"A second breath for a new life"“The village was asleep, and now it has come to life!” exclaims Marina Krivaya of her community, Myrne in eastern Donetsk Oblast. In Ukrainian, Myrne (Мирне) means ‘Peaceful’, although peace is not always easy to come by in the village, which sits only 10 kilometres from the contact line where the conflict between Ukrainian and non-government controlled forces simmers on.
Since mid-2014 Eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region has been reshaped by war. Once ‘normal’ towns and cities on both sides of the contact line have been defined by daily shelling, sniper fire, checkpoints and heavy military presence as the cease-fire agreements have largely failed. Two such villages where the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) works are Myrne and Novomykhailivka in Donetsk Oblast. The lack of state and entrepreneurial investment in such communities has meant that life virtually stopped, and has contributed to a very tense atmosphere in the society. The proximity to the line of contact and the constant echo of the conflict that oppressed the population and became the decisive factor.
DRC in Ukraine with the financial support of USAID’s Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) implemented a project to support local initiatives in the settlements of the buffer zone in Donetsk Oblast. Among the many ideas and proposals DRC and OFDA selected 8 of the most promising projects which included a sports ground in Myrne and community centre in Novomykhailivka.
In Myrne a new sports ground was created, which allowed the local residents to take a fresh look at life. "I have a lot of emotions, because before that the village was asleep, and now it has come to life! We have a lot of active youth, who helped to implement the project of their own volition; we had more volunteers than work. Thanks to this sports ground we have had a "reset" of our lives! Now we have a dream to make a beautiful place in the village," said Marina Krivaya, the head of the community organization "Myrne Dawn".
This project gave the community a "second breath" says the head of the settlement Nikolai Lavrenyuk. "I am very grateful to the DRC for this support for our village. Now we have a vision of further development. We want to make a playground and a recreation park for our residents."
Residents of Novomykhailivka where DRC the refurbishment of a community centre expressed similar feelings. "We lived every moment, together made decisions and as a result received a great place where everyone will be interested. Now, we also want to change a lot! This was the first step towards to a ‘new life’ and I hope that with this result we will confidently go further," proclaimed the chairman of the Novomykhailovska Council, Nina Nesterenko. Here the project is integrated with DRC’s psychosocial support program to help community members traumatized by the conflict. The community centre, where residents can find sources of leisure and recreation, is also used for psychosocial support sessions provided by DRC psychologists.