Misja Słowik, Місія Соловейко in Ukrainian, or Mission Nightingale in English is the name under which we have launched Polish-Ukrainian activities for young people. The activities involve integration and education, the core expertise of the EFC Foundation, and this is where important needs of people from Ukraine who decide to stay in Poland begin to emerge.
Mission Nightingale is more than a campaign or a temporary effort. We want Nightingale to stay for a long time. However, it is not yet a comprehensive programme. We started by inquiring about the needs and challenges. But we still know too little about the system framework and what will happen in the near future.
Why Nightingale? ’Nightingales are found everywhere in Ukraine. You can find them in fairy tales, fables, in songs’, responded 15-year-old Mariia, a native of Ukrainian Vinnytsia, to the name of our Mission. She explained the significance of the nightingale to Ukrainians at a meeting with our Horizons scholarship holders from the Tri-City. The Ukrainian language is also said to be ‘solovyiny’, which is to say, like the song of a nightingale. The nightingale embodies willpower and a new beginning.
Who can benefit from the Mission?
Our activities are aimed primarily at Ukrainian youth who were forced by the war to suddenly leave their country with their families. Until they can safely return to Ukraine, we want them to feel comfortable and safe with us. Some of them may decide to stay in Poland permanently. Whatever happens over the following weeks and months, we want to create a space for Ukrainian and Polish youth to get to know each other, understand each other, cooperate and do things together.
Our activities are focussed on young people aged 10 to 19. This is where we our core competence and experience are. We have earned them by conducting the Horizons Scholarship Programme for more than 12 years, in which we work with high school students.
What do we do?
Like many of you and many organisations, we don’t know many things yet. Starting with the question, How do we find a path amongst this chaos?, we moved on to reflect on our resources and our strengths. We are experienced in working with young people, and our coordinators are present in 12 cities in Poland. And they are not alone there: there are also our scholarship grantees, dormitories and high schools we cooperate with under the Horizons programme. This is an immense resource. And we use it for our opening initiatives.
We decided to start with diverse activities in different cities, depending on the capabilities, people and organisations with which we manage to join forces. We spent the first few weeks meeting other organisations operating in our cities, with local government authorities, representatives of dormitories and schools, and identifying our capabilities. Gradually, we moved on to specific activities. For instance, in Poznań we launched an after-school club that works in the afternoon twice a week at the Second High School . Similar activities will also be launched in Szczecin at our Integration School Dormitory and will initially be aimed at getting to know each other and exploring the needs of young people. In Kraków and Tri-City, Polish-Ukrainian organisation committees have been formed with the participation of our scholarship recipients. The committees will develop projects and ideas for further joint activities. An example of such activities is going for walks together to explore and get to know the new city. Every initiative begins with checking the actual needs. They guide us in finding solutions.
We will therefore be mindful and open to test, try, and to make mistakes. We will share what we know and learn with the Ukrainian youth in our joint activities. We hope our experience can be a valuable guide for others. This is why we share our success stories and difficulties on our Facebook page in Polish and Ukrainian. This is possible because our team is made up of Poles and Ukrainians.