The second integration event of the project “STRONG TOGETHER. СИЛЬНІ РАЗОМ” has taken place

The second integration event of the project “STRONG TOGETHER. СИЛЬНІ РАЗОМ” has taken place

On November 18 and 19, 2023, the integration event of the project “STRONG TOGETHER. СИЛЬНІ РАЗОМ”, ID No. 2023.LV/UKR_KO/06, funded by the Latvian state budget programme “Cultural Orientation Courses and Inclusion Activities for Ukrainian Civilians”, organized by Daugavpils University Association for Lifelong Learning, Cultural and Science Communication “Intellect Park”, took place. The event gathered the Ukrainian civilians learning the Latvian language, getting acquainted with Latvian culture and society, and aiming to integrate into Latvian society. During the two-day event, Ukrainian civilians and Latvian citizens, representatives of the host community, collaborated in various informal activities, went on excursions, learned about successful examples of starting a small business in Latgale, and gained ideas for starting their own small businesses.

On the first day of the integration event, the participants of the project headed to the recreation complex “Lejasmalas” in the Auleja parish of Krāslava municipality. There, a discussion titled “Intercultural Communication and Regional Specifics in Latvia and Ukraine: Shared Experiences, Different Stories” was organized. The discussion focused on the experiences gained while living in Latvia, establishing new goals in Latvia-Ukraine collaboration. The discussion was chaired by Maija Burima, a representative of the host community, and Iurii Liubovskyi, a Ukrainian civilian. All representatives of the host community and Ukrainian civilians participated in the discussion. During this session, the participants gained insights into crucial aspects of intercultural communication, engaged in a training on building an inclusive society and cultural competence. Additionally, they learned about various stereotypes concerning foreigners resent in Latvian society.

After the discussion, the Ukrainian civilians participated in the “Story Night” activities within various interest groups. They listened to stories from fishermen, hunters, mushroom and berry pickers. The evening included diverse travel tales, appetizing culinary stories from Latvian cuisine, and current stories from influencers and bloggers. In the collaborative workshop on “Latvian Crafts”, the Ukrainian civilians learned to make aromatic soaps, incorporating various medicinal and decorative plants found in Latvian nature. Under the supervision of instructors, they also crafted mittens with Latvian ethnographic symbols and made beeswax candles.

In the dance workshop “Latvian Games, Dances, and Plays”, adults and children learned Latvian folk-dance moves, discovered fascinating facts about Latvian national costumes and their history, and engaged in various games and plays, such as “Folk Ball”, “One Too Few, Two Too Many”, and “Adam Had Seven Sons”. During the workshops, the participants strengthened their knowledge of the Latvian language, learned about Latvian national values and traditions, and laid the foundations for collaboration models with representatives of the host community. At the end of the evening, everyone had the opportunity to watch several films from Latvian cinema classics, followed by informal discussions about the films they had seen.

On the morning of the second day, during the “Idea Bank: Opportunities and Challenges in the Non-Governmental Sector” session, the participants received information about the opportunities for NGOs in Latvia, legislation regulating NGO activities, starting a business, micro-enterprises, individual economic activities, as well as sources of funding. Subsequently, the participants of the excursion visited the organic farm “Juri”, where they had the opportunity to learn about the traditional cheese-making process, taste fresh milk from cows raised on the farm, taste various types of handmade cheese, and discover ways to establish their own organic farm for income-generating results.

As part of the event, participants visited Preiļi, where they explored the art gallery “Nester Custom”. Founded by the Preiļi-based family of Aleksandrs and Alīna Nesteruk, the gallery specializes in restoring motorcycle technology and transforming non-liquid spare parts into works of art. The Nesteruk family demonstrated how an original idea and determination can generate profits and attract visitors from across Latvia. The next destination was the “Doll Kingdom”, where the participants were introduced to a handcrafted doll collection created over several years by artist Jeļena Mihailova, also known as Vladlena. The museum is renowned not only in Latvia but also internationally, which provides Ukrainian civilians with valuable insights into how to internationalize their businesses. Everyone had the opportunity to dress up in retro costumes, explore the exhibits and the works of the artist, understand the basic principles of the creative industry in Latvia, and learn about ways to establish a successful small business.

Continuing the project, the participants visited the pottery museum of Latgalian ceramist Polikarps Čerņavskis. Under the guidance of ceramist Raivo Andersons, the Ukrainian civilians explored the cultural and historical heritage of Latgale, observing ceramic products, the process of their creation, and techniques. They also learned about the history of ceramics in Latgale and whole of Latvia.

On the way back home, the participants visited Aglona Bread Museum. During culinary workshops, the Ukrainian civilians were introduced to an ethnographic narrative about the history of rye bread. The hostess of the Bread Museum, Vija Kudiņa, shared insights into the bread baking process, beliefs, proverbs related to it, customs, and steps involved in bread making. The participants learned about the culinary heritage of Latgale, traditions of bread baking, and related beliefs, acquired new Latgalian language vocabulary. Each participant had the opportunity to create their own loaf of bread. During lunchtime, the participants tasted dishes from the gastronomic heritage of Latgale, accompanied by traditional Latgalian music.

After lunch, the project participants had the opportunity to visit the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Aglona, which is a significant Catholic religious centre visited not only by Catholics from Latvia but also from abroad.

En route to Rīga, everyone had the chance to participate in a confectionery workshop at the “Skrīveru saldumi” manufacturing company. After an introduction to the company, they watched a film about the production process, tasted special sweets, and engaged in creating sweets themselves, working with toffee, marzipan, and candy mass called “Gotiņa”.

In total, 40 Ukrainian civilians, 10 representatives of the host community, and 6 educators participated in the integration event. Over these two days, the project participants familiarized themselves with Latvia and Latgale’s cultural and historical heritage, enhanced their knowledge of the Latvian language, and developed an awareness of Latvia’s social structure, processes, communication models, and collaboration between Latvian and Ukrainian residents. The participants for the Ukraine acknowledged that participating in the values and events was an excellent opportunity to promote the integration of Ukrainian civilians into Latvian society, learn about Latvian cultural and historical traditions and values and explore opportunities to start small businesses.

The project is financially supported by the Society Integration Foundation from the allocated Latvian state budget funds.

The content of the project activities is overseen by Daugavpils University Association for Lifelong Learning, Culture, and Science Communication “Intellectual Park”.