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What's Happening 09:25 18 May 2021

"We haven't died yet and we're trying to do something": what's really happening in Crimea through the eyes of a caring Crimean woman

"I don't want to grow old in the Russian Crimea. And I'd hardly like my children to be born here." A frank conversation about Crimea

What is Crimea like now? What's going on? Admittedly, we know less and less about the realities in which Ukrainians live in Crimea. And Ukrainians in Crimea live and try to actively create and support Ukrainian in the occupied territory. Yulia Kachula, a Ukrainian vocalist, songwriter, and teacher, is doing just that in Crimea: she keeps Ukrainianness in the occupied lands from fading. She lived in Crimea almost from birth until she moved to Poland in 2014 during the annexation. But she couldn't accept the conquering of her homeland, so she returned to the peninsula.

Here she has already found a job as a vocal coach and created a group "Children of Crimea." She records songs in Ukrainian together with her students from 7 to 14 years old. She teaches children to speak through music. Now Yulia needs support and help.

Yulia openly told Rubryka about the Russification of Crimea, the struggle against it, and the forces that are already on the limit.

When the annexation happened, I thought I just couldn't handle it

So I went to Poland. I wasn't in Crimea for 4 years, but I was constantly watching what was happening. I saw there's no resistance there, neither cultural nor artistic. I was affected by it. I decided: if there's no alternative in the homeland, then I'll be it. To do something so global: running around with a flag, putting on symbols, will change nothing. That's why I became a soft force: poignant, humane, symbolic, but precious.

Russia is investing unbelievable money in the Russification of Crimea

All festivals for children, patriotic upbringing, camps: everything happens in envelope hats, with flags, and with national colors. You can't imagine what Crimea is like now, what Simferopol is like. Everything in Soviet symbolism. Monument to Catherine the Great, Lenin, Karl Marx Street… And a bunch of children in military uniforms with toy "pistols" and "automatics" running around the park. They are taught as if it was extracurricular activities.

And it's our future generations. In a few years, they'll be fully formed individuals and voters. And how will they live? What thoughts will they think?

Below the caliber?

At first, I opposed working with children. It seemed to me that it was below my caliber. I'm a high-flyer, and here are kids… Some stupid selfishness went off in me. But when I started the first lessons, I realized it was just a fabulous lesson. You grow yourself and you grow them. There were no problems. Now I feel them very well, and they feel me.

I immediately showed who I was, spoke Ukrainian 

It was a natural choice: someone will stay close, someone will not. In fact, many left. They don't always want to contact me. There are Ukrainian families whose parents work in Russia, and a person like me is dangerous for them. But many stay because they like my professionalism and want unusual things. And children change a lot. They came intimidated and not modern, wearing envelope hats, like the same pioneers as everyone else. But now they're revealing themselves, they want to develop and see the world.

Many hate Ukrainians

Юлія Качула

Both among adults, and even among children. I tell them: "Look at me, I'm Ukrainian, why do you hate me?". They read some article: "During the occupation of Simferopol, children shot a video." They come to my classes and say: "We saw that the word 'occupation' is used there, but we're against it. We chose it ourselves." I say: "You're 14 years old, did you choose it for yourself? Did you go to the referendum and do you know this entire story? That's what your parents told you." "Well, yes," they reply.

It seems to me that there's such an internal struggle between our people, at the level of genetics. Sometimes I can't understand it: how can an ordinary person who hasn't been involved in politics hate Ukrainians? For what? Ukraine doesn't attack anyone but on the contrary.

Юлія Качула

There are my children and their parents, but we're alone

We do everything on our own. We collect money for each video, where we can, we save it. If we're silent, then what? No hint that there are opponents of the regime in Crimea. We still live here. We're not dead yet and we're still trying to do something.

I'm just being held on both sides

"Yulia will give everyone the works." Some kind of a disturbing story on both sides. And I pull the devil by the tail here. And I don't understand whether I'm stupid or the world is. At least one state's bastard would write: 'We stand with you, we support you. Keep doing what you're doing there, it's awesome." But no one wrote or said anything. Then what kind of Ukrainian Crimea can we talk about?

I want more people to know that we're here

Because the more people know, the more protected we are. I want artists from mainland Ukraine to join. For us to build a bridge and keep it together.

And of course, I want officials and authorities to clearly understand that they need a person like Yulia Kachula in Crimea, that they need such a project as "Children of Crimea." At least in words, not in deeds. Let this support be hidden, not displayed for the entire world, but at least: "I put my hand on your shoulder at a distance and say everything is fine, hold on." If I felt it, it'd be much easier.

Юлія Качула

I don't want to grow old in the Russian Crimea

Sometimes I have very pessimistic thoughts in this regard. I can't even imagine what will happen here later. There are irreversible processes, which will then be very difficult to overcome because Ukraine has already allowed the enemy here. It won't be easy to drive it away. Although I do my best, it isn't equal to their force.

If we talk about personal, it'll very difficult to give birth and raise children here. Of course, I'm a young person, a time will when I will say to myself: "I want a  normal personal adult life." But I'd hardly like my children to be born here.

***

They need donor funds to create videos of "Children of Crimea," so we leave Yulia's e-mail and her Facebook page for communication. The girl doesn't hope that something will come out of this and has little faith that she'll be heard. But we believe that every citizen of our state needs a Ukrainian center in Crimea.

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