Ukrainians are a traumatised community. We do not have a single generation that has not come up against terrors and periods of crisis in the country in the first 20 years of life. Moreover we are a very hedonistic nation. We love life, we like it, we are sincerely happy with it and know how to revel in it. A sad sniper is worse at hitting his target, as they say.
Thanks to the Revolution of Dignity we live with a remarkable sense of freedom in Ukraine today. It is a unique country in which every person has a huge influence, their actions and voice carry weight. The war has for many people in Ukraine become like a catalyst and motive for action. There are many breakthroughs ahead. Countries that have survived this harsh experience often become flagships for culture in the following years.
Healthy patriotism is sincere and unconditional love, a need to be involved. To be an example without demanding the same of others
The experience that has been lived through, the emotions and stories are without fail embodied in art. In front of our eyes a new generation of Ukrainian musicians is already growing up, a new Ukrainian cinema is being born, contemporary art exhibitions are opening and international festivals are taking place.
In rave culture Ukraine has already surpassed itself. After the dissolution of the Republic of KaZantip (one of the most famous electronic music festivals in Eastern Europe, held in Crimea from 1998 to 2013), events such as Brave! Factory Festival appeared — a festival of free music and art held on the premises of a working factory. Valentyn Vasyanovych's film Atlantis won an award as the best film in the Horizons section at the Venice Film Festival. It depicts the experience of war, and the main role was played by one of our foundation's volunteers and a former military scout, Andriy Rymaryk. And this is also a breakthrough.
Through funds raised by the foundation we succeeded in supplying material and ammunition to the defenders of Donetsk Airport (combat between armed formations of the unrecognised 'DNR' and the armed forces of Ukraine for control over a strategic object, the Donetsk International Airport, was hard and long). This feeling that your activity affects the course of history cannot be compared with anything else. And to this day every other thermal scope in trenches in the East is 'ours'. One of our boys on the front line is looking through it at this very moment, tracking the enemy.
Empathy and a striving for self-realisation through volunteering have been with me since childhood. As far back as 11th grade I helped my teacher, whose son had cancer, on my own initiative. I got teachers, pupils, parents involved in this. 2014 brought me an intellectual crisis. I had everything that I wanted at that time: a job in IT, a flat, a girlfriend, travel, a comfortable life. But the Revolution of Dignity started (the mass protest movement in 2013-2014 against corruption and in support of European direction in Ukraine's foreign policy), and my flat became a hideaway and resting place for those participating in the revolution.
During the War in the East I remember a moment of horror and consternation, a feeling of absolute helplessness from watching the news. Then I wrote a post on Facebook saying that I was sending tens of thousands of hryvni to the army as aid, I called people to join me. And so began the story of the Come Back Alive foundation, which subsequently became my life's work. Because there is no more powerful motivation than seeing that what you do is saving dozens of lives.
Patriotism is a rather irrational feeling, it is a need to belong to something greater placed in us by nature, although for each separate individual patriotism does not have any use. On the contrary, it makes you sacrifice yourself for the sake of certain abstract things, convictions. And for me the feeling of community is important, the possibility to realise oneself through this.
Patriotism is in the concentration of a sniper who looks at the target through the sight. But first and foremost it is love, not hate. We do not feel hatred for our enemies at the border, we protect our children out of love for them.
People rang me and said that were it not for us, they could have died, as well as their relatives. Some time in my second year of university I saved a girl that was drowning in the sea, and here I had supposedly saved a whole crowd of people
In late 2014, during the active phase of the war, one of the hottest points of conflict was Donetsk Airport
People observed the ongoing events with alarm, which resembled something that until then we had only seen in the cinema. It was a very heavy confrontation. And it so happened that many of the people I was friendly with had been assigned there. In the news, Donetsk Airport was so terrifying on the screen. I remember this feeling of complete numbness, terror, which fully exhausted you. In order to purchase the necessary material for the defenders of the airport, at the foundation we gathered a huge sum of money in record time.
We started a project creating a Come Back Alive calendar with portraits of these people, heroes and defenders that had gone through these ferocious battles. The guys were photographed by Roman Nikolaev in the village of Pisky. The calendar spread around the whole world, from California to Moscow.
This was the first opportunity for wider society to look into the eyes of the 'cyborgs' (a term for designating the Ukrainian military participants in the defence of Donetsk Airport during the war in the East of Ukraine (26 May 2014 – 22 December 2015). All the fighters were volunteers, my copy has the signatures of these guys. For me it is a symbol of the fact that miracles can happen.
From the moment when thanks to foundation we supplied equipment to soldiers from the second battalion of the 95th Air Assault Brigade, not even one more of them died in the fighting at Donetsk Airport
Come Back Alive's mission is not in the result, but in the process. This is our slogan: 'We are creating history and saving lives together'
I am confident that in the next few decades a very potent cultural renaissance awaits Ukraine