Our journey didn’t start without troubles, as our very first train was delayed, causing us to nearly miss the second one – but as our team’s motto is “Never give up” we made a run for it and made the second one just on time! We then arrived safely in Lviv, after having our passports carefully examined (mainly my passport as I think the officer had never seen Icelandic passport before), where we were greeted kindly by the locals and Borch (traditional Ukrainian soup). By a complete coincidence, Jorgé met a few of his friends from AEGEE on the platform as we arrived – what else could you expect from an active AEGEE member?
Arriving late in the evening after 4 trains and over 13 hours of travel, we went directly to our hosts to be energised and prepared for the following day. We started our first full day in Lviv with meeting the “Young Diplomacy” NGO, where students get a chance to practise the practical part of their studies through workshops, debates, organising MUN’s and meeting ambassadors. We engaged in passionate discussions where the students associated civic education a great deal to democracy and values.
Alina Cherkas, 19, noted:
“Ukraine is now on its way to build a strong democracy and strong democratic values, and civic education plays a strong role in the path to democracy”
and Kateryna Holubk a, 23, emphasised the role of educators:
“I think we are on our way to develop democratic values in society, but we are not there already. We need to train teachers so they can develop critical thinking and they can fight discrimination, they can ruin stereotypes.”
It was immediately there, at our fist event, where I realised how rampant and active the civil society in Lviv is. They are ready to break down the stereotypes and join hands in building up their society.
From our meeting with Young Diplomacy, we went straight to conduct a workshop on Fake News; a topic extremely relevant today, no matter where in the world you are. There the discussions revolved mainly around the difference between “click-able” and reliable news, and whether people really care about whether what they’re reading is true or not, or if they simply want to be entertained. Participants debated this topic a lot, and eventually came to the conclusion that that’s the whole point of civic education – to have people want to read news that is not only pleasant but also informative.
After two intense workshops and engaging discussions we went out with our hosts and some of the participants, gaining further insights, experiencing Ukrainian culture and some team buil
ding activities. The second day we went to a high school where we conducted a workshop on civic education, and realised that the 17-year olds were highly involved in bettering their society. As I asked them whether they cared about equality they looked back at me with a shocked face: “of course we care! It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you like, we should all be treated equal.” This they all agreed on, as well as caring about corruption, the environment and history.
In two days, we conducted three workshops with 60 participants, giving our journey a great kick start. I can’t imagine a better place to sit with, as we were truly inspired by the youth of Lviv and their enthusiasm about improving themselves as well as their surroundings. Through our workshops and interviews, we realised how active the civil society of Lviv is, and the impact that it’s creating. Of course not everybody agreed on how to solve reoccurring issues, but all did agree that a sustainable solution is needed and that we must strive towards finding that solution.
Written by Rut Einarsdóttir, Photos by Dmitrii Shishmarev