News from Pidzamche…

Our second project report comes from Ukraine, courtesy of Olha Kotska and Anna Khvyl from Iota Initiative, as the Pidzamche Neighbourhood Festival gets underway…

Our group have been planning a community festival for early September in one of the districts of one of Lviv. In this particular district, there is not much going on, to say at least. And our approach is to launch festival preparations and provoke locals come and spend time together, making decorations, planning concerts and cooking food, and so on. The festival will act as a trigger. As we expected, it’s not that easy to get people join in with activities they don’t normally join in with – go to street concerts, send their children to a local art school, gather with neighbours for a talk. But we keep experimenting.

photo 1Guided tour at Pidzamche prepared by students, May 13th

We entered the Pidzamche district together with culture studies students of the Lviv National University. With the help of our student coordinator Olha Kononchuk and historian Andriy Bondarenko, students prepared four thematic guided tours – Alternative, Industrial, Batiar (urban subculture in Lviv at the beginning of 20th century) and Sacral Pidzamche. Four pilot tours took place from May 13th till May 22nd. To test these on the public, we invited representatives of urban initiatives to join our trips. Currently students are working for the final versions of guided tours, which will be a part of the Pidzamche Neighbourhood Festival programme in August.

photo 2“The Addresses of Our Memories”, June 9th

The first open event with locals was called “The Addresses of Our Memories”. Around 15 local people attended this meeting and we consider this a big success. It was two hour mapping game where people were drawing maps of their district by hands. We asked them to mark places special for them and to also add things which they would like to have. When talking about the past many participants were quite excited. Proudly telling how they worked at factories with over 3000 employees, how powerful these factories were, and how sad they are abandoned now. It was a story of many, since Pidzamche used to be home for a number of industrial giants. Besides, now we know many significant little stories – we can tell where Sophia had her dressed sewed in 1970’s, why Yosyp’s balcony is the nicest one, and which yard Anna’s grandparents planted a chestnut tree in.

To share our experience, it works better if you send personal SMS to every participant a few hours before the event, just to remind that you are waiting for them.

photo 3The Music Day at Pidzamche, 21st June

On June 21st, as a part of the International Music Day in Lviv, we organised three concerts at Pidzamche . So, this year Pidzamche for the first time celebrated this holiday with all of the world. It went well, even promised rain didn’t happen. And now we are much more skilled in facilitation of active children who are constantly trying to help you out by spreading leaflets, fixing the sound system or checking the microphone. Some of local children asked us if they could sing from the stage and we let them do it. So, we are one step deeper to our idea of promoting local talents.

photo 4The Pidzamche Children Art Camp, June 22nd – 30th

During June 22th – June 30th, Iota Initiative together with an invited art teacher and animator Khrystyna Hertsyk held an art camp for children from Pidzamche. Though the children were enthusiastic about participating in the art camp, it was difficult to build credibility with their parents. Because not many people know us, it was not easy to demonstrate that our initiative has something interesting and different to offer.  But then information spread by word of mouth and the group of 14 was formed. We are especially grateful to our art teacher who worked for more than a week on voluntary basis. Also, a local library supported us by providing space. During a short period of time, children created decorations for the Festival, designed the invitations for their parents and performed theatrical sketch about the old times in Pidzamche.

photo 5 The final concert of the Pidzamche Children Art Camp: performing children,  June 29th

At the end of the art camp the children were performing on the street in front of their parents and curious passers-by.

photo 6-1The final concert of the Pidzamche Children Art Camp:  happy parents, June 29th

So, now you know what we did this June. And we are moving forward.





Dzestra Talks

We are pleased to report that the projects which were awarded funds for the Bridge Building Initiatives are underway.

Our first example to share is Dzestra Talks.

