


Tuesday 22nd August

For me, the day started especially early on August 22, as I had volunteered to do the shopping for this day's lunch before breakfast. Galya who was our translator and guide met us late on Independence Square because she'd already been to the market, and had taken care of buying the vegetables.  At the supermarket it was interesting to see how different rules apply in Ukrainian stores compared to German stores.

After having breakfast each at her or his apartment, we met at the headquarter to take the bus to the Open Air Museum of Ukrainian Folklore. The Georgian participants had arrived at 3am that morning and joined the group for the first time in the bus. At the museum, whether it was due to a misunderstanding or us being a little late, our tour guide could at first not be found.

Just when we had split up into groups and Galya had taken over the task of explaining the museum, the "real" guide arrived, so some people explored the museum on their own in small groups while the rest joined the tour guide.

The museum offered insights into buildings and lifestyle of Ukraine throughout history.  We saw windmills, farmhouses, wooden churches and much more. I was surprised how much it resembled similar type museums in Germany despite all the differences. The beautiful, hot weather contributed its part to making this a wonderful yet a little tourist experience.

For a late lunch we went back to Kiev to have our usual picnic-in-a-park with bread, cheese, various vegetables and lots of water. Afterwards we had time for a circle to decide about the further schedule while a few of us left to book train rides back to Germany and The Netherlands and to make reservations in advance - which turned out to be still more difficult than we had anticipated. The others had free time until dinner with the only obligation to clean out the apartments and bring all luggage to the headquarter.

Dinner at the restaurant St. Petersburg was once again delicious and a great opportunity to talk with those Ukrainians that couldn't join us during the day. For the first time no alcoholic beverages were offered - maybe with the forthcoming bus ride in mind? Another precaution of our Ukrainian hosts was to place all females in the front of the bus "because men have stronger stomachs..." After finally departing in our bus from Kiev we were immediately halted again to pick up food and water for the trip - a break that many of us used to learn some folk dances and play games on the side walk, to the amusement of both, the participants and the Ukrainian pedestrians.

After this cheerful start of the journey, the spirits were high and there was music, talk and a general vacation mood in the bus.

(Florian and Kai , Germany )


Wednesday 23rd August

Almost all of August 23 we spent in the bus on our way to Crimea . Of course the bus ride was long and exhausting and it was too hot in the bus, yet despite warning about Ukrainian busses and Ukrainian streets I didn't find it uncomfortable. We stopped several times i.e. to buy melons at the roadside, or to repair a flat tire. At that time everybody was happy to get out of the bus and sit with their feet in an irrigation vessel filled with cool water and to have some watermelons.  The repair lasted long enough to have a circle with discussion about which form the video documentary of our trip should take.

By the time we arrived at the camping facilities, night had fallen. After a quick dinner we moved into the little huts and tents that had been assigned to us. The pretty camping site was set up like a little village with small winding paths between houses and tents, and pine trees everywhere. Showers were only open about four hours everyday.  We ended the day night swimming in the starlit (pitch-) Black Sea , and having drinks and dancing at the beach bar.

(Florian and Kai , Germany )

Thursday 24th of august

We had breakfast in the dining room of the campsite. After this an extensive morning circle took place. It was about the program as well as about the video documentary. We discussed the program till everybody agreed with it. And when we were talking about the video documentary we divided tasks. And Sacha, who has made documentaries in the Ukraine , gave some advises for filming.

Before the workshop about everybody's environmental activities started, we played a 'penguin-game'. While making weird sounds and moves, the one group of 'animals' had to catch the other group. In the workshop everybody told what he or she has done or still does for the environment. It was remarkable that much of the people from the Ukraine and Georgia have a job at an environmental organisation. While in Germany and the Netherlands people particularly take care of the environment in informal ways, like their own consumption. We also heard a lot about the environmental organisations some of the people in our group are working for.

In the afternoon we could swim in the Black See. The evening of Ukrainian culture was the first cultural evening, and at the same time it was the evening of Ukrainians 10th Independence Day. We were on the beach with many stars above, and sometimes the sky lightened. The Ukrainian people sang some traditional songs accompanied by a guitar, and we had to join in a theatrical song. About every song there was an explanation.

( Nora , Netherlands )


Friday 25th August

During usual morning circle we decided to play simulation game from 10:00 till lunchtime.

Florian and Lucy agreed to be facilitators. All the participants were divided in two groups.

Simulation game

First group consisted of 6 persons and the rest belonged to the other group. I was a member of the first group. Besides me there were Lars, Niels, Sylvia, Alyona and Ivanna. Florian was our moderator and he took us away from the first group to explain what we were going to do.

