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Artist: After our performance people say: Donetsk is Ukraine. Part 1

Artist: After our performance people say: Donetsk is Ukraine. Part 1

Yulia Kulinenko came with her family from Donetsk as thousands of other people who had to leave their homes and their traditional way of life. However, this story is not just about obstacles, problems, and barriers on the way of IDPs, but how not to give up, to find strength to not only to “root” yourself in a new place, but even to “bear fruit”. Here, in the Kyiv region, Yuliya presents the Ukrainian origin of the Donbas, spreading local (the Donetsk one) folklore, uniting women-IDPs around her in “Dyvyna”, people's theatre of folklore songs. Read about that in an interview to Hromadskiy Prostir which continues publishing women's success stories.

We arrived here by the last but one train – then the link of Donetsk with the world was broken.

Hromadskiy Prostir: Yuliya, say some words about yourself, please.

I'm from Donetsk. I am an editor of The All-Ukrainian Newspaper in publishing house “Zenit”. I also sing in people's theatre of folklore songs “Dyvyna” of Donetsk National University, take part in volunteering. Together with the ensemble, we take part in some presentations of the IDPs' Theatre.

Hromadskiy Prostir: How long have you been in Kyiv?

I've been living in Kyiv from July 28, 2014. We arrived here by the last but one train – then the link of Donetsk with the world was broken.

Hromadskiy Prostir: What circumstances made you leave Donetsk?

Frankly speaking, I didn't want to leave Donetsk. We had just finished refurbishing the flat; I had a good job; I had a man who I loved, a daughter; the kindergarten and my parents were nearby. My mom was born in 1944; her health is not very good, and I didn't want to leave her alone.. But horrible things were happening in Donetsk: we had to stay in bombproof shelters, we had to run away when there were explosions, and route taxis passed by and did not stop, and you had to run three-four stops to get on a bus just to get away from the place. The situation was like that: you leave home for work in the morning and you did not know whether you would come back. The place of my work was not far from the airport – it was a tall building where several publishing houses and editorial offices were located. You were sitting in headphones with loud music at your desk in the office, but still heard something like metal balls thunder – it was shelling of Grads. 

Hromadskiy Prostir: Did you leave with your whole family?

At first, I left with my daughter. My mom used to say that she had already lived her life, that I should not think about her, that I should take my daughter away.

Hromadskiy Prostir: Was it difficult to hear that?

It was. My mom is single now as my father died in 2013. I was not going to leave, but my mom told me to take my daughter away from the war. Besides, we still had rehearsals; we met with our ensemble. I have been singing with them from 2004. So, it is a need, it is more than a hobby, it is a part of my life. Once, during a rehearsal in mid July, our leader said, “My dear ladies, tomorrow I am leaving; my brother, his family and I are taking our parents to Tomsk, to our relatives”. At that time I understood that the core had been taken out, the core which had been my hope… The core had been taken out, and my mom had already laid the basis for the decision to go. I asked my family to allow me to celebrate my birthday – July 26 –  at home. At night I packed my staff: a 90-litre backpack, a big bag, and a rucksack with documents.

Hromadskiy Prostir: Where did you go, to who?

To Kyiv. We expected to be met and helped here – my aunts, father's sisters live here. And at the beginning I planned to live at my friend's. At the station I was met by my friend. She is from Donetsk too and we were group mates when studied at the university. She is a science fiction writer, Oleksandra Ruda. At first, I lived at her place. Then I moved to another friend, Sitlana Kurnikova, a painter from Makiivka. Then I rented a room in Troyeshchyna. The room was in a very bad condition, with doves living on the balcony. The first half year we were ill non-stop, getting  antibiotics treatment 4-5 times. My husband joined us on October 23; before that he had been in hospital. It is more difficult for him to adapt to changes than for me. He wanted to support his parents and did not want to leave them. However, they convinced him to join us. He is a microbiologist. He tried to find a job for a long time. At last, he found it and is working as a shop assistant now.  Our situation has improved.

Our parents in Donetsk did not get any salaries, any pensions, so I arranged it for them to get the payment of my salary in Donetsk, and they shared it. And here my daughter and I worked as baby-sitters in two families; then I got an order to updated a site, and I continued contributing to the newspaper which I worked for. That was the money we lived on. Newspaper at night, in the afternoon ...

Hromadskiy Prostir: What can you say about your today?

It is much better, and the past is like a nightmare. Now I can afford  to work only for the newspaper, sing in the group, perform in the theatre, and to participate in various projects.

Hromadskiy Prostir: What helped you not to give up?

It was a very difficult period. Frankly speaking, my daughter helped me. Now she is 5 and a half, almost 6 – she will be 6 in summer. She supported me. If it had not been her, I would not even have gone out. She has supported me, she has said how good I am, that she chose me and her dad in the heaven, that we are the best parents. This little girl told me that! And there was time when I really was on the verge of hysterics. And I have a lot of friends, and they called me. I left Donetsk with a friend – Nadiya Chyzhevska who has been Ukrainian checkers champion several times. She used to come and forced me to go out for a walk when we had free time, just to change the scenery. Then my husband came and it got better, more comfortable psychologically. He found a job and I could stop babysitting.

Hromadskiy Sector


New service "Explain Ukraine". This is a daily mailout of three articles which were written about the situation in the Donbas by Donbas journalists and translated into English. Honest vision of people who work in the field is unbiased and fresh which is crucial in the world which is full of desinformation and propaganda. We try to share this vision in out daily mailout.  You can subscribe here.

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