Project report: Tvory Dobropillya, Ukraine

To Babushka with Love 

Grantee: Tvory Dobropillya, Ukraine
Project: “To Babushka with Love”, combatting elderly isolation through cooking classes with teenagers

A small town in eastern Ukraine, Dobropillya is located 80 km from the line of the conflict zone. In 2014, the city received more than 8,000 refugees from the occupied Donbas, which was more than 25% of the city’s population. 

Tvory Dobropillya acquired premises which became a centre for all members of the community as a cultural, educational, and social institution. In July 2021, we started the project “To Babushka with Love” which was implemented over 7 months.

The aim of the project was to create conditions for the elderly, especially IDPs and local ethnic minorities whose children are mostly far away and cannot come frequently due to the pandemic, to communicate with each other and young people in the Hromada (this is what we call our local communities). 

The pandemic required adjustments, so the project took longer than planned, but we are proud of the results achieved and want to talk about our achievements. We held 14 meetings and masterclasses where women and men of venerable age shared their experiences, cooked the food of their heritage with the children, and told amazing stories from their lives. 

Almost every meeting was like a play thanks to a theatre studio run by our volunteers, a refugee from Donetsk, and our director Lyudmila Pokhozhalova, who found herself involved in the implementation of this project. 

Then in October 2021 we organised an Ethnic Autumn Festival in the open air in a rural area that recently joined the Dobropillya community. It was enchanting and really interesting, with folk singing and cooking by various ethnic minorities living in our territory. Our visitors really enjoyed traveling through the geography of tastes and listening to stories from our seniors. 

With this project, we were able to explore the personal stories of families who moved to this spot in the Donbas for various reasons, both 120 years ago and recently in 2014-2021. 

Ethnic Autumn Festival, October 2021

One of the most important findings of the young visitors was how many different people live in our small town. Almost every person in our community has a history of migration in order to avoid persecution or threat to life since the days of Imperial Russia when they fled to the countryside from the lords to the mines and steel mills. As the descendants of migrants, we were proud to share our cultures through cuisine once more in times of uncertainty. 

Our project involved more than 250 people, and after the Ethnic Autumn Festival, we received more applications than we could invite to our premises due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. 

One unexpected and very welcome outcome was an event at the Rehabilitation Centre for Drug Addicts. And although our main goal was to support and socialise senior citizens, we were able to meet the same needs of people with addictions. So much emotion and happiness flowed from their participation that we are ready to engage and not look at people’s past, but give them the opportunity to start a new life. Five of our elderly participants have become volunteers at the Rehabilitation Centre. 

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