The list is not complete so far and is just to serve as a definite ground zero
We all like reading and writing on best practices in European cities and in world capitals, where residents so often join hands in motivation and manage to complete really powerful projects as volunteers – sport, educational, ecological ones.
In such a case we surely take a sigh thoughtfully, thinking to ourselves: “I wish we had something like that …” However, there are lots of examples of successful projects to be found in Ukraine, no worse than abroad. By far, even better and more conceptual ones.
And it’s not true that it’s just those show up that were launched in big cities where things are humming, as it is often the cliché, but the other way round – rather in backwoods. It would seem that nothing of the kind could arise here even in theory.
So our aim is to try and ruin the standard clichés, by telling you about 4 auspicious city projects in Uzhhorod, worth to get interested in, to be proud of and to be implemented in other regions of Ukraine, as a case story making changes in cities and communities.
Let’s get started!
The project message is to get locals acquainted with their own town, village and area. The project was launched 6 years ago in Uzhhorod. At that time, a guide was waiting for townsfolk each week, at the same time and at the same place – near the mini-sculpture of Small St. Nicholas. Each time, though, the guide was a different one, with a new topic to dwell on, his eyes shining.
Nowadays, the free tours take place all over Transcarpathia, absolutely free of charge.
Here we have Fedir Shandor, as the project originator and an expert in tourism, Dr.Phil., Professor of Uzhhorod National University:
“The very idea to start delivering free tours in the city (of Uzhhorod) first arose during the conflict over Narodna Square. It appeared then that lots of people simply know nothing from the history and cannot realize what was peculiar when working with such objects. So the city enthusiasts turned to guides, asking for a tour, supported with certain historical information, so that people could comprehend what was going on with the issue and in what ways.
The first two yours were delivered by muself and Vladyslav Tovtyn. And then it came to my mind, why not do it weekly. That’s how we started to conduct weekly free tours, together with Orest Kohut, Roman Ofitsinskiy, Oleksandr Shershun, Yuriy Slavik and many others.
The free tours had been going on for 3 years in Uzhhorod, when we were joined by Vynohradiv and Mukachevo. By the fifth year, Perechyn came up. After 6 years of being involved in the project, we decided to slow down a bit and do the tour monthly, not weekly. But generally we met for events, regardless of the weather, snowing or raining – the tour is due to take place. It happened only once that we missed it, just because the guide took it wrong as to whose turn it was then.
Last year we decided it was time to do the tours in all the towns of Transcarpathia. We are happy to see that more people keep joining. Moreover, we are continuously updating the programs, since each time we get to know something new and exciting.
The project is surely important, since it gives the city people opportunities to learn more of the place they live in.
And it appeared that it is an opportunity to discover unique people, such as Tatiana Literati with her own project “Uzhhorod Lost”, doing which she searched all of the city’s snugs and nooks. Her previous tour was attended by some fantastic 150 people.
The project’s greatest success during all these year, to my mind, is that we have managed to involve all of Transcarpathia. And what I am especially glad of is that mostly people are just happy for such a project to have appeared. After each event they come up to thank, keep following the project in the social networks. At the same time the guide community has become more united. For them to deliver such a tour is a matter of prestige. And still it is unusual to them. In their routine job they do not come across with locals, and that is quite different from what they have with common tourists.”
The running community of Uzhhorod Running Club first began to pile up in the fall of 2016. Initially, there were just 3 or 4 people, while now it numbers a few dozens of active members.
The Club’s activities consist not only of popularizing a healthy way of life but also of systematic charity, drawing attention to important social issues. Moreover, the club members join the world’s most large-scale races. In particular, they can boast of participating in Wings for Life World Run – App Run attended by 155 thousand runners all over the world simultaneously.
Now we will give the floor to Mykola Mashika, the founder of Uzhhorod Running Club.
“For me personally it all began with getting fond of running. In 2013 I had an idea, and a challenge at once – to complete a marathon. But it is a distance of 42 kilometers and 195 meters. I am a supporter of a systematic approach to solving any task, so I took the matter as seriously and conscientiously as I could: bought a sports watch to measure my heart rate at loads, started regular trainings, got registered for my first race and, generally speaking, started to search for interesting and useful info on running and all that it implies.
And then everything went with the way of evolution: during my trainings I met other runners in the city and the social networks were quite favorable for making contacts and exchanging interesting facts from the running world.
Then I created a group on Facebook, added my friends and people I know to it, and in some time we had quite a community of soul mates who love running and all about it.
