“Donetsk Dialogue” journalists visited children camp “Romashka”, the Kharkiv region, which gave shelter to IDPs when the war started.
The owners of “Romashka” planned to arrange a camp for children, but the events in the country changed the plans.
“There is a lot of space in the camp. We decided to arrange a camp for children, not just a place to sleep. We wanted to offer some entertainment programs”, says Volodymyr Pohorelov, chief of “Romashka”.
Then there were residents of Slovyansk, the first victims of the conflict.
“IDPs may live here as long as they want. We made the decision to open our business as a camp. We have never been bureaucrats; my wife and I don't even have labour record books; we have never worked for the ‘system’. We just opened two camps, and we were asked to accommodate a girl, for two weeks. In several weeks we had 200 people. Those were the people who escaped from dirty basements. And they stayed for more than a year instead of two weeks”.
By today, several thousand people have lived in the camp.
“We have statistics of those people who have come to the camp. About 4.5 thousand people have stayed here”, says Volodymur Pohorelov.
“Romashka” is firmly supported by volunteers. The owners and volunteers create comfortable conditions for IDP, but the state is silent.
“We managed to cope with the problems thanks to Kharkov citizens. There was a row of cars. They arrived every 5 minutes bringing clothes and food. It was great, and it was touching. Now the help is not as intensive as it was. After winter we charged some payments. We charge 200 Hryvnyas a month per a working-able person. This is because the state does not give us any concessions for paying electricity bill. We pay at commercial tariffs. It is expensive. More than that, it is difficult to persuade people to eat in the canteen and not to cook in their rooms using electric stoves. The bills were huge, up to 80,000 Hryvnyas”, says Volodymyr.
Officials come, take pictures with children, promise something, and that is it
Different people have been here, with their stories, with different attitude to what is done for them. However, the majority of them are thankful for the help.
“Last year a family came from Slovyansk where they had spent 10 days, filthy, in a basement. They had swallowed angry eyes. When they got out of the car, they said, “This is what Ukraine did — shelled us from Grads. Everything is bad!” At that time one of my classmates served in Slovyansk , on Mount Karachun. I knew for sure that at that time Ukraine didn't use Grads. I didn't tell them anything when they came. But in 5 days, when they had relaxed, slept well, and watched Ukrainian TV, we understood that they were wonderful people. We are still in contact with them”, Volodymyr Pohorilov recalls.
Volodymyr has what to tell citizens of the Donbas.
“I think I'm a patriot. But my patriotism is close to the European one. If you talk to average Europeans about patriotism, they will say, 'Union is great, but it is there. My patriotism and my love start here, under my feet.' I love my home, my settlement, my street, and my town, I love it and take care of it, and it starts blossoming and flavouring. If patriots live in the neighbouting town, it starts blossoming and flavouring too. And as a result, a blossoming Europe appears”, says Volodymyr.
Volodymyr lives in the camp too, with his wife and three children. He is sure that he is doing a useful thing. It is not that family business they dreamed about. However, the spouse says that they have gained huge experience in organizing children free time. And it is huge experience of relations with others, when everyone is ready to help those in need.
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