Moving From Europe to Village: Story of Anna Herashchenko
Anna Herashchenko governs five villages to improve their condition and villager’s quality of life
The workday of the village council head starts at a natural dump. Anna Herashchenko is organizing a community cleanup in the forest, where residents from nearby villages have been bringing waste for many years.
Waste sorting was Anna’s first innovation in the village. Special containers for plastic and glass have been set up in the streets. Three years ago, Anna founded a communal enterprise for collecting waste from every home.
“You come into each home and explain it to people. Around 30 percent realised immediately that it was good, they wouldn’t need to think what to do with the trash or take it to the forest. For some people, there’s a psychological barrier — paying a sum, which is less than the cost of a pack of cigarettes,” she said.
The village streets are gradually becoming cleaner and more comfortable. Wastelands are turning into playgrounds with wi-fi coverage. Direction signs are set up on the streets — which is rare for Ukrainian villages. Now, medical workers and rescuers will not waste their time searching for the right house.
“Where there are broken villages, dumps, and dirt, crime rates are rising, because people see it as s a subconscious message saying that there are no rules here, that no one obeys the law. We educate citizens by forming a different environment,” Herashchenko said,
For about three years, Anna Herashchenko lived in the Netherlands, where she took part in educational and environmental projects. Having returned to her home village, she decided to run for the village council.
“It was 2015, when people had just gone through the Euromaidan revolution. Not necessarily physically, but they carried it in their hearts. We love Ukraine, we’re ready to do something. It was time to go from volunteering to governmental institutions,” she said.
Few state institutions in Ukraine have a place, where children can stay while their parents are waiting in line or receiving documents. In the Vvedenka village council, a children’s room was created.
“The main principle of this space is that active adults come and, with their example, show what happens and how it happens,” curator Liliya Beliakova said.
“It’s like kindergarten, but better. Because we bring children to a kindergarten and leave. But here, we receive psychological help, look at other children, watch how children develop and communicate,” village resident Maya Klyzub said.
For teenagers, there are robotics and boxing clubs. And this is a meeting of the youth government. In Ternova, the village council head consults with school students on which ideas should be implemented.
“If they’re confident that their requests and wishes will be fulfilled, and if they receive an environment for their development and personal growth, it’s likely that they will stay here,” Herashchenko said.
The budget for five villages does not exceed 200 thousand US dollars. When Anna took office, the sum was even smaller. She fights tax evaders, looks for sponsors, and has engaged volunteers from across Ukraine in creating a new street space.
“I can sit here sorting tons of papers every day and say that I’m working. And I can say that we don’t have enough funds, so we can’t do anything. But I’ve always told myself that I didn’t come here to make excuses,” she said.
Soon, there will be a boxing ring, a stage, and loudspeakers for a local radio station here. The youth government is also working on a project for a skate park.