Study Visits in Gdynia, Poland: The Chance for Young People from Post-Soviet Countries to Open Minds And Inspire For Changing Their Countries.
Project “Study Visits in Gdynia” is extremely popular among youngsters in Eastern-European Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine. More than 6.5 thousands people actively follow the official page of the project on Facebook. 1000-1200 people send their applications to be part of a group of 11-15 participants.
This June the weather in the northern polish town Gdynia on the coast of the Baltic Sea haven’t surprised anybody. It’s quite cold and rainy as every summer. But it’s hot period in the office of non-governmental organization Centre for Youth Cooperation and Mobility (pol. – Centrum Współpracy Młodzieży). July and June is the time for recruitment for 52nd edition of project “Study Visits in Gdynia”. The organizers have received 30 applications per vacancy. Since 2005 three times per year groups of 11-15 young and active people from Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine visit the youngest city in Poland. Participants have an opportunity to become familiar with the tasks, challenges, activities and cooperation of several sectors in Poland: local government, non-governmental organizations, small businesses, media and education. It is achieved through meetings and open forums with representatives of media, politicians, local activists and students.
“Study Visits in Gdynia” is a response to the socio-political situation in post-communist countries of Eastern Europe tells Tomasz Brodewicz, the president and founder of Centre for Youth Co-operation and Mobility. “People in this countries are struggling with the same problems that Poland faced after the political changes in 1989. The main goal of the project is to support the development of democratic institutions and the growth of civil activity in countries such as Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova,” Tomasz Brodewicz, said. It’s a unique project for Poland because it’s financed in 100% from budget of the city of Gdynia. But why do citizens of Gdynia need it? Michał Guć, Vice President of Gdynia, convinces it’s very important for them. Guć says, “For many years we’ve been financing the project of Study Visits in Gdynia. It is a conscious decision resulting from the conviction to build a European community of free society. The history of Gdynia shows how important to our citizens are such values as independence, freedom and civil liberties. We want to share all we’ve managed for these years with our Eastern neighbours and support their efforts to build a democracy.”
But ideas of increasing civil activities and building democracy in counties where people still live in poverty and drown in corruption sound like utopia. Everybody can ask what these young people can change in their countries? “Of course, participants cannot turn the world around. But step by step they can implement received knowledge”, tells a 20 years old participant of theproject in 2015 Maryna Bohuslavska, citizen of Ukrainian city Dnipro. “I was surprized when in the city council I met a lot of participants of this project. I think it has direct influence on city’s government. It becomes more open for people and their ideas. After our initiative, for example, our local government of city created a plan of implementation public night transport like the one that exists in most of the European cities.”
If you visit Polish city Gdynia and Moldavian capital Chișinău you will notice one common thing at least. Schedule of public transport looks identically. After visiting Gdynia couple years ago one participant from Moldova, worker of department of transport of Chișinău city council made a proposal. He offered to put bus schedule in every bus stop and design it like in Gdynia. Because before in capital of Moldova they didn’t use to put schedules in the bus stop. During “Study Visits in Gdynia” participants learn also how to create local non-governmental organization, why is it important to cooperate with local government, what do you need for organizing an event in the neighbourhood, how does participatory budgeting work in Poland.
25 years old participant of project in 2014 Dmytro Kovalenko says that visit to Gdynia changed and defined his life. “Only two weeks divided my life into “before” and “after”. I started to work in the Ukrainian Parliament. I want to help people. For me it is important. Project Study Visits in Gdynia gave me the inspiration for this work.”, says Dmytro. Maja Wagner, City Councillor of Gdynia believes that “Study Visits are a great opportunity for young people. I’m a member of the local government but above of all I’m a person from the third sector. I know how important the exchange experiences, finding good practices and inspiration for action are. Gdynia is a perfect city for it. The first program of innovative cooperation between local government and non-governmental organizations was created here. It was called “Gdynia’s model”. It was an award-winning at home and abroad.”
The project won’t make life of people from Eastern countries easier. But it should teach them how to make effort for doing their life better and to show that everything is possible if you really want it. Polish people still has a lot of problems. The Government makes many mistakes. But people are controlling it and trying to fix it. It’s also shown in the project “Study Visits in Gdynia”. Polish people are not afraid of fighting to change their life. They pay victims and economic problems. But they have not abandoned their ideals. To have freedom and democratic society.