Theme: "Leadership"

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Dima Tyzhuk, volunteer at YMCA Zdolbuniv, shared his personal story of how he experienced the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February, 2022 and how he managed to pull himself out of a severe depression. Of course, not without the help of the YMCA. 

On February 24, 2022, at 5 in the morning, I woke up to the sounds of explosions. At first, I thought it was a joke of some sort; it seemed like someone had an intense celebration with lots of fireworks. But then the explosion was followed by a few more in a few minutes, and from now on I was very confused, because indeed it was obvious those were the sounds of war. After some brief consideration, my mom and I decided to flee from our city, which is located near Kyiv, to the western part of Ukraine, to a small town called Zdolbuniv, for the sake of safety. It was a horribly long 24-hour ride, which would normally take up to 4 hours, with mom’s friends, while seeing lots of war machines going to the eastern part.

The first day was filled with confusion; my brain just turned on the protection mode; I couldn’t comprehend the whole situation at first. In the morning of the following day, I woke up at my grandmother’s house. I can clearly remember that my mom said, “Kyiv is being bombed by Russians,”  and then I slowly started to understand what’s happening. Fortunately, I spent the following months in a safe place, far from the actual war zone.

The first year of the war was full of tragic events, adding to the genocide of Ukrainian people, which can’t be all included in this short speech. While being safe physically, I was deeply depressed as most of my friends either stayed in my home town or fled Ukraine to either Poland or Germany. I was completely alone and had no one to talk to.

After a few months of such a lifestyle, my mom came up to me and advised me to check out the youth club in the YMCA. I was very skeptical at first, as most teenagers in my generation look down on such events due to their friendships being formed seamlessly in early childhood or at school, which made my case very different from this, so I overcame my fear and tried. For the first time in a while, I had someone to talk to, and there I met lots of friends with whom I could have fun and talk for a long while before returning to my home town.

Summer was awesome; thanks to the YMCA, I could finally move away from depressing thoughts and live almost a normal life, despite the ongoing war. In the autumn of the same year, I was fluent enough in the local YMCA’s environment for the head staff to suggest starting an English-speaking club. And was it awesome? I could never think of teaching someone at this age, and I really liked it, and as an additional benefit, I earned my first money.

When my life seemed to be alright again, Russians started bombing power plants, which soon led to electricity outages. As I had nothing to do indoors with no electricity, the English-speaking club was a great distraction. With the beginning of an education hub, I started a new mission, which consisted of teaching adults who lost their jobs due to the war situation how to use modern technologies and for them to learn additional skills that would allow them to find a new job easier. In the darkest times, YMCA has become my redemption and brought back hope and happiness.

Read also about super leaders of YMCA Ukraine. 

- Find friends among the 64 million young people
- Become a leader in our programs
- Follow a healthy lifestyle
- Benefit the society
- Learn languages and travel around the world with us