And then we heard a story about island people Derdians who had never heard about civilisation, who possessed territory with big amount of rivers there and that they had never heard about bridges. So when they wanted to get to the other bank of the river they had to make a long trip around and find place where water is not so deep and usually they got wet while crossing the river that way.

We were told that though all those people have some peculiarities in behaviour they could understand our language and they also looked like us. Florian explained us that six of us should play a role of sophisticated engineers who should teach Derdians to build bridges. Also Florian told us that there was quite a hard year for Derdians because they did not gather enough harvest. So we had to feed them too.

To build a bridge we were given only scissors, paper, a ruler and scotch. We were supposed to use only those materials to teach Derdians how to make strong and easy-to-build bridge. The bridge should be 4 cm wide it meant that we had to cut paper into equal 4 cm wide strips. Also we should be able to persuade Derdians that building bridges is really worth for them and that it can make their life easier.

We were given 20 minutes for the process of 1) inventing bridge 2) finding good persuasive strategy. Actually, almost all time we were discussing how the bridge should look. Although there were a lot of variants proposed (so the discussion was really hot) we agreed that the best model would be as following. It means that we glued two paper strips with scotch (to make a paper strip longer), folded the ends of this long strip and that was all. It was really easy-to-build, really strong and really stable bridge.

Then Florian told us that we should send some of engineers to the Derdians in order to get acquainted with their habits and culture. Lars and Sylvia agreed to go there and they were given a task to learn as much as possible.

As we were located not far from the Derdians we could hear how loudly our engineers were greeted. Actually we could hear only loud shouts and when after 5 minutes engineers came back they looked confused.

They told us that the Derdians were really strange. They greeted each other in a special way (by kissing each other shoulder and stroking one's hand). They were quite ignorant and aggressive when they noticed that one of engineers did not know how to answer back for their greetings. It was planned that Derdians should come to our place soon. And they came. They tried to kiss our shoulder and they were very pleased to see that we knew how to react back. Niels started to explain how they should use a ruler and scissors in order to cut paper and make strips. Lars showed how to glue strips together. As to me,  I played a role of advertising team trying to persuade Derdians how great it was to have bridges built. Other engineers communicated with Derdians. Sylvia got some raisin so we could feed Derdians and they were very thankful. Our game was over when it was clear that Derdians were able to build bridges by themselves.

The most interested part was evaluation of this game. To me personally this game was really impressive. I understood how little I knew about exchange program participants from different countries and how inattentive I was while communicating with them. I realised that we really were closed in our own culture and it takes time and needs a wish to see, to hear, to understand, to feel your partner from the other country. It is a good job to try to get involved into foreign traditions, rules, principles etc. And people are usually lazy to do it so they fail to find a compromise in order to solve a problem. It seems that most participants had the same feelings as I had. And everybody agreed that if you travel to foreign country you should try to adapt to the culture of this nation as deep as possible in order not to look rude, to be accepted and to be treated as a long expected guest not as a barbar.  

( Olesya , Ukraine )

In the middle of these new bridges we had lunch. In the afternoon the participants could choose between going on a bustrip to Yalta or staying at the campsite and have free time. I joined the bus trip. We saw castles, big and small, palm trees, boulevards, melons, onions, peaches and a lot of Russian tourists. This area is the place to be for Russian and Ukrainian people to have holiday. We visited a few little villages before we went to the city Yalta .

Yalta is a town of very old flat buildings (like other towns) and at the seaside a long, big boulevard with a lot of shops, a little harbour, people doing karaoke in the middle of the street, people dressing like Russian people from ages ago, fairground attractions, a huge open-air cinema and very loud music everywhere. When we left Yalta it was getting dark and from above the rocks it was a beautiful sight: all these little lights at the seaside and at our other side the mountains and starry night. The bus was not very stable and took routes in which we were not sure if we would survive this. But he driver knew how to do it and very quick we arrived at the campsite again. In the dark we walked the way down to the sea, carrying big melons which sometimes escaped and found their own way down.

At the beach we made a campfire and played Ukrainian music (on tape). We watched the stars before we went to sleep. That very early morning some Germans (why only Germans?) went watching birds.

( Janita , Netherlands )


Saturday 26th august

The whole morning was dedicated to an information-exchange on the environmental situation in the different countries. This was one of the key-workshops of the exchange. Each country group presented the overall situation in their country, concerning environmental problems, but also developments and trends.  It got obvious, that the two eastern and the two western countries had a common basic outline of the story, therefore I mainly only distinguish between 'eastern' and 'western'.

