On of the Borderland’s initiatives is Zustrich, the meeting place and a club in Sejny in the building of the old yeshiva.
Zustrich is managed b Dasha who comes from the Kherson region and has been staying in Sejny and Krasngruda since 5 March. In Ukraine Dasha worked with children as an art and culture instructor. The outbreak of the war found her in Kyiv where she was going to work with children in a children’s club, Artek. She was advised to move to the west of the country with the children from the Artek club. Next, she went to Poland. She is hoping to come back to Ukraine and continue her work which will definitely be enriched by her experience of forking for the Borderland Foundation.
In Zustrich you can come and spend some time. You can see some works of the Ukrainian artists who have been staying in Sejna and its neighbourhood. Thanks to the work of the team of US volunteers who contacted the Borderland, Zustrich welcomes children and adults to take part in special activities which make Zustrich a mini- English language summer camp.
The Borderland volunteers are aware of the fact that in order to prepare meaningful and successful activities for different age groups, primary school children, teenagers and adults, and different competency levels, they need to work a lot every evening discussing things and consulting their ideas.
Sara, despite her doubts in the first place believes that teaching English in a bit more relaxed way is a good idea. Hopefully, the participants of the activities will be more willing to learn English in a regular school conditions. She also sees that the fact that children are taken care of in the afternoon in Zustrich is a huge help to their mothers.
Jack is a special team member because of his command of Russian. A student of Yale, he came to Sejny having been advised to do so by Timothy Snyder one of his lecturers and a friend of the Borderland Foundation. There is one thing Jack particularly remembers about his work in Zustrich; ‘We and the students constructed an obstacle course in дом встречи out of chairs, tables, and other mundane objects. We then blindfolded, one student at a time, and the other students were tasked with guiding the student through the obstacle course using English directions to turn left, right or continue’.
Jack has another story showing that the volunteers work not only in the Zustrich room; ‘the other day Sara and Maayan treated the Ukrainian girls of our housing complex to a "spa night," replete with nail polish and face masks, while I showed the boys a classic American movie.’
Maayan, another team member, says that despite the discussions and preparations, you need to be flexible, spontaneous and sometimes it is necessary to follow you intuition as the reality doesn’t seem to work with the perfect lesson plans designed the night before.
The element of spontaneity is well seen in the “spa and movie night” but also in one of Maayan and Sara’s first mornings of their stay here. As they share the dormitory with a group of Ukrainian guests and their children, they came up with the idea of baking cookies. It doesn’t matter that some of the ingredients were unavailable and the cookies went flat. They were eatable, but what matters even more is the fact that thanks the shared experience which was baking, the American volunteers and the Ukrainian children had an opportunity to meet and share something together. Zustrich literally means meeting and if it is limited only to certain time of the day and a particular place, it quickly turns into an artificial bubble.
Zustrich should go beyond that.
Zustrich is open every day from 14:00 to 20:00.