A recreation ground for children and adults was opened in Sloviansk where a roadblock manned by Russian hybrid forces and a dump once stood. The project conceived by local youths was implemented thanks to the support from international partners, local authorities and non-indifferent citizens.
Cherevkivka neighborhood was hard hit during the occupation of Sloviansk by Russian-controlled militants.
Ihor, a local resident, told us that Russian hybrid forces deliberately chose this place at the outskirts of the neighborhood to set up a roadblock. It offers an excellent view of Mount Karachun, where the Ukrainian Army was entrenched.
In order to conduct continuous reconnaissance and at the same time keep their position secure, Russian-controlled formations blocked the busy road leading to neighboring Kramatorsk and channeled the traffic to this place.
Ihor recalls: “At that time, they could see all arrivals, departures and movements of our troops on Mount Karachun… And in order to secure themselves against artillery fire, they simply made people move through here.”
Oleksandra Tkachova, a local resident and the head of Orange youth organization, recalls what people had to endure during the shelling: “There was a roadblock here. The separatists opened fire. In response, missiles from Nona (a gun-mortar captured by Russian hybrid forces and fired, according to testimonies by Sloviansk residents, on Ukrainian troops and on residential neighborhoods – editor’s note) were coming over here, hitting the entire street. So, the entire street had to live in basements. When they were reloading the gun, we would come out for 5-10 minutes to catch some fresh air and get together with the neighbors to support each other and check whether everybody is alive.”
Everything has begun with an idea
It were the local youths from Orange organization who came up with the idea of making a recreation ground in the place of a roadblock and a dump. They called it “Green Ravine”.
Oleksandra Tkachova says that this is a socialization site for adults and children: “It should be comfortable for everyone: for little children, for adults to discuss community matters, for youths to engage in sports and hold all events there, instead of just aimlessly roaming the streets.”
Yehor Tkachov, one of the sports ground’s builders, told us: “We decided not to wait for somebody else to clean it up for us, and did it ourselves. We cleared up the ground, we cemented it, we brought sand, we dug. It took us a long while, and it was very hard for us. But in the end, we did it.”
Sofia Yevsiutina participated in removing the garbage and beautifying the place. The girl recalls that it wasn’t easy for the builders: “I am happy, of course! I didn’t think we could do it, because we had too many problems at hand in the beginning, because there was a lot of garbage, and not everything went according to plan. We did all that to have a place where we could play, not just walk up and down the street. A place for children to come and play, and develop.”
Building literally by the entire community
They wanted to build Green Ravine a year ago, but back then, they couldn’t do it all by themselves, Oleksandra Tkachova says. They tried several times to win financing, and finally, they did it, winning a contest by Yednannia Center for Promotion of Activity and Development of Social Initiatives.
Citizens of Sloviansk received money from the UN Peace and Development Trust Fund, European Union, and governments of Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland.
But it weren’t just international partners – local authorities, non-indifferent citizens and members of Patriot Group CSO also helped build a recreation ground in place of a dump. Yuri Mikish, a Patriot representative, recalls that in the past, a place for recreation in this neighborhood was a problem. Before the war, this place was infested with drug pushers, and a dump was growing there. That’s why they decided to help, both with workforce and building materials: “We helped remove garbage, gave some metal materials, planted some 50 fir trees, helped with fruit trees.”
The ground has a place for recreation of older people, a volleyball ground, swings for little kids, and even a separate location with a traffic light and road signs to study road traffic rules. Natalia Bokova, Head of PR at Kramatorsk and Sloviansk Patrol Police Battalion, told us that police officers often tell children about road traffic rules. But it was the first time when city residents built such a ground by themselves: “We are very pleased that besides entertainment elements, the community uses safety elements. It is good, because the best way for children to learn road traffic rules is in the playing form.”
Natalia Bokova assures that police officers will keep coming there to teach children the rules of behavior on the road.
By Serhii Horbatenko