In the afternoon we continued with an "action techniques" workshop. Participants shared personal experiences about techniques and methods they have been using.

This was followed up by a practical workshop, where we went of to clean the coastal line of plastic litter and garbage. Sadly enough, the beautiful coast-line is heavily affected by plastic littering and regular spills from sewage-systems.

Environmental situation in the different countries

The west

The western countries Netherlands and Germany gave a short overview over the history of nature protection, institutionalisation of green politics and the coming up of environmental movements and civil pressure groups. The Ukrainians found it very remarkable that the German Anti-Nuclear Movement evoked from within "normal citizens" and farmers, and still now a broad movement of citizens, farmers, churches, NGO's, activists groups, etc, are supporting the protests.

Overpopulation and over-consumption in the west were mentioned as a mayor course of environmental deplementation. Especially the Netherlands have to struggle with a very high density of population, industrialised agriculture and live-stock (not too long ago more pigs than humans lived in the Netherlands until a legislation was passed).

The problems that arise are many and complex - such as a high demand of energy and high emission output. But also huge-scale farming/industry leads to concentration of a small number of big, highly industrialised producers. Small-scale /community entrepreneurs had/have no way of surviving competition and price-dumpings. One of the result is the increased need for transport, that goes hand in hand with the construction of huge scale infrastructure projects (highways, bridges, harbours, airports, supported by governmental subsidies). Some members of the Dutch group are currently engaged in a nation-wide project stressing the problem that are caused by the sprawling infrastructure, that brings along a ceiling of ground and the loss of nature (called draw the green line).

The process of producing, trading, packaging, disseminating and recycling all the goods and services we in the west (over)consume, brings up a number of further environmental threads (such as waste, global warming...).

Energy: In Germany the energy need is covered by ca 30 % through nuclear energy, 10 - 15 % of the energy is produced by renewables. There is a very strong opposition against nukes in Germany, pointing out the safety risks, inefficiency and the problem with nuclear waste - a very dangerous form of energy-production we humans cannot properly control and deal with.   Since more than 20 years, citizens groups are building up pressure against the government. Finally, the new elected government promised two years ago in the election campaign  to end the nuclear age in Germany. After having been elected it proved however, that nuclear lobbies were too strong and the government (or it's will?) too weak for a real change. A lame compromise has been found that in fact does not really affect in the nuclear business.

The Netherlands decided in a petition already years ago against nuclear power, the only power plant that exists, is to be switched off, soon. The implementation of renewable sources of energy was promoted and supported, but still nuclear energy is being bought from France and Germany.

It was agreed on by the Dutch as well as the Germans, that social behaviour and consumption patterns are going along with environmentally unsound industries (an example was the commuting between cities and countryside), creating a vicious circle with downwards spiral, if not stopped.

This has already lead to a huge loss of biodiversity, as habitats have been destroyed, and species that cannot adapt to human culture find less and less niches to live in.  Scientists see as one huge future problem the loss of diversity. Going along with globalisation and high scale production, in future it will be more and more difficult to sustain food security and natural resources. Naturally an unbalanced system is more fragile (it lost it's ability to balance itself) and prone to failures.

The east

The participants from Ukraine and Georgia pointed out that the problems the East is facing, are indeed very different than the ones in the West. Western problems come along with a technical/economical highly developed consumers society. Whereas the Eastern countries lack elementary supplies of infrastructure, domestic production and food, and the situation is deteriorating. People have to struggle daily to meet their basic needs, and environmental protection is not really a public issue.

Economic breakdown after the end of the communist regime brought along the shutdown of the highly polluting industrial plants. This lead to a reduction of air-pollution and emission of highly toxins. So it brought a short-term relief, especially important for health of the people living and working there. But industrial and agricultural sector have collapsed, and the process needs to be facilitated to re-establish functioning and sustainable macro-economies. Already a number of agricultural reforms have been taking place, where huge former-communist farms are been downscaled again and been given back to the people for farming. But still most of the fields are not farmed, or if so, not harvested.  Nevertheless within the last years a number of domestic food-production industries could be build up. Georgia currently does not have any considerable domestic industry. Income derives from wine-export and tourism.

Majority of people can sustain their lives only by working in two or three jobs parallel, and in addition growing own food in the garden or the town-near dacha. Pension systems for old people collapsed, and many of them are living on basically nothing or starving to death. In Georgia an additional problem is the thread of conflicts/war between different ethical groups.

