Friday, June 22, 2012

Welcome to Kiev: City of...Swedes??

Ukraine is beautiful.
I landed in Kiev's newly designed Boryspil International Airport on a tuesday afternoon. The Danish Refugee Council had arranged for a driver to pick me up. Sasha--the driver, had made a simple, yet clear sign with my name on it. When I came up and introduced myself the first thing he said was, "Wow, you're so young!"
This wont be the first time that someone makes a comment like that to me. Girls in Ukraine dress up (at any given moment they are dressed well enough to meet the president of any country..) and love their make up. At 20, I could easily pass for 17-18 in Ukraine. I'm not sure how I feel about this.

We drove from the outskirts of Kiev into the beautiful center of Kiev. Ukraine, Kiev specifically was the birthplace of the Slavic people and where Orthodox Christianity was introduced to slavic people (during the first tsar, Vladimir's rule). The oldest church in Eastern Europe Orthodoxy, St. Sophia's Cathedral is here. An very conviennently located about 1 block away from my first apartment...

The Danish Refugee Council's office is located in the center of Downtown, right off its its historical Khreschatyk street.
Currently, the Eurocup is being held in Poland-Ukraine. The entire street of Khreschatyk (keep in mind that this is the center's main road) is closed off and a "fan-zone" was created.

Every night, all three huge outdoor screens broadcast the Euro games live. All those who came to Kiev or live in Kiev who dont have tickets come to the fan zone, drink cheap beer (24oz. cup is 20 UAH ~ $2.50), and cheer their team on.
Of the thousands and thousands of foreigners in Kiev, many of them are Swedish. All of Sweden's games are going to be held in Kiev (there are four cities holding games for Eurocup, two in Ukraine and two in Poland). In fact, the Ukrainian government knew that they would be expecting an extremely large amount of Swedish fans that they went above and beyond in accommodating them. Most restaurants in the center not only have english menus and servers who understand basic english, but some even reprinted their menu in Swedish. Also, Swedish fans were given their own camping spot called the "Swedish Island" and their own blocked off area in the official fan zone dubbed the "Swedish Corner."

Needless to say, I've benefited a lot from english signs, metro maps and menus incorporated into Kiev for the Eurocup. So, a big thank you to Sweden and UEFA! 

My first week at work involved an orientation of my city as well as DRC. The DRC office in Ukraine consists of a small eight person staff--and they have been most welcoming. 
During my first week I was swamped with DRC reading-reports, project proposals, brochures--I had to read it all. It was important that I was brought up to speed on DRC activities and current projects. I was also taken around town by my colleagues who showed me where the ATMS, pharmacies and grocery stores were. All these new things-new country, people language feels so exciting! Everyday there lys a possibility for new adventure and opportunity.

My first week at DRC was also one of their most hectic weeks of the year. Their project proposal for the next two years was to be submitted by Friday to the EU and consequently, their exhibition at EuroVillage2012 was set for that Friday and Saturday. 

For those who dont know, DRC arrived in Ukraine in 2007 to provide technical assistance to government asylum authorities and refugee-related civil society. Since 2009, DRC has focused on the protection of asylum seeking and refugee Children. DRC—funded by the EU—works closely with UNHCR, Ukrainian State Committee funds DRC for Nationalities and Religions, Red Cross among others. In February 2009, DRC launched its two-year project, “Legal and Social Protection of Asylum Seeking and Refugee Children. Its main goal is to support the government of Ukraine to fulfill its obligations towards vulnerable asylum seeking and refugee children by increasing the capacity of asylum and child care authorities to better protect and integrate refugees and asylum seeking children. Most refugee and asylum-seeking children in Ukraine are from Afghanistan and Somalia. Their new project proposal would continue to fall within these guidelines. 

Eurovillage2012 is an exhibition funded the EU and Ukraine with the purpose of promoting female health, human rights, environmental awareness, etc.. The Danish Refugee Council was invited to participate and to share information about their work. It was my job to talk to visitors (those who knew english or could bear to stand their and listen to my broken russian&hand gestures) about DRC and our work with refugee and asylum seeking children.

Looks like all that reading paid off after all! :) 


No comments:

Post a Comment