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Project stories 26. As if in a mirror

23 / 02 / 2022
Category: Project News


The projects implemented under the Cross-border Cooperation Programme Poland-Belarus-Ukraine 2014-2020 are not just indicators, budgets, reports and payments. Although these are inseparable elements, above all each project hides the specific ideas, values and dreams of people implementing it, as well as the stories of those who benefited from their implementation.

We want to bring some of them closer to you by the "Project stories" – the cycle which presents their more human (but also animal – as in the 1st, 13th and 14th episodes) dimension of our selected projects. We invite you to read!

More than 600 km apart. Two cities, in two countries, on two sides of the border. And fates reflected as if in a mirror…

Olga Ignatowicz comes from Ukraine, but for the past five years, she's been living in Suwałki (PL), her husband's hometown. They met in Ukraine, where, as a student of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Warmia and Mazury, he served an internship. After a few years, they moved to Poland, to which they both decided to dedicate their future. Olga works in a kindergarten and, at the same time, is active in the Association "Union of Ukrainians in Suwałki", which gathers her compatriots, who came to Poland mostly in search of work. She tries to integrate the Ukrainian community around common events, to which they also invite other inhabitants of the city. She stresses, however, that the biggest barrier for Ukrainians in Poland is the lack of the language knowledge, especially because of their intensive work they don't have much time for external contacts:

And without knowing the language, as in any foreign country, it is difficult to live. You don't know whom to address, sometimes you're ashamed to speak, you're afraid that you won't be understood.

"On the other side of the mirror", in Ternopil (UA), Jerzy Zawadzki lives with his family of Polish roots. He and his relatives have been associated with the Ternopil area for generations:

His mother's family (Łopuszyńscy, Wołosieccy) comes from Ternopil and the surrounding area, while his father's family joins families from the Ternopil area and from near Jarosław. My family is diverse - in everyday life in Ternopil we use Ukrainian, each of us is fluent in Polish, and I also use Polish in my work as a poet and translator. My grandmother gave me recipes, fairy tales, poems, proverbs in Polish, and I grew up in an exclusively Ukrainian environment at school. (...) I feel equally at home here and in Kraków, Przemyśl or Tarnów.

A characteristic feature of the borderlands is the interpenetration of cultures, languages, but also human fates, often difficult and changeable. And although a lot of ink has been spilled on the subject, it turns out that we still know very little about each other. Stereotypes, prejudices and sometimes simply ignorance are the main barriers. The participants of the project "Let's get to know each other - Ukrainians in Suwałki, Poles in Ternopil" decided to change that.

According to estimates, there are about 3,000 Ukrainians living and working in Suwałki, but residents don't know much about them. The aim of the "Let's get to know each other – Ukrainians in Suwałki, Poles in Ternopil" project was to show to the Suwałki’s residents the Ukrainian culture and traditions and on the other side, to create a place in Suwałki, where Ukrainians could get information about the city and meet each other – say the project's authors.

And as in a mirror – a similar number of Poles live in the Ternopil oblast of Ukraine, so similar activities are also planned there.

The project is also the fruit of several years of cooperation between the two cities – in August 2017, the authorities of Suwałki and Ternopil signed a letter of intent on cooperation. But how to translate intentions into practical action? To begin with, the partners met online as part of the project's opening conference. Then it was time for “The book that changed my life" action. It was the beginning of an Ukrainian-language book collection in the Suwałki Public Library and a Polish-language book collection in the library in Ternopil.

And this is how the implementation of the project began. What do the residents of the friendly cities would expect from the common project?

It's worth integrating, organising joint meetings - they would help us, Ukrainians become more integrated into Polish society - says Olga

This cultural exchange is very important for us – this is one of the ways of bringing back from the past the spirit of Galicia, which was our common home - complements Jerzy

You can find out more about the project here.


Project story 26 EACH

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