Ганна Довбах Hanna Dovbakh

* 1976

  • “The first day of the war... The first or the second... I think it was the first, Thursday. Just on Thursday, completely by chance, we were preparing a small action near the Russian embassy “Light a Candle” against the war. It hadn't started yet. We had been preparing for a week. WE prepared together with Lithuanian politicians. I was asked to speak there as a Saturday School teacher in Vilnius. And we, when we gathered near the Sejm at the end of that day, instead of the declared 500 people... The police said: “Well, yes, we can say 500.” Many thousands of people came. With flags. There were also fires. Everything was broadcast to the whole of Lithuania. Just for this evening, we collected something like 1.5 million euros to support the Ukrainian army. And for the weekend under 9 million. This is only in support of the Ukrainian army. And the same amount was collected for hosting the refugees from Ukraine in Lithuania. It was such a bright picture. It was Estonia's independence day. And we are going. The crowd is going, rushing to the Russian embassy from the Sejm, in Zhverinas. Just past the Estonian embassy. Ambassadors... they do not have the right to participate in such events, <...> it is not allowed. He is standing with a Ukrainian flag at the threshold of his embassy and crying. Estonian Ambassador”.

  • “We didn't go to work then, because it was impossible due to the level of stress, we did something as best we could. But in fact, I went to “Euromaidan SOS” as a volunteer for the whole of February. And due to the fact that I have a psychological education and the experience of my loss is normal, meaningful, I could calmly communicate with the relatives of the dead. We had questions like: we will provide free coffins to take out, and take them there, and here, in the morgue, identified, not identified, and here we take, and here we do not take, and who was lost, and who was found, not found. Because “Euromaidan SOS” started as an initiative, one of the initiatives of this center for rights, for freedoms [Civil Liberties Center], which was just awarded the Nobel Prize [Nobel Peace Prize 2022]. This is their office, their initiative group. What it was about - people started disappearing, disappearing in the forest. Someone was killed, someone was found, someone was not found. And they began to record these signals. It's not the police who should have done it... we all remember that you can't call the police, they are enemies. My task was to call: if somebody found - we crossed them off the list of those who are lost. Not found. Got home - found. Called from friends - found. And this one was not found, they went for identification, he was already dead. This was a very important part of the work for me. Right there, in that office, by the efforts of my close friends, like Sveta Valko, with whom we worked in the International HIV/AIDS Alliance... She is now one of the activists and such drivers since [20]14 in documenting war crimes. Then we all together discussed how to make the Heavenly Hundred Fund. Because they got... people wanted to help those families who lost relatives because of our common cause. It could have been any of us. This is a coincidence. We are there too. This is our cause. Then a very large amount of money was sent. I think it's around 4 million, equivalent to 4 million euros. This is a large amount. And the girls did that. It’s the fact that people in social work really work. This wisdom. The reasoning was as follows - we have the funds, then the scammers swooped in: let's go to the bank, at interest, ... such ugliness... What did the girls do. I was offered to become the director of the Fund. I realized that I can't in this grief and in this work. I just don't want to waste time on this, my life time, although this is a very important job. What did they do? An analysis of the needs of the family was made for each person, for each member of the Heavenly Hundred. And the fund became the one that responds to basic important needs as if this person would live and earn well, and what s/he would invest in. For example, education for children, for example, separate accommodation. It's not like “you get money, spend it on anything”, and immediately all the scammers came, and you name it. There is a loss in the family. They gathered families, they gathered parents, they provided psychological support to everyone, children and parents. They organized treatment for them. A plan was written out for several years, for tens of years, to invest these funds in order for the family to feel supported by the departed. It was so cool. I have never heard of such a project either before or after. That is so well thought out. Because there are not so many victims.”

  • “I didn't have my self-organized group of any kind, I didn't have my hundred [on the Maidan during the Revolution of Dignity]. I spent part of the nights with SPILNO.TV — they conducted the main online broadcast. And due to the fact that I am good at talking on public, and they constantly had to be changed, and it was hard and cold at night, I spent many nights there. I helped the girls from “Promin” (Ray), because I was a frequent guest on their broadcasts and they know that I can formulate something, I spoke about social work, about the response to HIV/AIDS in the community, and now we made several programs on... It was not possible there, at “Promin” it was not possible to talk about what was happening outside the walls of Khreshchatyk, 26 [National Television and Radio Company of Ukraine]. There was a very censored system, no media. But at the same time, we talked, for example, about the music of revolutions and aired Maidan music and Maidan songs, but we talked about music. We talked about self-organization, how it is organized and so on. Such informative work. I had a very important role. All my people noted. At that time, I was already working in international projects, I had contacts in all Western European countries, partners, and in all post-Soviet countries. They clearly indicated to me that if I directly say: “I'm on the Maidan, this and that is happening here”, then this was a super important personal channel of information. I am not a journalist. But for Georgians, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Central Asians, they received... as they said, we have almost learned the Ukrainian language. They got all the information from my Facebook. And that was an important thing. I remember very well when we met with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway regarding HIV/AIDS. There was the issue of “social work, allocation of funds for HIV/AIDS”, but two-thirds of the conversation we talked about the Maidan - what is happening there, why, who came out, what we stand for, what we are dissatisfied with, what we are trying to achieve.”

