My parents have never been abroad when they were young. Books of Western scholars, which my father wanted to read, were not available neither at the shops nor in the libraries. When people wanted to express their opinion about everyday life in the Soviet Union, they could not do it directly, fearing for repressions. In the movies, books, music Soviet people had only one version of reality, propagandistic and ideological. It was impossible to learn about the fate of Jews during the Holocaust, fate of Ukrainians during Great Famine, fate of Crimean Tatars during deportation. This knowledge was secret and was rarely whispered at the family kitchens.
I am happy that it is over. My country Ukraine is born. I do love travelling and Amsterdam is one of my favorite destinations.
In 2002 I’ve met with Norbert Hinterleitner from the Anne Frank House who introduced me and my colleagues to the story of Anne Frank and because of that I’ve learned about experience of thousands Ukrainian Jewish children, whose stories were never told. Jointly with the Anne Frank House due to the support of Dutch government Ukrainian NGO’s have toured the exhibition about Anna in hundreds of our big and small cities, conducting seminars for teachers and students about tolerance and democracy. As in dozen other countries where the AFH works, a peer-guide approach was used, young people were discussing the exhibition with their peers from other schools.
After that 3 Ukrainian exhibitions were created. I coauthored with my colleagues Sasha, Dana and Kira a travelling exhibition “Together”. It is dedicated to issues of identity, rights, and life in Ukraine of young asylum seekers & IDP’s, Roma, Jews, Armenians, Crimean Tatars, Greeks, Poles, Russians and Ukrainians. It tells personal stories, contains historical information, and touches upon complex, controversial issues. When attempting to analyze today’s Ukrainian youth, we immediately notice that new generation acts as modern European. For example, a Sergei from Kyiv shares his experience volunteering in Amsterdam. If, rather than providing young visitors with answers to existing questions, the exhibition raises new questions and prompts them to starting their own research, we will consider this a positive outcome.
Recently this exhibition visited 5 liberated cities at the East of Ukraine, 100 teenagers guided 5789 persons through this exhibition. This event created so much needed safe space for discussion of the questions: Who am I? What is important in my life? Whom do I trust? How do others perceive me? Can I fall in love with a person of other religion? Can there be multiple versions of history? Which values are relevant for Ukrainian society today? Sometimes I hear from kids “There in Europe”. But I disagree and answer “Here in Europe”.
Of course the values of free thinking, respect for human rights and tolerance should not be just told at schools, but be transferred into other areas of the society. Last year I taught the course “Tolerance and non-discrimination” for our new patrol police officers. They volunteered to crash our old corrupt police and create new system, where human dignity should become a core value.
Our efforts to change the system are vigorous, but very fragile. And we need your support.
Please vote for Ukraine on April 6.
Anna Lenchovska, psychologist