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

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