I did my first marathon in the city of Kosice (Slovakia) and was impressed greatly with the number of participants and visitors and the whole extent of the sport festival. It was then that I first wanted to organize something like that in my native city. That’s how it happened that in the fall of 2016 there appeared Uzhhorod Running Club as a community of amateur runners, who not just train together but feel sure to organize large-scale events and advocate for a healthy way of life”
The Club was about to take shape quite long ago. My personal reckoning is since November 5, 2016. On that autumn Saturday morning there was quite a serious company: over 20 people, if my memory doesn’t deceive me. Since that time we started running together, inviting our friends and acquaintances to the workouts.
Later on we had an idea to hold a race in our city. As a result, having involved lots of soul-mates and people who felt concerned, we held the “Foot it – help it!” The charity run dedicated to St. Nicholas’ Day. I was then totally overwhelmed with emotions: we did it, collecting funds for needy children, drawing attention to their problems, engaging the city authorities and simply got huge pleasure from everything happening around us.
Nowadays the “Foot it – help it!” race is a traditional one for us in the festive time on New Year’s Eve.
Another important day for the club is January 23, 2018. On that day, together with our friends we completed legalizing our community. We had a foundation meeting for the civic organization of “Uzhhorod Running Club” and by February we obtained all required documents and became a fully legal civic organization.
First of all, I want my city to start running, and Transcarpathia, too. For running is not only about having fun and drive, but an opportunity to communicate with your fellow-thinkers, have a healthy and active lifestyle, enjoy nature and appreciate all around us. Finally, it’s a chance to become a little bit more disciplined and learn more about the abilities of your body.
A morning run through the still sleeping downtown – and you look at your everyday place of residence from a quite different point of view. I would recommend it to all the town officials – to have a run over the city at least once a week – a great way for them to keep their fingers on the pulse of the city’s needs.
Our team also has another dream – to conduct a yearly marathon in the city. To get more people, not just from Ukraine, to know Uzhhorod as a hospitable city with active and positive people living there. Another great wish is to help young Transcarpathian athletes. Of course, we do our best in that respect but surely that is not enough. They need support, for sports are not just about regular trainings but special equipment, nutrition, opportunities to perform a get-together as well.
To be a success is a very relative notion. For some it means a well-organized and well-kept event, for others – smooth and regular club runs; some want the club to be financially successful. For me it is important that our community should constantly work and make progress in development. Another newcomer on the morning or evening run in Uzhhorod already means success, to my mind. That’s what it’s worth, since a healthy man is a happy one. We wish there were more and more such people around us.
This year we are planning to conduct the 2-nd half-marathon in Uzhhorod. We have already first participants registered, both for the main distance and the 10-km distance and for the relay race, too. It is a great pleasure to see more townsfolk joining sport activities, ours the more so.
We would also like to implement a few projects in developing the city infrastructure, for amateur athletes to have access to sport grounds and facilities, to promote healthy ways of life more actively. We do hope all of our plans will come true, it cannot be otherwise. And everyone welcome to Uzhhorod Running Club – we are always open for new adventures. Start running and believe me – this is one of the most useful habits there are. And in time you will never give it up!
Ukraine’s first shop with no plastic and PET opened in Uzhhorod last year. Not only you can purchase products for healthy nutrition but also returnable packets for all goods of any weight.
What was the mission and the story of the shop foundation – we got it straight from the owner, Tetiana Zhovkivska.
I first had the idea of a green shop quite a time ago – been nurturing it for 5 years. But each time I lacked something that would give me a push to start working on it at once. Well, yeah, I want it, so what next? It never arrived to real actions. Still the environmental topic is something I’ve been worried for all of my conscious experience. Popularization of cycling movement, some rubbish cleaning flash-mobs in parks, what not. And of course, I’ve been sorting trash for as long as I can remember –for over 10 years, for sure.
Two years ago I went to a lecture that led me in a right direction. I was initially planning to hear about some experience in sorting or treating wastes. But it appeared to be something much more drastic. The girl told about her efforts not just sort all in details but to decrease the amount of waste as such, not to produce waste at all. Although I was not able to attend the event live, I watched it recorded later on and it just reversed my whole notion. That was so simple and unusual at the same time. Nothing genius but it is simplicity of the solution that hides the brilliance.
As far as I can remember, I’ve been using ecological bags but inside those I used to carry food in packages. While the girl was telling that she was using recycled packets and goes to the market and supermarkets with those; that she didn’t use one-use sipping straws, coffee cups, water bottles and other one-use things in our life. Something that only serves use for 5-10 minutes but gets decomposed forever. To be more precise, not even decomposed but partially crumbles into micro-plastic that finds its way into water, food and then returns to our body.
Half of all the plastic produced in the world is one-use. And it looks nonsense to me. Only 50 years ago there was nothing of the kind, and the mankind was living quite nicely, developing and, what’s crucial, with no diseases.
And that’s what became my personal motivation to create Ukraine’s first shop with no usage of plastic.