Faced with poverty and malsupply, peoples have a positive view on Western consumers society and access to goods and services. Olessia from Ukraine remarked, that the East is now at the point, where it can copy exact the same mistakes the West made. But also it can try to find better ways for a real sustainable development in economical and social terms.

Concretely we talked more about Chernobyl and Nukes in Ukraine: The blow-up of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in 86 was a major environmental catastrophe that brought up many emotions, fears and talks about nuclear safety. After the accident,  international pressure made the Russian government to admit the accident and to take action to evict the people who lived within 35 miles around the reactor and to partially inform and warn the people. Until now there is no official statement from the government to what exactly had happened, essential papers have disappeared.

After the accident huge areas of Ukraine were highly polluted by radiation. Many people had to leave their homes and villages to start a new life somewhere else. Within the 35-miles-zone hundreds of villages were turned to ghost towns, but also many people from Kiev left, to Siberia, or other regions. The scope of these human tragedies was enormous. Many people fell ill of cancer, health situation detoriated. Still in the area of Kiev the level of radiation is 3 times as high as the level which is acceptable for human health.

One of the reactors in Chernobyl is still on the grid. The West/EU put pressure on the Ukrainian government to switch of this reactor (same style and safety-standard as the one who blew up).

As a compensation Ukrainian government demanded the financial support to finalise the construction of K2R4 reactors in Rivne/North Ukraine. Russian government started to build these reactors, but stopped when money run out. The Ukrainian government now does not have the financial means to finish the construction work. Though this reactors have design defencies and are economically unfeasible (Ukraine has enough electricity generation capacities), the EU (EURATOM) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), are currently discussing whether to give the loans.


In the session we heard about many concrete examples and tendencies within our countries. We concluded that it is important for the environmental and civil movements to communicate on an international/global level. So we can enhance mutual understanding and find common strategies to tackle local and global environmental destruction - being able to take into account national/geographical differences and specific circumstances.

Action Techniques Workshop

This workshop provided an overview on actions and methods we have been using so far within our campaigns and environmental work. They ranged from awareness raising and  education to lobbying governments and civil disobedience (or civil responsibility).

Some mentioned were:

•  Street theatre to rise awareness

•  Other creative actions

•  Producing and disseminating information materials

•  Petitions, collecting signatures

•  Build up environmental groups (also children-groups!), NGO's to work on a variety of subjects

•  Monitoring (writing alternative reports, monitoring banks, power plants, etc.)

•  Conducting seminars, workshops and conferences

•  Organising Fares

•  Joining/organising demonstrations, public events

•  Occupying building sites, blocking transports

As a result it can be said, that we might share common values and goals to strive for, but we vary a great deal in how we try to achieve them. An amazingly broad range of techniques and idea came up, and many of us drew new inspirations. However we only touched the question of effectiveness and  legitimacy (especially considering more radical actions). This question definitely needs more discussion.

(Lucia, Germany)

Sunday 27th August

Except of a breakfast-break we stayed the whole morning on the bus travelling to the north. In the afternoon we arrived at Soriewka Park, which lies four bus-hours away from Kiev. In the park, which was founded in the end of the 18th century we had a two hours lasting guided tour. At nine o'clock in the evening we arrived in Kiev, where we moved into the house, we were going to spend the next days.

After dinner the German cultural evening took place. Poems were recitated, traditional song performed and some culinary specialities offered. A special highlight was the common dancing of German folk dances that were presented by one of the German participants.

(Stephan, Germany)

From Tammo (the diary):

Breakfast stop in the middle of nowhere, rainy day returning from our Crimea experience, having survived a long overnight bus ride.

"La la la bamba' roaring from Pavel's tape-player, next to the russkij music of the restaurant, where we placed our melons and raisin bread and jams on the tables, waiting to have some delicious French fries and salad. Nichts kann unsere Stimmung truben!

Having survived 40 degrees at the Black Sea coast it just seems to be fair to cool down a bit.

Max is giving Karen a neck massage and I'm jealous.

Es wird nicht geduldet, dass wir mit den Fingern den Tomatensalad essen- Igor schreitet mit Gabeln ein! Fur die Veggies Tomaten, fur die Nicht-Veggies gibts pelmeni with meat, a Russian specialty, some kind of dough filled with meat and boiled in water. We ate the Ukrainian version filled with potatoes, back in Kiev.

Enjoying this indescribable atmosphere of this forest restaurant. Charming plastic flowers and paper decorations along the walls and ceilings, Westerners astonished by the possibility to bring one's own food into the restaurant- something impossible in the west. Warming up with hot rau/tea and getting the sugar served separately on a plate: happy faces all around. We can now decide ourselves how many kilograms of sugar we would like in our tea.