To summarise, this project consists of a series of lectures – a ‘street university’ – conducted in the parks and city spaces of Chernivtsi. The presenters of the lectures will be innovators, role models who have a certain cultural expertise or positive reputation – examples of how culture and civil society can be sustained and created by active individuals. These street lectures are aimed at both young people who may be looking for interesting and intellectual leisure, as well as active youth who want to share ideas and develop them. First there was some consultation sessions followed by the opening lecture. Natalia Yeryomenko and Zhan Pobe provided us with a summary of their activity to date - (NB. Thanks for the great documentation – web editor)


In May the representatives of Chernivtsi NGOs and initiative groups held a meeting in a local cafe. There were the initiatives concerned with ecology (eco-club “Zakhyst”, “Clean Ukraine”), creative work with youth (“Pazl Creative”), literature (literature club “Obelisk“), media (literature magazine Quazi), the local blogosphere, “Politosophia” project), business (“Kanapa na Chaykovskoho”), urbanism (“Idee.CV”), culture (“Zentrum “Gedankendach”, Hisky Music, North Bukovyna, cinema club Carton) and the facebook community “Chernivchany”, which consists of city dwellers who are interested of the development of  Chernivtsi.

We asked the participants questions like “What fields are you most interested in your work?” and “What skills do you most lack?” As for the first question, the responses were: culture, media, tourism, ecology, urbanism, social critics, street culture, urban design. They felt they lacked skills in: fundraising, project management, creativity, team building, local authority support, time management, accounting. There was also a feeling that their initiatives lacked the support of media and of other groups.

Some film documentation (in Ukrainian) can be found at:


We found out that the local youth initiatives seek opportunities for cooperation and we have people whom we can work with. One practical need of these groups is a common information field – like a blog or website – about the activities that happen in the city. We agreed to discuss this further in the “Chernivchany” fb-community and invited everyone interested.

Another presentation took place at the SweetART Gallery (Chernivtsi modern art gallery). There were about 15 people present. We believe this lower attendance is because the previous meeting was announced as an open discussion and people are more likely to have a dialogue rather than listen to a monologue. This is a very precious observation for us — that activists community in Chernivtsi has a strong need for a dialogue and cooperation.

During the presentation we talked about our side-projects (Carton, 3/4 club etc.) and a previous incarnation of the Street University project. We stated our short-term and long-term goals and showed the institutions that are role models for us. The public was active and asked many questions concerning our current project Dzestra Talks. Everyone was interested who the lecturers would be, and at this point we could confirm two of the lecturers.  There were also questions about the future of the project and willingness to negotiate with the citizens and so on.


The first lecture of the Dzestra Talks project then took place on the 14th of June in the City Council Gallery. The lecturer, Tetiana Montian, based in Kyiv, is a lawyer and blogger, specifically interested in civil and commercial law. For 5 years she has been working on the property rights reform. Tetiana also translates to Ukrainian books on economics – for example, she has translated Elinor Ostrom’s “Governing the Commons”.

The topic of the lecture was “Challenges of Local Municipalities in Ukraine”. Tetiana started with a statement that in Ukraine local communities aren’t aware of their property rights. For example, if they own an apartment in a multi-storied building, they think that it’s only their apartment that is in their property. And this problem develops into the bigger one. Not only people are unaware of their rights in their houses, they don’t know about their rights in their cities. They don’t know that they are the actual owners of the local properties, not the authorities. So people can govern their properties on their own, if they negotiate.


But another problem, according to Tetiana, is that Ukrainians are reluctant to negotiate. They are accustomed to the discourse of power, not negotiation. Unlike many Europeans, they don’t feel they have rights for changes in their house/city/country. And they don’t see that the power for these changes comes in negotiation.

At the end of the lecture, Tetiana emphasised that only cooperation and mutual trust will make any reforms work out for Ukraine. The grassroot initiatives will be useful if they can be more numerous, more solid and united.

Approximately 40 people attended the lecture.

Visit the Dzestra Talks flickr page for more photo documentation, our Facebook page or our specific website.

News coverage of this can be viewed at (in Ukrainian):

Photos: Yaroslav Pukas