Caritas’ Volunteer Centre revives history and helps bring life to a Ukrainian village


For many years, the Drohobych Caritas Volunteer Centre has conducted an exchange program between children and youths from Western Europe and Ukraine. This year 150 children from the L’viv region got the opportunity to participate in summer camps in Poland and nearly 20 young people from Poland have come to Ukraine. From 2-31 July, nearly 20 young volunteers from cities in Northern Poland vacationed at the Caritas Volunteer Centre in the city of Drohobych in the L’viv region.

The program was designed to unite rest and volunteer work; they met and socialized with Ukrainian volunteers, revived the local cemetery, and helped the village of Dovhe. This youth exchange was made possible by the Polish organization CWM and the European Union program Youth in Action.

During the first half of the program, Polish and Ukrainian youths worked together to clean up and revive the local cemetery in the city of Drohobych. They cleaned up graves and the surrounding areas and documented each gravesite to create an informational resource of the historic cemetery.

The Drohobych cemetery that the children worked in is a well known historical landmark. It is only four years younger than L’viv’s Lychakiv cemetery and is roughly as old as other well known cemeteries such as Powazki in Warsaw, Rakowicki in Cracow (Poland), Rasos in Vilnius (Lithuania), and Pere-Lachaisein Paris, France. The cemetery in Drohobych is 44 years older than the Baykove cemetery in Kyiv.

Nataliya, a volunteer from Gdynia states: “we are cleaning up graves which haven’t been looked after for many years or have been completely abandoned. Many famous Polish, European, Russian and Ukrainian people are buried here. It doesn’t matter who these people are, we just want them remembered. There are also a lot of graves at this cemetery which were destroyed by vandals. We must learn to be sensitive—to history and to the lives of other people, both living and dead.”

On 17 July, the young volunteers moved on to the village of Dovhe in the L’viv region to try to bring some life back to the place. Their goal is to help the secluded village and its inhabitants out of their current economic predicament. Years ago, the Soviet government resettled most of the village’s inhabitants in order to flood the village. The plan to build damns never materialized and the village, along with its remaining inhabitants, was forgotten.

Caritas volunteers want to develop eco-tourism in Dovhe so that the village can obtain funds to re-establish the most basic infrastructure for its inhabitants. Eco-tourism would also serve as a source of income, and would secure modern living conditions for Dovhe’s people and future generations.

Colleagues from Poland who have experience helping small Polish towns in the Carpathian Mountains refocus their activity from agriculture to eco-tourism have promised to share their knowledge and to help develop a plan to improve the economic situation in Dovhe.

“Cultural exchange for young people is important in and of itself, but our work is even more important because it involves a large number of children and youths from disadvantaged families. We want our young people to have contact with their peers from other European countries—Poland, France, Germany, and Italy.

For them to share their thoughts and experiences, to discuss their values, perspectives, thought processes and their vision for the future. For them to learn how to share and respect each other’s culture. This will help foster an enlightened civil society in Ukraine, and this gives me the most hope for our future,” says Artur Deska, Director of the Caritas Volunteer Centre.
Thanks to the Volunteer Centre, from 11-25 June, 100 Ukrainian children, many of which are orphans or are being raised in single parent or otherwise disadvantaged families, were on exchange in Warzenko, a town near Gdansk, Poland which is famous for its beautiful lakes and proximity to the Sea.
Another group of 50 Ukrainian children will spend 2 weeks in Popovo on the Vistula River near Warsaw at the end of July.

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