Stanislav Ch­er­nohor: "I dream that one day there will be a re­gional mu­seum in Kram­a­torsk sim­i­lar to the one in Ka­tow­ice"

I dream that one day there will be a re­gional mu­seum in Kram­a­torsk sim­i­lar to the one in Ka­tow­ice

The Ukrainian Week - - CONTENTS - In­ter­viewed by Ye­lyza­veta Hon­charova

A con­ver­sa­tion with Stanislav Ch­er­nohor, an ex­pe­ri­enced trav­eller and head of the Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Foun­da­tion in Kram­a­torsk

The op­por­tu­nity to travel to neigh­bor­ing coun­tries with­out hin­drance has had an ef­fect peo­ple in the re­gions of Ukraine most dis­tant from Europe – de­spite the war, they have be­gun to travel ac­tively. The Ukrainian Week talked to Stanislav Ch­er­nohor, ex­pe­ri­enced trav­eller and head of the Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Foun­da­tion in Kram­a­torsk.

In your opin­ion, have in­hab­i­tants of the east of the coun­try felt any­thing pos­i­tive from the visa-free regime?

The in­tro­duc­tion of visa-free travel gave an im­pe­tus to in­crease the mo­bil­ity of the res­i­dents of the Donetsk and Luhansk Re­gions. While it has not been dif­fi­cult to get a pass­port for many years, there were prob­lems with ob­tain­ing visas, es­pe­cially when the re­gional cap­i­tals were oc­cu­pied. Both purely psy­cho­log­i­cal (will you get the visa or not) and re­lated to spend­ing time and money. We had to go to Kharkiv, Dnipro or Kyiv to get a visa even for neigh­bor­ing Poland. Of course, few would do this just to go to look at Euro­pean cap­i­tals for a week­end. Be­cause it is more trou­ble than it is worth. But now, the per­cent­age of those who de­cide to travel "on a shoe­string" has re­ally grown. In­ci­den­tally, a lot of my friends do not see it as a big deal any more – it is be­com­ing a fam­ily tra­di­tion. A few years ago in the Donetsk Re­gion, there were still a lot of peo­ple who had never left the area. For ex­am­ple, in 2015, our or­gan­i­sa­tion launched an in­tro­duc­tory tour around dif­fer­ent re­gions of Ukraine for dis­placed per­sons. We were sur­prised by how "set­tled" the peo­ple were – al­most ev­ery­one saw some­thing out­side the Don­bas for the first time. Let alone more dis­tant trav­els. And, of course, visa-free travel is an­other ar­gu­ment in this hy­brid war for hearts and minds. No pro­pa­ganda – that is just a state­ment of fact.

What is cur­rently pop­u­lar in your re­gion?

As a rule, be­gin­ning tourists start with bus tours or­gan­ised by travel agen­cies. Among the favourites is, for ex­am­ple, France, where there re­ally is a lot to see. But while res­i­dents of the west of coun­try barely con­sider Hun­gary and Poland to be abroad, the jour­ney for peo­ple from the Donetsk and Luhansk Re­gions is in­creased by the length of our coun­try, mak­ing it look like a real full-fledged trip. More of­ten than not, due to the poor con­di­tion of roads, peo­ple pre­fer to get around our coun­try by train (to Lviv or Kyiv), so di­rect bus ser­vices from our area are not very pop­u­lar. I would not want to spend an ex­tra day on a not very com­fort­able bus ride across all of Ukraine. Nev­er­the­less, I was sur­prised to find that there are al­ready reg­u­lar routes from here to Wro­claw, which are in de­mand. Al­though, I think they are pri­mar­ily linked to mi­grant work­ers. The visa-free regime has also turned labour mi­gra­tion from the Don­bas some­what west­wards.

But many in dif­fer­ent re­gions say that this is not for or­di­nary cit­i­zens, be­cause it is still ex­pen­sive...

From my ex­pe­ri­ence, I can say that it is ad­dic­tive. When you re­alise that there is no ma­jor ob­sta­cle to trav­el­ling, your range of de­sires au­to­mat­i­cally ex­pands. You do not have to think about ap­ply­ing for a visa and keep­ing track of that process. You just get up and go. Un­for­tu­nately, peo­ple of­ten come up with some rea­son why they can­not travel, al­though they spend even more money on all sorts of non­sense than they would have on an in­ter­est­ing trip with a load of new ex­pe­ri­ences. A night out in a restau­rant can cost more than go­ing to Europe. Let's count: 3rd-class ticket from Kram­a­torsk to Kyiv – UAH 130 ($5), the same amount again from there to Lviv, then UAH 30 ($1.10) for the train to She­hyni, cross the Pol­ish bor­der on foot and from there you have a pre-bought ticket for a Pol­ish bus to War­saw for 2 zlo­tys ($0.50). A night in a hos­tel costs up to UAH 350 ($13) and food in a cafe is the same price as in Ukraine, only the por­tions are much larger! The to­tal comes to UAH 1300-1500 ($50-60) plus food for a week­end. By the way, I also started with Poland, then I wanted to see Italy and Amer­ica, worked out a route around Turkey and then went with my sons to the Balkan coun­tries: Bos­nia and Herze­gov­ina, Mon­tene­gro, Al­ba­nia.