  • "There were no NGOs at that time. There were some political movements. It turned out that in narcology - it was not called “Sociotherapy” back then, the narcological hospital on Demiivka - several sociologists appeared there. Viievskyi as the director of the narcology hospital, Anatolii Nikolayevich, if I remember correctly, he found several interesting young sociologists, and then Kostiantyn Serhiiovych Krasovskyi appeared there, who found contacts with Swedish sobriety NGOs. Swedish youth sobriety organizations are very strong. <…> They have a tradition of youth self-organization since the [19]20s. In fact, the entire Swedish education, a lot of the parliamentary movement and the political movement grew out of the sobriety clubs, self-organized in the villages, which resisted the terrible influx of home-made alcohol. Out of potato. In the [19]20s. They fought it in Sweden and Norway. And these youth organizations were looking for partners in post-Soviet countries. And Kostiantyn Serhiiovych, seeing our fiery eyes, the student passion of sociologists-psychologists, said: “Maybe you will make an initiative group?”. And the first artificial attempts failed. And then we did a more exciting drug training for social workers and teenagers. From that, the initiative group grew from [19]97–98, 1998 mostly. We started renting premises, Krasovskyi just found us a small grant. Grant was for his firm and he gave us some of it. We lived on those 4,000 euros for four or five years. We found old computer equipment, shared it, there was a schedule for using that computer - we were all students. All pupils and students - everyone had to do something. We had an hourly usage schedule day and night. We had a space that one of our leaders, Seriozha Lukashov, gave his small flat on Solomyanka. And that flat, we repainted it in rainbow colors. This was our club place. Someone spent the night there. We hang out there all the time. It was a self-organization of sober youth, which grew into a self-organization in very different related directions. We did an information campaign on our own, with friends on “I am free from the fear of AIDS”, it was very cool, it was even written about in the press. Absolutely no money. We did some educational campaigns, some trainings in huge numbers, we published a magazine – “ChukchI is not a reader, Chukchi is a writer”. There were much more of us. Active, at first they were called “shaman”, it somehow grew naturally, there were 15 shamans. That is, those who founded and those who kept this system of self-organization and such horizontality of it all. But several hundreds of young people, teenagers on Obolon and Solomyanka were circling around us. And from all over Kyiv. We conducted trainings for leaders of various NGOs together with social services, which just appeared at that time. We did some projects on homelessness, some projects on educating young people about one thing or the other. But in fact, the main thing is that it was a self-organized club party. It was called “Club for clubs”.

  • “We had everything that could be protested at the lyceum. Plus, the teaching of the Ukrainian language, literature and history was great there. There were no books, except for Subtelnyi. We sat in... We were given access to the Parliamentary Library and Vernadskyi Library. The Parliamentary Library is my place where we lived. The two buildings, the one on the European Square and the one down in the elevator. This is our library. In fact, based only on the archives. Everything we knew about history, we actually dug out ourselves in the archives. What we read from literature – the Executed Renaissance and all the rest - is what was actually copied by hand. Because nothing had been published yet. And all the flags, everything that happened there - everything happened at our lyceum and by our own efforts. And then political parties started. And the funny thing was that... we are young, we just finished school, we started to enter universities. And here political parties appear. Not only Rukh (Movement), but also a bunch of different ones. And here our people, my classmates and groupmates, become leaders of various “Komsomols” under different parties. That is, ideologically... we studied the history of the 20th century, we studied the history of the independence of Ukraine, [19]17-18th, we studied it in detail. We drew... I had some essay work there - all political movements and parties of Ukraine before [19]17 and [19]17–18. Who broke away from whom, who were leaders, what ideas. We read the programs of those parties. That is, we really knew it. And maybe, due to the fact that we knew it, instantly... someone works in the Ukrainian Student Union [USS], and we hang out there in the USS, get to know each other... such a story. Someone in young Rukh, someone else somewhere else... And these leaders of all party youth branches or youth parties were classmates, groupmates.”

  • Full recordings
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    Kyiv, 27.12.2022

    duration: 01:58:39
    media recorded in project Voices of Ukraine
  • 2

    Kyiv, 30.12.2022

    duration: 01:29:27
    media recorded in project Voices of Ukraine
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The self-organization of communities is a strength

2000, June - Kyiv, Mohylianka
2000, June - Kyiv, Mohylianka
photo: family archive

Hanna Volodymyrivna Dovbakh was born in Kyiv on August 21, 1976. In 1986, avoiding the consequences of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant accident, the Dovbakh family moved to Karachayevi-Cherkesia (Russia). Since 1988, after returning to Kyiv, Hanna Dovbach and her family took part in the actions of the Ukrainian environmental association “Zelenyi Svit” (Green World), one of the founders of which was her father, Volodymyr Andriiovych, and in December 1990 - in the formation of the unification chain (campaign “Ukrainian wave”). In 1991, she entered the newly established Ukrainian Humanitarian Lyceum at Taras Shevchenko Kyiv National University, which she successfully graduated in 1993. From 1994 to 2000, she simultaneously studied at two universities: Taras Shevchenko Kyiv National University at the Faculty of Psychology and Kyiv-Mohyla Academy National University, majoring in cultural studies. During her student years, she became a participant in anarchist initiatives: the student trade union “Priama Dia” (Direct Action) and the “Tigra Nigra” group. During the preparation of the theatrical action, together with other members of the group, she was detained by law enforcement agencies on charges of using obscene language in a public place. In 1997, together with like-minded people, she created a sobriety organization for socially active youth, which was later named “Club for clubs”. In 2004–2014, she worked at the International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Ukraine, developing the direction of self-organization and community mobilization. Since 2014, she has been living in Vilnius and working at the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (Lithuania) as an executive director, engaged in organizing communities and supporting public movements for a non-repressive drug policy.