In honour of Refugee Day, Road of Hope opened a special program of lives on Instagram. Hosted by Patricia Barendregt, the Lives took place on June 20th and 23rd – two Lives sessions with a little more than 40min. duration: “Ukrainians in Europe”, a conversation with Alina Bielun, the Ukrainian artist that had her flight back home cancelled on the day of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. And “Women in the refugee context”, with Adriane Vieira, that worked with refugees, especially women, for more than 10 years.
To better understand the importance of sharing this kind of experience and knowledge in an open Social Media, we picked 3 highlights of each session:
- How painful it is to realize that there is truly a war happening in your own country. And it is even more challenging when you arrive in a country where everyone is living their lives, and the war seems distant. “For people, the war is only in the news,” Alina confided to Patricia. It is difficult for people in the Netherlands to understand what is happening in Ukraine because it is not their reality. Patricia also explained that humans have short-term memory and, due to the many ongoing conflicts, tend to forget what is happening. But we must not forget because yesterday, like today, thousands of Ukrainians are forced to flee their country.
- The importance of keeping life in movement – “I became proactive; I am not a victim.” When Patricia asks Alina how she lives her life in Amsterdam, far from home, Alina responds that she has strived to be proactive through her art and commitments. Shortly after her arrival in the Netherlands, she becomes the coordinator of the Together project, a project launched by Road of Hope with the aim of bringing together the Ukrainian community in Amsterdam. This way, everyone can share their emotions, be understood, and learn to laugh again. Alina explains that it is important not to feel guilty about being abroad and safe: “You are Ukrainian wherever you are.” Far from Russian influence, she says that they could take advantage of it to explore their culture fully and do so freely.
- Art is a great tool for expression and better understanding – These difficulties of being caught between two realities, being far from home, and fearing for her country and loved ones have inspired Alina for her art exhibition “Full of Miracles.” In this exhibition, she tries to show that the simple little things now appear to be true miracles, almost supernatural, because of the war. Through art, Alina hopes to convey the emotions that Ukrainians go through when they are forced to leave their war-torn country. More recently, she was involved in organizing the “Fair Elements”, a cultural festival that united Ukrainian and Dutch culture through art, fashion, cuisine and talk tables.
As coordinator of Together Project, Alina shared that in this new season of the project, art activities encompassing all ages and special activities shall be added to the elderly as well as for mothers of children aged from 0 to 4 years old will be held, while emotional support is also offered for kids (10-12 years old), which is already happening every Thursday, at Riekerhof.
Watch the full live 👉HERE.
- Being a refugee is one reality, and being a refugee woman is another reality. Often, the media and public policy talk about refugees as a single group, but the reality between women and men is different. Adriane explains that, in the case of refugee women, it can happen that the woman has to flee the country with her children while her husband has to stay behind. Or the husband fleeing, leaving his wife and children behind. Those circumstances change the family dynamic. She then becomes the new head of the family.
- “They are not vulnerable; they are strong.” According to Adriane, it is important not to categorize these women as vulnerable. Their situation may be vulnerable, but it is not their identity, and they show every day how strong they are. There are numerous traumas and challenges that these women have to face once they leave their country. Breath of Hope, a project by Road of Hope, is led by Adriane, who explains that the project was born in 2019 from the desire to provide emotional support to these refugee women. For her, it is important to be able to talk about their emotions and experiences. Thus, these courageous women can understand their new reality and build new connections.
- Integration into a new country also involves finding employment, Adriane explains. It is important to provide them with the necessary information to understand the Dutch job market, which is unfamiliar to refugees. That’s why Adriane introduced workshops in Breath of Hope to reflect on their hidden talents, teach them how to build their CV, write a cover letter, and learn some basic Dutch.
“For me, working with so many nationalities is a privilege.” For Adriane, who is the coordinator of Breath of Hope Project, working with such diverse cultures is a way to share knowledge, life experiences and create a community. “The beauty of these encounters allows everyone to be themselves, meet new people, and finally have like a second family”, she concludes.
Watch the full live 👉HERE.