Sharing Stories and Envisioning Peace with Young People in Ukraine: A PAR Project in Lviv, Ukraine

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Kozelko, Alexandra
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Although much research has been conducted on Ukraine, the impact of the war in Eastern Ukraine since 2014 on young people remains under researched. The impact of the war in Eastern Ukraine since 2014 affects all Ukrainians, regardless of where they live within Ukraine. Young people in Ukraine are highly educated, active in civil society, and well-connected to the rest of the world. As the next generation of leaders in Ukraine, it is imperative that their stories and voices be heard and acknowledged. Their lived experiences, coupled with their knowledge, strengths, and abilities are the catalyst and impetus for peacebuilding that comes from within Ukraine, beginning at the local or grassroots level. This study explores the lived experiences of six young people (university students aged 18-22), who were born and raised in Ukraine, and are living in Lviv through individual, semi-structured interviews and a peacemaking circle. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this study was conducted virtually from Winnipeg, Canada with participants in Ukraine in Fall 2021. This study contributes to the literature on facilitating cross-cultural research with an interpreter who is a member of the same community as the study participants and to the literature on volunteering and peacebuilding in Ukraine. Through the interviews and peacemaking circle, participants shared their experiences growing up in an independent Ukraine and identified how the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine since 2014 has impacted their lives. Second, participants’ volunteer experiences, as a way of engaging in civil society, emerged as examples of the ‘everyday peace’ and peacebuilding at work in Ukraine. Finally, their hopes, dreams, and visions for Ukraine’s future identified what they believe must change to move Ukraine and its people forward into a peaceful future. The findings show that young people in Ukraine are resilient and dedicated to Ukraine’s future; they are the catalyst, or ‘critical yeast’ that will help build positive, lasting peace from within Ukraine as the next generation.
Ukraine, peacebuilding, young people, cross-language research, youth, war