I tried to do everything as carefully as if it were for my personal usage. For indeed, I had no place to buy loose products for healthy nutrition for myself. So at the same time I took care of other people as well. They will now be able to change their habit of using billions of plastic bags, either consciously or not.
The main message of the Green Shop is to make people think on the idea: it is possible to do shopping consciously, buying as healthy food as possible, doing without packets. Maybe it is worth thinking of it before starting off shopping: take with you a few packets, a string bag or even a coffee cup in case you want to have coffee in the park. And quit buying water in one-use bottle every day but take some with you from home in a glass recycled one. And consider whether you really need the sipping straw for your juice or coffee. Just three years ago it was not a custom to have one automatically in a coffee cup. Sometimes I don’t have enough time to warn the waiter not to do it. By the way, sipping straws are in top-10 of ocean pollutants. Animals really suffer a lot from them.
Soon after I started buying plastic-free, I realized that 99% of goods on the shop shelves do not exist for me anymore. Not only because they are not healthy, being some processed food full of emulgents and palm oil but also because it’s packed in plastic. So here are already some arguments not to buy it. By the way, in case you have forgotten it, it’s up to you to vote with your wallet which of products have the right to exist and which not.
My sincere belief is that it is not possible to solve the issue of plastic “from above”, by the power of authorities. There ust be a demand for that “from below”, i.e. people must change their consciousness, wishing to start living without waste. I am pleased to watch growing the number of people coming with their own packaging. There were none before and now each day we have 2 or 3 buyers coming with their own cans, packages, trays. And as I am doing shopping at the market and hand my own packages to the sellers, I hear them saying that more people don’t want packages. It’s hard to be among the first, because it seems you’re kind of weird and cannot change anything but great changes are made of small steps. Everybody has to begin from himself. So I did.
We continuously work on the assortment of goods in our shop. Apart from recycled bags and packets, we have loofahs of natural material delivered, toothbrushes of bamboo and other personal supplies, like metal straws. A nice alternative to plastic means not suitable for recycling, since they are for personal care.
My personal goal it to reduce waste, wherever it’s possible. For I think I have lots of work before me to become a perfect “zero waster”. But people that promote this way of life have a very accurate saying: what we need is not a single person trying to be a perfect zero waster but millions doing it imperfectly.
Bike rides with over 500 participants in a small town? Hard to imagine that? Well, it is not for Uzhhorod people. It has become a nice tradition with their town. Nowadays, wide-scale bike rides over the city are organized under the brand of Big City Ride, but still let’s have some more light to the background.
Big City Ride took over the mantle from another bike movement, extremely popular in Uzhhorod – Night Ride. That was a truly city brand.
The rides had always been looked forward to. Due to its atmosphere and the topicality, so interesting with each time coming, the organizers managed to gather a real community. Moreover, they succeeded in setting half the city on the wheels. At least, for one day or one evening.
Night Ride was launches as a project in 2011. Its main point man is Vita Munchak. The girl used to be the project driver up to 2016 before she moved abroad. Unfortunately, the movement went down for some time.
However, in 2018 active bike riders made a decision to revive it, by founding bike rides that the city people loved all the more – Big City Ride. Olexandr Sverhun and Valeriy Kostynskiy took up the case. For a send year now, the guys have been organizing the city bike rides. At times the number of participants is over 5 hundred cyclists.
Now let’s give the floor to the guys.
“We had been waiting for some years for somebody to revive the favorable rides. But last year we decided it was enough – and did the event ourselves. That’s how we put a new life to a nice tradition.
This year we have had only one ride but keep in mind that the riding season only began just now. Last year we did four riding events on a large scale”.
We made up our minds to tackle the matter once we are bike lovers ourselves and we are active members of the city’s cycling life. We just love riding bikes. And there are tons of peopled like us in the city. We all felt the need in bringing to life the wide-scale rides over the city, filled with communicating.
It’s rather hard to number participants there are each time. For many of them join up on the way. But I can clearly remember when we once absolutely occupied the whole of Sobranetska Street, from Hrushevskoho Street to TOKIO supermarket.
Our main goal in the bike rides is to draw attention. Which means to make the city council and regional council see there are so many of us, and we need a well-planned cycling infrastructure.
Some of the projects already function in some format or other in other cities of Ukraine, but some just could become a real breakthrough for development and changes in communities.
We encourage you to join the projects described above and implement them in your own village, town and region –and then tell us about the experience.
Disclaimer: the present material is presented by the civic community of “Institute of Central European Strategy” with the support by US Agency for International Development (USAID). Creating the material became possible with sincere support from the American people as provided via US Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents or the material is a sole responsibility of the civic community of “Institute of Central European Strategy” and down not necessarily reflect opinion of USAID or USA government. Reproduction and use of any part of this material in any format, including graphical, electronic, copying or using in any other way whatsoever is prohibited without a link to the original source.