Yuliya 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 settle down, to “root” in a new place, but even to “bear fruit”. Here, in the Kyiv region, Yuliya presents the Ukrainian origin of the Donbas, spreading local folklore (the Donetsk one), 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.
Artist: After our performance people say: Donetsk is Ukraine. Part 1
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 the 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. A little girl told me such things! And there was time when I really was on the verge of hysterics. But I had 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 Prostir: What is the genre of the songs your ensemble sings?
Hromadskiy Prostir: Did you happen to sing in the Shevchenko Museum at the opening of “Charity through the Prism of Camera Lens”? Hromadskiy Prostir attended the event.
There are a lot of songs in the repertoire of the ensemble as it appeared in 1998. The composition of the ensemble has been changing as it has been a University ensemble. When people become students, they join the group; when they graduate, they leave. I stayed longer. It happened that now, in Kyiv, there are participants of different years. We are ready to sing 130 songs. Most of them are from the Donetsk region. Our Ukrainian folklore is very lyrical, beautiful, with gorgeous polyphony. There are songs from other regions too: Rivno, Lviv, Kyiv, Kharkiv.
Hromadskiy Prostir: Do people speak Ukrainian and sing songs in Ukrainian in Donetsk?
Yes, they do. And people speak mostly Ukrainian in villages.
Hromadskiy Prostir: Your Ukrainian is so melodious.
My mom is from a Ukrainian-speaking family, but then she studied Russian literature and language and started speaking Russian. My sister is Ukrainian philologist. So we speak both languages fluently in my family.
Hromadskiy Prostir: What is the attitude to you here, in Kyiv? What is the atmosphere in general?
It was difficult at the beginning. A lot of things have happened during that time. I have got used to them. About the people. I have met kind, pleasant people. However, there have been cases I would like to speak about. Once I was going somewhere by bus, and there was a woman next to me on a bus. First she was whining because of the daughter-in-law. Then she said, "Residents of Donetsk are guilty in everything. They are paid money, a lot of money. They are rowing money with a shovel”. I understand the people. They are scared.
Hromadskiy Prostir: Maybe, the same things are said about residents of Kyiv in Donetsk?
In Donetsk it is even more horrible. I observe the changes in my mom's nature and I feel her fear, her pain, and her condition. There the mentality has been changing, but here some people do not have healthy psyche either.
In general, I have met kind people, who helped. My group mate from Rome sent me some clothes for children and adults, and I started distributing them among IDPs. Then my friends picked up the idea and now I am a kind of an entrepot: they bring the stuff to me, I find IDPs' families and distribute the stuff.
I have a lot of friends who have suffered a lot because of the war, and their situation is horrible. For example, one of my group mates is in Kharkiv now. Her house was ruined. She had got married, and she and her husband bought a house. And the house was ruined. They moved to Sumy. They had only several thousand Hryvnyas on them. They tried to find some accommodation; they asked some agencies for help and each time they had to pay money. They were given lists of telephone numbers of those who could rent a flat, but when they called, the telephones were not served and there were no flats available there. Then a woman from a village gave them a shelter – a small house used as a kitchen in summer, with holes in the roof. And when my friend's husband went to work, the woman said, “Get up and start working otherwise I will throw you out”. Another example: nobody allowed them to use a well in the village, so my friend had to bring water from another village which was several kilometers away. So, people sometimes think that people from Donetsk are scape goats.
Hromadskiy Prostir: Where did it happen?
In the Sumy region. These bad things were made just because my friend was from Donetsk. Now my friend is living in a residence hall in Kharkiv. It is not a bed of roses either.
Hromadskiy Prostir: As life proves, one should not strive for material things in this world. Nobody knows what one will be deprived of tomorrow. However, what is worth striving for?
People try to be together. You know, even in the past I tried to help all people who I could help but not at the expense of my daughter and my husband; they also needed my care and that required time. However, now I understand what mutual help and sympathy are the most important things. I know that IDPs try to help each other, to help people in Kyiv, to help an old woman who is searching for food in a rubbish bin near your house.
Hromadskiy Prostir: Then reevaluation has taken place, hasn't it?
Yes, it has. You are living in the present, just today; and when you see that some people need your help, and you help.
Artist: After our performance people say: Donetsk is Ukraine. Part 3
Interwiew: Lyubov Yeremycheva
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.