The experience Ukraine is currently gaining can answer the question as well as dozens of others related to war, survival, and life in general. Ukraine is currently waging the most modern war – a war for the opportunity to be oneselves and live freely, a war with one of the largest empires on our planet, which surpasses us in all indicators: in economic potential, in territory, in the number of weapons and in the size of the army, in resources thrown into propaganda and security services, in nuclear weapons blackmailing the whole world…

The only thing that our enemies do not have and that we can oppose to them is our Faith, Truth and our Mutual Support. This is not material treasure which few people (and even less empires) take into account. But this is precisely the invisible force that exists between people, thanks to which we have endured a year of unequal struggle and thanks to which we will win. These are precisely the values that are the basis of all organizations of free people. The values on which the YMCA is based.


War forces you to sacrifice your career, health, life for the sake of the survival of those you love. This is our faith and a conscious choice made by thousands of men and women from all spheres of life in Ukraine. Currently, hundreds of artists, cultural managers and CSO leaders are in the trenches, on military exercises or in hospitals. Among them are the singer of our young opera Serhii Badiuk, opera logistician Orest Hnidec, our friends and program leaders: artist Taras Beniakh, public activist Sashko Yabchanka, film director Ostap Kostiuk, author of “Derevianko” Nazar Vytrykush and others. Being a program manager of YMCA Lviv, I made this choice too…

Faithing in victory and people who protect us has turned almost all of our society into volunteers. We all donate to the Armed Forces. We all help friends and loved ones at the front. Our program leaders organize fundraisers for equipment, clothing, food, and medicine for soldiers. Our volunteers work in shelters, hospitals, take people out of combat zones, bring humanitarian aid, rebuild destroyed cities… Our managers experienced in revolutions and previous phases of war manage long-term projects and dozens of current cases to support the troops on an everyday basis. It all happens naturally and effectively. Just because you can do this work right now. Just because of the common faith that we will win and make life better after the victory.


Ukraine is waging an anti-colonial war with the empire which kept it in slavery for hundreds years and now wants to enslave it again. It is important for us to tell the world the truth about this war since we will not last long without support from free countries. For us, the young opera “Ukraine – Terra Incognita” became an artistic way to tell the truth. This is a modern opera based on ancient Ukrainian songs that seem to have come to life now. It is dedicated to the soloist of the Paris Opera, Ukrainian Wassyl Slipak, who left his career and went to the front as a volunteer, where he died defending our right to live and create freely. We believe that this opera will not only reveal the beauty of Ukrainian polyphony but will also help fight russian propaganda in the world.

The war ruined plans for performances in Ukraine and abroad. However, our singers were able to present fragments of the opera at the YMCA World Assembly in Aarhus. We are also invited to perform opera songs in other countries. And during 2022 we edited a TV version of the opera with English subtitles to speak out our struggle, our heroes and the values they protect with modern art. Now the young opera “Ukraine – Terra Incognita” is our way of fighting lies and propaganda with the beauty of art.


We cannot survive if we do not continue here together. This awareness encourages Ukrainians to help each other. And we, employees of the civil sector with the experience of dozens of social projects, know how to organize this assistance most effectively. Our society needs us now more than ever. From the very first days of war, Lviv became a large shelter for displaced persons from all over Ukraine. Our employees and volunteers started working in humanitarian centers, helping people with housing, food and urgent needs. Many families with children fled from the russian terror. This is why the YMCA Day Care Center started in Lviv.

Over time, the volunteers themselves began to burn out searching for qualified help. Hence, YMCA Lviv launched projects of psychological support and legal advice for volunteers. The war conditions gave impetus to strengthen a volunteer network in Ukraine. Now it can respond to the needs of society faster and more effectively than state bodies since it is based on trust and mutual assistance. The YMCA Lviv Volunteer Cafe became not only a base for the organization’s events but a co-working space for partner volunteer and charitable organizations. We constantly think about our friends who remain in the front-line zones, who live under the constant threat of death and who survived the horrors of the russian occupation. Thanks to our partners, we received a bus and can support them with humanitarian aid. And, perhaps, the greatest joy was to bring aid to the de-occupied villages immediately after liberation of the Kherson region.

Is there time for culture during the war? We can definitely answer that right now it is needed the most, because our war is about identity which russians want to destroy and our culture which they deny. The war revealed many painful questions that will never be felt as acutely and understood as clearly as now. If you don’t do culture now, you won’t be able to do it later. After all, there is no time for culture. With this understanding, we made the “Circle of Paradise” project – an action based on the oldest Ukrainian carols. It became art therapy for more than 50 people from all over Ukraine (professional singers, adults and children of IDPs) and a festive Christmas mystery for hundreds of visitors to the Garrison Church in Lviv. This year made us comprehend living life  stronger, even more – love this world, worry about loved ones, help those who need our help, and be ourselves…

What can youth organizations do during the war?

Thousands of things. The only thing it cannot afford is to stop working.

text by Yurii Vovkohon