A circle, YEAH! A short one- today's aim: the Kaniv National Park. Food discussions: vegan barbecue? Do we have a BBQ? Yes. What kind of yes, Ukrainian, Western or Devedian (nodding of our intercultural game meaning no)?

Stefan filming out of the bus, Svetlana saying 'oh no, it's not beautiful here!' Conny happily discovered another goat on a path along the street.

Visiting some kind of landscape-botanical garden, created by a guy who had three wives, his first one being killed because she was too poor.

Still 200 km to Kiev and Max said, it's gonna take two hours, but nobody believed him, 4 hours driving is more realistic on the Ikarus bus.

Sylvia is playing the flute: Was wollen wir trinken, Tage lang.

Dutchies and Deutchies playing cards and singing ' What shall we do with the drunken driver.'

(Antje, Germany)


Monday 28th August

Meeting at the Golden Gate in Kiev for the Chernobyl workshop, where Igor Kyrylchuk, chairman of the Ukrainian Environmental Youth League, gives a chronology of the nuclear disaster on April 28 th 1986

Chernobyl workshop

•  information about the (little) public awareness about the risks of nuclear power plants

•  shocking to hear how ignoring and irresponsible the people in government, KGB, etc. acted: not (or very late) evacuating people, having people participate in the demonstration on May 1st through downtown Kiev knowing a nuclear cloud is approaching the Ukrainian capital

•  even until now after 14 years, information is still being held back and different versions of the catastrophe are around

•  we participants of the exchange project asked questions to understand not only what happened but also to get the picture of how the impact of the Chernobyl disaster on today's life is, how people cope with it, what government or NGO actions have been taken to rise the awareness for environmental and social issues and how they are linked together

Due to the unexpectedly closed Chernobyl museum, we decided to have a look around town, half of the group is busy doing the shopping for our cultural evening at local markets. Good to experience the communication that is possible on the market without knowing any or not very much Russian or Ukrainian, nevertheless being dependent on our Ukrainian hosts in many situations.

Dutch and Georgian evening

The Dutch participants shared some kind of traditional food and introduced the non-Dutch to their culture, to facts and myths about the Netherlands through nice games and songs. Most successful was their theatre play and musical spiced with wit and laughter.

The people from Georgia continued with traditional dances of amazing grace keeping everyone of us entirely fascinated. This little glimpse of Georgian culture gave a feeling of a somewhat very different, very unknown way of life.

One of the best days of the Ukrainian tour because of this truly intercultural evening.

(Antje, Germany)

Tuesday 29th of august

Finally we could see the Tsjernobyl museum. The people who wanted to see it and who'd had to do the shopping went to the city, others stayed at home to write and arrange some things there. The Tsjernobyl museum impressed all of us, visitors. Most people remembered when the Tsjernobyl disaster was, they know it was a distressing period without knowing what would happen. In the museum we could see documentaries, photos, videos, and paintings by children who'd experienced the disaster.

After the visit to the museum we did some shopping. We saw a big market where people in Kiev usually do their shopping. It's really different from West European supermarkets. (there are hardly any supermarkets in the Ukraine). On the market you buy your food from the people who grew the vegetables by themselves.

In the big house  where we stayed, we had supper. The food was from "the dining room' (a kind of canteen in the centre of Kiev), and it was very good. Because this was the last evening we could spend together, we had evaluation, financial meeting and a party this evening. The evaluation made clear that we all enjoyed the exchange. And that there have been some misunderstandings because of the cultural differences. But that doesn't mean that we didn't like to learn from each other's cultures.

For example the cultural simulation game was an absolutely highlight.

The financial meeting turned out to be a very long one, but it was better to have this meeting when we were in the same place, than to have it on the Internet. The same for the party.

(Nora, Netherlands)

Wednesday 30th august

The day of departure:

After our final Say-Goodbye-Party on the day before we had to split up very early in the morning because the majority of the western participants had to get their train at about 7 o'clock. After a hectic pack up and say goodbye to the people who where already awake we reached  loaded with one to three backpacks (the healthies had to carry the stuff of the ills) the railway station. After a last picture together with our Ukrainian hosts in front of the train, we started our 30 hours trip westwards. After a series of communication problems with the conductor (he didn't understand a word English and our Ukrainian was not the best after 10 days, too) who didn't want to believe in the validity of our tickets we reached our home tired and exhausted but also happy about 10 wonderful days in the Ukraine.

(Niels, Germany)
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