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

And now all we have to do is… deliver the projects as agreed

While the groups completed their work plans and prepared to go their separate ways to now realise their projects back in Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia (and no doubt to catch up on some sleep) our trainers had a chance to reflect a little on the process of the Borderland school. Here’s a few observations from Willemijn Lamp.

The projects will be posting material to this blog as they go along – with the work being delivered between now and the autumn.

Late into the night… again

Weronika and Agnieszka continued to work with the groups to finalise technical details of contracts, partnership agreements, budgets, not to mention evaluation.




Natalia: While the backbone of the project is in our minds, we really had to work to review all the technical issues – some were changes on the facade but necessary.

Meanwhile, here are some thoughts on the experience of the Borderland school from one of our participants from Lviv.


3 pm – 8 pm sessions

While many of the sessions involved detailed technical work on the project plans, this session was dedicated to looking ahead.

Chris and Willemijn noted that most of these projects involved building a community. They asked these questions: how can you continue working with these communities after October? How do you imagine that will keep working with these people that you will meet now? What kind of support will be able if you want to continue? How can Borderland help look for new funds?


The group were asked to imagine one person that they are going to meet in the next few months. “Imagine how you would like to continue with that person after October? It could be one of the children you work on a photography project in Tbilisi, or one of the people who attend one of the lectures at Chernivtsi. These may become part of the new community you will be building.”

Chris gave an example of a local person in North Amsterdam, Andrea, who they met for the first time some years ago, when they invited volunteers to participate in reclaiming a local park. This was in the early days of establishing his arts centre, Tolhuistuin. He shared the story of her situation and how by participating in the project it helped  build her self-confidence and her increased role in the community today. “At the very beginning, you can never predict how it goes, but some of the people you meet in the first part of your process will become friends and allies.”


He shared some images from the opening of the new arts centre last Monday, which was Liberation Day in Holland, a national holiday. They organised a dinner for 1000 Amsterdammers. “You cooked a dish at home and this was your entrance fee.” This was another way of engaging with people, to build a community.

Willemijn spoke of building an international community of like minded people. She shared a story of how she met and collaborated with Asmaa Azaizeh, a poet, journalist and news anchor in Haifa, who had made a poetry festival and created a performance space. She described how Asmaa had became a key person to organising the Read My World festival in Amsterdam festival, and how they planned to collaborate in future, with a possible edition of Read My World organised in Haifa.


Bearing in mind these examples of individuals you could meet during a project, they then asked the group to “imagine just one person you will meet – imagine how you will do work with them in the future and how this relationship might develop.” Using this as a starting point, they shared this back with the group and in the process also gave background to their project.

Following this there was a final summation with Krzysztof Czyżewski – looking at the concrete proposals that have been developed with the funds and the knowledge they have gained from the workshops.


For example, Natalia Yeryomenko and Zhan Pobe outlined their project ‘Dzestra Talks’. This will consist of a series of lectures, conducted in the parks and city squares of Chernivtsi. Their initial concept was of making a ‘street university’. The lectures are to be held mostly in different public spaces, which they feel are disregarded, ignored by the citizens, fallen into disuse. These places are inert and dormant, which they wish to transform into spaces with the potential for leisure or crossroads for public interaction and dialogue.

They explained how they want the presenters of the lectures to be innovators, role models who have a certain cultural expertise or positive reputation (ie: a well known film-maker), who have contributed to Ukrainian culture (in a broad sense of the word) without any support from state institutions. They are the example of how culture 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. “The project is all about showing people how to see possibilities and explore them, instead of simply focusing on problems.”

Sunday sessions

It’s been raining and it’s a bit cold first thing, so the heating has been turned back on. Over breakfast there is some light discussion about Eurovision and the strange former links of that some countries retain (for example, Lithuania and Georgia). Then it’s down to business. Fairly serious business.

budgets3The morning session is occupied by sharing of practical information required to make individual partnership agreements. Weronika and Agnieszka went through the necessary organisational issues with regard to contracts – whether signing with organisations or signing with individuals to deliver the project work. They explain how the project funds will be distributed, in two stages, and how payments will be released.

They emphasise the need to keep good financial records, making copies of all the receipts, needing to identify what the receipt is for, what budget category it is.

budgetsThere is some discussion of press and publicity, keeping the project co-ordinators informed. They explain how visits will be made to see the projects as they progress, or particular events, and especially for final documentation.

budgets2In relation to work which produces artworks, Borderland recommend using a Creative Commons licence with regard to this work being made. A Creative Commons licence is used when an author wants to give people the right to share, use and build upon a work that they have created.

‘CC provides an author flexibility (for example, they might choose to allow only non-commercial uses of their own work) and protects the people who use or redistribute an author’s work, so they don’t have to worry about copyright infringement, as long as they abide by the conditions that are specified in the license by which the author distributes the work.’

More info on that here: and here

The participants then had individual budget sessions for their projects to clarify questions, alongside dedicated one on one sessions with Chris and Willemijn (each getting 45 minute slots). Here’s a short sample from Olha and Valentyna’s discussion with Willemijn about their project, ‘Stories of the New Borderland’ which will collect oral histories and use digital media to create animated stories across the Ukraine-Polish border.

Valentyna: I have crossed this border about 50 times, and it doesn’t take 20 minutes – it can take up to 6 hours, so I have spent a lot of time there on this borderland, so I have got to know the people there quite well. In the project we want to learn how to make the stories interesting, not just facts. So the stories are a source of inspiration.