Russians and Ukrainians together in Rondine

At the World House in Rondine this year there are also three pairs of enemies from the Russia-Ukraine front. Five girls and a boy who courageously accepted the challenge of entering into a process of confrontation with the other party in such a painful moment, with the conflict still having a very high intensity and a horizon of great complexity and uncertainty. From Russia come Sabina, Aleksandra and Ilia, from Ukraine Olekandra, Valeriia and Kateryna.

There are 12 young people who have officially entered the World House in Rondine these days biennial program of the Cittadella della Pace of Arezzo which promotes a training and coexistence path for young “enemies” coming from places of war or where the echoes of the war are still strong. After the first three months of observation and evaluation, today they begin their journey to train as ambassadors and future peace leaders, so as to return to their countries and contribute to the resolution of conflicts in their land. Joining the three couples from Russia and Ukraine are Solomon and Jean, from Mali; Malak and Aula, Palestinian students and Heli and Shira, Israeli students. The 12 newcomers join the 11 young people who have already followed the first year of the course, in addition to the 10 participants in the Mediterranean Frontier of Peace project: therefore, this year there are 33 young internationals in all who animate the Citadel, to whom add 31 seventeen-year-old students of the “Quarto Anno Rondine” from all over Italy.

Rondine’s training course implements soft skills and planning skills in order to be able to implement concrete projects in their countries, but above all the Rondine Method aims at the creative transformation of conflict and gives the possibility to experiment and practice it in everyday life, putting oneself on the line to go beyond prejudices and the reasons that separate peoples in conflict and being able to deconstruct the idea of ​​the enemy day after day until building friendships that look to the future.

From Ukraine come Olekandra, Valeriia and Kateryna. Olekandra 22 years old graduated in international law. She was born and raised in Kharkiv, a city she left for the first time last March. «When I sent the application to Rondine I was hiding from the bombing. I am very grateful to be here even if it is difficult because it means there is a war in my homeland. I firmly believe that our very presence here is crucial, because it is a first step that can mark a path for the generations to follow». Valeria, comes from the province of Kyiv, where she specialized in the field of economics and international management. Her encounter with the enemy happened like this: «After a few days in Rondine I got sick and had to stay in solitary confinement and Aleksandra brought me my favorite biscuits, the same ones she had seen me picking up at the supermarket a few days earlier. Her concern for others, whether you’re an enemy or a best friend, impressed me so much, and she still does.”

In the end Catherine. She is from Kiev and is 22 years old, she studied political science and began to be interested in the issue of peace at a very young age. She worked as a political analyst at the European Parliament and was responsible for the Refugee Hub project in Bucharest, to support Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war. The decision to join Rondine was not an easy one for her after the war started. “Anger towards those who started the war and concern for my loved ones were the dominant emotions at the time. I didn’t know how I could share my daily life with Russian students. But I also wanted to tell them my story, in the hope that they would understand it». She then she arrived in Rondine. «When my “enemy” Ilia and I first met, she extended her hand and I, unconsciously, hid mine. Ilia then extended her hand once more and I, with fear and uncertainty in my eyes, finally extended mine. At that moment, I started looking for peace in my heart, a chance to rediscover my true self and inner peace through anger and fear. I hope that Rondine will become a place for me to find or build my personal path of forgiveness and reconciliation, which I will then share with my compatriots after the war”.

Ilia, Aleksandra and Sabina instead come from Russia. Sabina she is 28 years old, she is originally from the city of Samara, on the border with Kazakhstan where she has dealt with refugees: “here to mend relations between Ukrainians and Russians and show that first of all we are people who can have human relationships”. She was the first Russian to arrive and spent her first hours in Rondine with the Ukrainian girls: «I am grateful to them because they spoke in Russian to make the conversation easier for me. This small gesture was very touching for me. And despite the situation in Ukraine I see that they treat me as a person and not as an enemy,” she says. Alexandra she is 23 years old from the Republic of Karelia in northern Russia and studied advertising, public relations and Chinese. Rondine came into her life as a response to the need to contribute to the construction of social justice in the world. It was not a simple choice, hers: «At some point your family may not agree with you. But I don’t have to convince them, argue. It’s important to find someone who can be supportive when it seems like the world is about to fall apart.”

In the end Ilia, comes from Siberia, is only 25 years old but has already lived in many European cities and in the USA. He studied international relations and has very clear ideas. “What scares me is that many people tend to create groups of enemies and blame them. I want to help people look beyond these labels and look for real causes and solutions to social, economic and political problems.” Ilia wants to look beyond the war to the future. «All conflicts and wars are unique, but they all have something in common: they end. No matter how hard and violent they have been, eventually, they all end. Many wars end by the will of the people and their fatigue from the conflict. That’s why it’s important to think about what will happen next and how we can all live together.”

Russians and Ukrainians together in Rondine