How does ESN help in difficult times?

Liza is an ESNer and a brave girl who deliberately stays in Kyiv during the war. In the interview, she shared her feelings, experience and heartwarming stories about how to stay strong and how ESN helps her in those difficult times.

— To get this started, could you tell us a little more about yourself and what you did before 24 February?
— Well, I was a final year student, who just came back from her amazing Erasmus mobility in London on the 29th of January. I had one month to meet my friends and family and deal with post-Erasmus depression. In the last week of February, I almost overcame my existential crisis and started my new internship at some company. In a nutshell, I started to get used to life in Ukraine again… Then, one morning, I lost this life, even without tasting it enough.


— How have those difficult times changed your life?
First of all, those times are still here, war is not finished. Talking about my inner change, the first week showed me what the value of life is, and what the real problems are. 
One day my friend Tolia called me and asked for help with delivering things for the Ukrainian defenders. I, of course, said "yes". I have a driving license, and my father gave me his car. So, this is how everything started for me in organizing volunteering I have never tried before. With time we grew up at the Kyiv Humanitarian Center, which helps the Ukrainian defenders, hospitals, and civilians with medicine and other things. We created a team, got the warehouse, started to fundraise money and even do an Instagram. My mental support also were people whom I met while delivering the help...
Going back to your question, my life didn't change completely. I am again volunteering, and being a leader of the NGO, just this time it is not only about international students, but it is also about human lives in 2022.


— How do ESN and the Erasmus experience help you go through these times?
— It is hard to describe everything at one time! My Erasmus exchange experience gave me an opportunity to meet so many people from all over the world, which helped me on the first days with their words and small but important contributions. It made me feel heard by the world. 
Then my ESN volunteering experience granted me with friends who not only supported me with words but made significant actions for Ukraine! For example, Covadonga Solares, my Spanish friend whom I met during my ESN Gender Check-up in 2019 fundraised for the Kyiv Humanitarian Center for more ten 2000 Euros! And there are more! Some of the ESNers I even never met helped me a lot with spreading the posters "Stop war, save Ukraine": print the poster you like and put it on the wall where you live, work or study. In addition, my experience of leading the ESN Ukraine and ESN Kyiv helped me to manage the team of volunteers in the Kyiv Hum Center. 
Also, I was on Erasmus youth exchanges two times, which also gave me great people and faith to open the social enterprise to raise even more funds for Ukraine. An interesting and heartwarming fact is that girls, who were on my ESN board team 2020-2021, are now on my team for the social enterprise (coworking and event space named Pidopryhora.coworking). I do not know who and where I would be without all this experience and help, I am so grateful.


— Maybe, you met some incredible stories that you want to share about?
I would love to share something that just happened recently and is connected to the strong ESN community. My friends know that my mom with my little siblings escaped to Germany from the war in March. It was really hard, but a significant decision for the safety of the kids. They are doing okay in general. However, every time we have a long video call we just start crying at the end. Mentally we are crushed. But a few days ago my mom decided to organize a small trip for the children and my amazing ESN friends Gaffar and Katarzyna hosted them in Amsterdam with big pleasure! I haven't seen my mom, sister, and brother so happy for a long time, and this happened because of our ESN culture of sharing and support, we have to embrace it.


— What helps you to stay strong during these unpredictable times?
— They say, when you help others you help yourself, so this is exactly what I do. By serving I am keeping myself strong and brave these almost three months.


— How can foreigners help Ukraine?
— There are thousands of posts, links, and tips on how you can do it. From donations to openly showing your own position to support Ukraine. However, if you allow me I would do it personalized, like things you can do to help me personally continue to be Ukrainian. 
1. Kyiv Humanitarian Center. If you want to raise funds for our local organization, or you just want to donate by yourself, or you want to send concrete medicine — please just text me on any social media. Every help is crucial. I'm the Head of the organization, so I personally can report to you about where money was spent. We know people who need urgent help personally, so it goes directly.
2. Posters. As I said before, we created posters to share with the whole world about the war and help Ukraine in a way that is appropriate for you. You can also join our campaign. Here are the materials. If you need content — text me on Instagram @lucky_lizza.

Thank you very much for the interview and for sharing your feelings and experience! 


Interviewer: Diana Datskova