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EVS: the utility of being useful

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Like everything extremely exciting in life, my activity as a volunteer in Ukraine is unfortunately coming to an end, so that it is time to take stock of the work done so far. Contrary to what you may think, I am not going to list all the activities, events, achievements, failures or surprises in which I have been involved so far. My stay in Ukraine was amazingly enjoyable and successful yet, but knowing the reasons for that wouldn’t be of much interest for anybody. In this respect, I would rather like to dispel some myths about EVS and its meaning, so that who is coming after me could be able to draw maximum benefits from its activity as a volunteer abroad. In this way I will have also the opportunity to explain exactly what I personally gained in terms of competences from such an experience.


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For at least two weeks I have been wondering how I can contribute to this blog, as political topics and the way people are provided with information are not definitely my field of expertise. Over the past few days on several occasions I tried to find an interesting subject or experience to share with you, and in spite of my efforts, I was not able to think about any remarkable fact to describe. Thus, as it usually happens, yesterday evening, as I made a point of concentrating on different matters, I came up with the idea to write about a fact that I could personally witness while I was still living in Donetsk. The fact I am talking about is the “referendum” for the independence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic hold on May 11th in some major cities of Donbass region.


International archaeological work camp at "Saint Miklosh" castle, Chenodievo, August 2014

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How we worked at the workcamp

Chenodievo is a little, picturesque village in Zakarpattya region in western Ukraine, where time seems to stand still for leaving the dream of a jump in the past, and where a very generous nature provides a setting of endless mountains, forests and pastures. Here cars give way to horse-drawn carriages and an ancient Hungarian castle, surrounded by an enchanting landscape, stands alone not far from the little village houses. Chenodievo is therefore one of those places which you rather may call idyllic, where nature meets history and where a strange kind of magic seems to make dreams come true. As far as I am concerned, at least, my stay here had the features of a waking dream: I am talking about the archaeological summer camp spent at "Saint Miklosh" castle in this charming corner of Ukraine.

When I travel back with my memory to those remarkable two weeks of August, I can barely realize that me and the other members of the camp could share so many adventures in such a short period of time. Every bright impression, sincere emotion, crazy experience was mixed together with virtually endless sensation of lightheartedness, longing for freedom and inspiration. The long chatting evenings around the bonfire, our survival through thunderstorms and overwhelming floods in our tents, the traditional Chinese Qi Gong sessions at the sunrise near the mountain river, the contemplation of the majesty of the starry sky, the endless football matches with local children and even the dances on the burning coals, are just some examples of how we used to spend our everyday camp life.

What were then the ingredients of such an unforgettable experience? First of all, the group of people volunteering at the castle, as everyone of us could boast a very bright and strong personality, lots of interests and an active and full of initiative attitude to life. After a week spent in the camp we got the feeling of being part of a cheerful big family, and as one of us said at the last evening bonfire: "it seems like living with your best friend".

The second ingredient which made such an experience unforgettable for everyone of us, is undoubtedly the beauty of the location and the kindness of local people. “Saint Miklosh” castle has its own mysterious atmosphere which is quite hard to describe in words, as every corner of this ancient building can reveal some secrets or the history of someone’s life, a kind of magic that only oldest places can transmit.

Eventually, the third ingredient, consisted in our work as archaeologists, through which we could be able to bless our shovels, spades and wheelbarrows for every piece of XVII centuries ceramic found, to thank our sweat for every brick of an ancient fortification uncovered and to feel ourselves like children putting together the tiny pieces of the puzzle of history. Though the work was quite hard physically, it was extremely delightful to spend time together and to learn a lot from experienced archaeologists and historians, who were always keen to share their knowledge and energy with us.

Now, that two months have passed since the camp has finished, I cannot help but feel a sense of nostalgia when I retrace with my mind the adventures of our big family in our mysterious castle. Nevertheless, though the camp went to its end, I am pretty sure that our friendship is not over, and every minute we spent together will remain in our memory forever, as world is not big enough to leave us no chance to meet once again.

The EVS explained to an Italian

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It certainly cannot be considered a walkover to take part nowadays to the European Voluntary Service in Donetsk. Ukraine and its eastern regions are going through a very turbulent period, in which intolerance seems to be promoted, prejudice and contention to be encouraged and cultural differences, instead of being a way to oppose discrimination, are being used as an instrument of conflict. The atmosphere of tension that reigns in the streets is such that it is quite easy to forget the reason for which we came here. Yet Donetsk is a charming city, which unlike you might think about a post-Soviet reality, it offers a lot of green spaces and areas for young people, for meeting and socializing and, last but not least, the incomparable warmth and hospitality of its inhabitants. To this extent, taking part to the EVS in this city is something rather meaningful, for which the enhancement of the values of intercultural dialogue and non-formal education play a very important role, as well as being a time of self-reflection and personal growth.

BUZOVA 50° 24' 59.000" N 30° 2' 30.000" E

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Nocturne and pathetic impressions from a village near Kiev


16.02.2014 – In the sign of Dionysus

After an exhausting travel in a third class train – the so called Plackarta – we finally reached Buzova, an enchanting resort not far from Kiev and now I am going to write some short impressions and ideas about my experience. Well, the resort is undoubtedly enchanting, even if I would say that the sun here seems to never shine, even during the summertime. Nevertheless cold places have always fascinated me, providing my imaginative mind with exotic and romantic suggestions. Maybe this is why I feel so comfortable here!

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