Seventeen-year-old Kirill Yakovenko came to Slovenia four years ago from Donetsk, Ukraine.
Today, there are mostly Russians living there, but in the past, there were also Ukranians.
He lived in Donetsk up to eighth grade. This was when war began on the Crimean Peninsula. Soon it spread to the west of the country, where Kirill lived.
At first, it did not feel like war, because there was no shooting. A curfew was declared, which meant that people were only allowed to leave their homes between 8 and 10 a.m. and 12 and 9 p.m.
Everybody lived normally, went to work and to school until 1 May 2014, when shooting began.
On that day, Kirill was in Kiev with his brother to spend holidays with their mother.
“On 2 May, our grandmother called and told us that war came to Donetsk. She said it was good that we had left, because shooting began. She told us that the railway station had been destroyed and that no one can leave the city.”
Their mother had left Ukraine earlier to look for better life in different European countries. At that time, she worked in Slovenia. Because she considered it a safe country where they could all live, they decided to apply for a Slovenian visa. One of the reasons why they chose Slovenia, over Italy, for example, was that Slovenian is a Slavic language and as such similar to Ukrainian.
Kirill says he would like to return to Ukraine one day, because he misses his home and his friends, with whom he still keeps in touch. But he cannot go to Donetsk, because it is practically a dead city. Even the school he used to go to was destroyed in the armed conflict.
Kirill is a second-year student at the Koper Technical Secondary School. He spends his days in classes, and in the afternoons, he socialises with his friends and helps out in the family restaurant.
He looks back on his days in Donesk fondly. School began at 8 a.m. sharp. Breaks were longer than in Slovenia, lasting 15 minutes, and the main break lasted for a whole hour.
With his friends, he listened to similar music that is also popular among young people in Slovenia. The only thing he did not know before is yugo rock, music from the countries of former Yugoslavia. He also watched the same films, but they were Ukrainan dubbed.
Now he keeps in touch with his culture in the Russian centre for science and culture, which is also open to Ukrainians. Three times a week, he has singing classes with a Russian teacher in Ljubljana.
There will be a Ukrainian night in Koper, which is where folk dances, food and rituals will be presented.
Kirill’s favourite food is vareniki. “They are something like ravioli, just made of fresh dough. They can be made sweet or savoury – my favourite ones are with mushrooms and potatoes.”
Traditional Ukrainian dishes contain a lot of meat, but Kirill does not eat it.
Kirill says that Ukraine is a vast and diverse country, which is hard to compare to Slovenia.
“What I like best is that people are very open there. If you need help, you can ask anyone, even on the street, and people will do everything they can to help.”
His favourite place in Ukraine is Kiev, Ukraine’s capital. “It’s a huge city with people from not only Ukraine but also other countries. There you can find anything you can think of.”
He likes it in Slovenia, because it is nice, but his life was more exciting in Ukraine.
“I am an adaptable person. My brother went back to Ukraine, but I am staying here. The most important thing is having friends. And I have them here in Koper,” says Kirill, who wants to be a pastry chef when he grows up, even though he is attending a technical school with an emphasis on computer science.
Wherever he ends up, this knowledge will be useful.
Good day: Dobrij djen
Thank you: Spasibo
Goodbye: Do svidanija
My name is Kirill: Menja zovut Kirill
Visa is a special permit to visit a country or to live there.