Is it dif­fi­cult to or­gan­ise your own trip?

The main task is to un­der­stand what you want. To see, feel and taste – what­ever you want. Once this is worked out, time and dis­ci­pline are needed to get hold of cheap tick­ets for the des­ti­na­tions where you plan to travel. My main rule for trav­el­ling is that cheap air­line tick­ets are an es­sen­tial re­quire­ment for a trip! Then when you have an ex­act date, you can put to­gether a cul­tural pro­gramme and look for ac­com­mo­da­tion. This will def­i­nitely be cheaper and more ef­fec­tive, be­cause you can choose an itinerary your­self, tak­ing into ac­count your pref­er­ences and in­ter­ests. Once I went with my fam­ily to Turkey through a travel agency and we were ba­si­cally sold just the ho­tel and we got to see all the in­ter­est­ing things an­other time, when we planned a route our­selves. Be­cause there is more to see in the coun­try than just the sea and the food. What is also very in­ter­est­ing is that you can bar­gain with lo­cal tour op­er­a­tors and go on dif­fer­ent routes for much cheaper than in any tourist pack­age. Now I see a

trend – friends and ac­quain­tances are very in­ter­ested in my ex­pe­ri­ence of eco­nom­i­cal tourism. They ask me about it and even write down tips. There are even plans to or­gan­ise small tours for groups of peo­ple from the re­gion who are ac­tively get­ting in­volved in the tra­di­tions of in­de­pen­dent tourism.

What about knowl­edge of for­eign lan­guages or other spe­cial skills?

I only speak Ukrainian and Rus­sian, but I have no prob­lems when book­ing tick­ets on web­sites from other coun­tries or trav­el­ling. It is very easy in Poland es­pe­cially, be­cause you can un­der­stand al­most ev­ery­thing. More­over, the level of de­vel­op­ment of tourist in­fra­struc­ture in Euro­pean coun­tries is many times higher. So do not be afraid, you will not get lost in any case. And you will get a com­pletely dif­fer­ent tourist ex­pe­ri­ence: for ex­am­ple, mu­se­ums that are not bor­ing, but in­ter­est­ing. I dream that one day there will be a re­gional mu­seum in Kram­a­torsk, for ex­am­ple, sim­i­lar to the one in Ka­tow­ice. Not hid­den be­hind glass, but ac­ces­si­ble to vis­i­tors: ev­ery­thing can be held, played with, stud­ied and even heard. You lift the ear­piece of an old phone and hear the real voice of a his­tor­i­cal fig­ure. This is a whole other world, al­though it hardly takes more money to cre­ate it. But it does give a com­pletely dif­fer­ent out­look.

Why is this move­ment pos­i­tive?

I be­lieve that ex­pand­ing hori­zons through the ex­pe­ri­ence of travel is im­por­tant for peo­ple of all ages. But it is es­pe­cially vi­tal for young peo­ple: school­child­ren, stu­dents and young spe­cial­ists. Nev­er­the­less, they should be of­fered more than be­ing kept be­hind a fence at sep­a­rate sum­mer camps in the same old Bul­garia or Poland – we must strive to im­merse them into the so­cial life of other coun­tries. Show them in­ter­ac­tive spa­ces, mod­ern li­braries, parks, cul­tural venues and suc­cess­ful ex­am­ples of self-gov­er­nance. So they can see what is done for or­di­nary peo­ple there and then de­sire qual­i­ta­tive changes at home. Now there are many more op­por­tu­ni­ties for this, es­pe­cially for young peo­ple from the eastern part of Ukraine. My son, for ex­am­ple, went to the Study Tu­tors pro­gramme on his own, tak­ing part in an in­ter­est­ing event in Poland along­side 60 oth­ers from Ukraine, Be­larus and Rus­sia. You could see how the young peo­ple changed their views on lo­cal govern­ment, for ex­am­ple, as a tool for im­prov­ing a com­mu­nity's well-be­ing.

Maybe this should be­come a sep­a­rate strat­egy then?

Over sev­eral years, I have been try­ing to con­vey to the au­thor­i­ties and donors of var­i­ous pro­grammes that of­fi­cials and so­cial ac­tivists should not be taken to other coun­tries as if they were go­ing on hol­i­day. There has to be a sys­tem for this. If there is an idea, for ex­am­ple, the cre­ation and de­vel­op­ment of pub­lic spa­ces, we should in­vite a spe­cialised of­fi­cial from the re­gional au­thor­i­ties, more from cities in­ter­ested in the idea and so­cial ac­tivists who work in this field. So that af­ter­wards they will each be able to ar­range work on their own level with an un­der­stand­ing of what it all means. In­stead of sign­ing up ran­dom peo­ple for a trip that will bring no ben­e­fit in the fu­ture. Un­for­tu­nately, it is now wide­spread prac­tice that grants for ed­u­ca­tion and aware­ness trips are given to those who are only able to write at­trac­tive re­ports, but will never do any real, long-term work. There­fore, hope re­mains that or­di­nary peo­ple who have been given the op­por­tu­nity to travel and see di­ver­sity will no longer want to be sat­is­fied with stand­ing still in the "Sovi­etesque" past, but will strive for a bet­ter life and de­mand the same at­ti­tude from the au­thor­i­ties.

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