THE HEARTS OF UKRAINE
by Hernan Barros & Omar Castaneda
 
It is said that war brings up the worst of mankind, its evil side and awakens a monster within us. Some of the biggest acts of cruelty have been harvested during arm conflicts, including the most barbaric behavior we have come to know. However, adversity also turns into a nurturing soil to generate the most beautiful acts of compassion, kindness and love. It is in our darkest times that some of us choose to become a little candle and together they all form a shining beacon, a blinding light that engulf us all showing the way to a better future.
 
Ukraine is going under very difficult circumstances because of its political turmoil, the conflict with the separatists and the huge numbers of domestic refugees. Nevertheless, the strength of the country is far from being diminished, specially the one in its citizen hearts. At the Dopomoga Dnipra Centre (Благодійна організація) arrive people coming from different regions of Ukraine, especially from Donetsk and Luhansk, each one with their own tale of tragedy tattooed all over their souls but also with a new one that they are starting to write, full of hope and generosity.
 
There is no better case to start with that the one of the director of the centre who is a young man aged 23, Vladislav Makarov. He participated in the Maiden Revolution and during that time, the love for his nation and his people grew on him to the point of leaving everything behind and departing to that town in the border. Once there, he managed to set up and run the Благодійна організація centre, a place where displace people find shelter, food and support. His has infused every single resident there with a sense of community and togetherness. They all help each other either by cooking, cleaning, caring for the children and most important, healing the emotional wounds through the security of a safe place.
 
The stories of refugees are countless and we have the privilege of witness the tenacity of some of them, like Татьяна (Tatiana). She had a good social and financial status at her hometown but lost all of that during the conflict. The Collective Centre has helped more than 25000 people since its doors were open. Healing the emotional wounds through the security of a safe place Tatiana arrived to the centre only with her child. The war in Ukraine does not know of social classes or background, thus affecting the poor and the wealthy alike. Tatiana was taken care of, protected and thanks to the help of many like herself she regained her strength and set up her own little business.She is happy to give a better future to her kid who will study in a University able to give him a European diploma and that make them proud.
Her gratitude has inspired her to take part in the her new town, so every weekend she volunteers to plant trees all over the city or to do other activities with former residents of the Collective Centre. They are the seeds of a better future, the symbol of a new emotional landscape. Wars affected a very person, it doesn’t matter his/her status or social condition. Teachers, nurses, doctors, single mothers with children and so on are the people who are escaping to get another change. But they are more than cannot leave their homes; families are become apart and separated for ideological reasons.
 
Under the roof of that centre we met a photographer, a sales manager, fathers and sons. It is a slice of Ukrainian society, refusing to being victims and with the tenacity to stand up for what is best, for what they truly believe in: Their country.