To mark the second anniversary of russia’s invasion of Ukraine, B50 presented an exhibition of the “Chronicles of the Unknown Superheroes Ukrainians” project in Hamburg. The aim of this project is to demonstrate the devastating effects of the war, and show how ordinary Ukrainians help each other, and to thank the members of our community for their resilience and unbreakable spirit, who, even under constant missile attacks, do not leave the path of volunteering.

The exhibition was opened on February 23 at the St. Nicholas Memorial in the center of Hamburg (Mahnmal St. Nikolai) . The Memorial invited representatives of the B50 community to the opening of the photo exhibition to share their experience of volunteering during the war. Our active volunteers, Yuliia Horbasenko and Svitlana Rudokvas, represented B50 at the opening.

PHOTO: Mahnmal St. Nikolai
PHOTO: Mahnmal St. Nikolai
PHOTO: Mahnmal St. Nikolai
PHOTO: Mahnmal St. Nikolai

We are very proud of the work that Yuliia and Svitlana did in Hamburg. Their experience, the experience of people who help to dismantle houses destroyed by russian shelling in the Kyiv region every week, was an important part of the exhibition presentation, it allowed us to convey the topics covered in the exhibition and supplement them with personal stories, to show what Ukrainians are going through.

Below, you will find out about the volunteers’ impressions of the event, their experience representing the community abroad, and their trip to Hamburg.

New challenge

YULIIA: I consider myself a part of the B50 community, which has been eliminating the consequences of the russian invasion for almost 2 years. We have to show the world what the sh*tty “russian peace” looks like and what the russians do when they come. At first, I wasn’t worried. On the contrary, it was interesting. It was a personal challenge to represent Ukrainian volunteers outside of Ukraine. However, as the trip approached, the excitement grew. Will we be able to do it? How will they accept that? Will they understand?

Volunteering in Moshchun during the weekend before the opening of the exhibition on February 17, 2024

First of all, we worked on our speeches, studied presentations, and thought about possible questions and answers. All of this had to be in English, so we had to “update” our vocabulary. We also had to think about the outfit appropriate for the event and the weather. We wanted Hamburg not only to hear us, but also to see that we remain beautiful despite the horror we live in. And to fit all this into a small suitcase. This is probably purely a girl’s desire, somewhat erased but not lost.

It was not difficult to write the speech. I have something to say to the world about our reality. And I do not want to remain silent about the crimes committed by russians on the territory of Ukraine.

I believe that by speaking out, we will make them answer for what they have done. This is what motivated me.

Packing bug-out bags

SVITLANA: It was my first trip abroad in almost 2.5 years. It was unusual to pack a suitcase instead of a bug-out bag, and it was also quite ironic to get insurance to leave a country that is at war.

It was a long trip – 26 hours (“sitting trains”!) one way. It was my longest trip in my entire life, but the B50 exhibition was worth it )))

February 21, 2024
February 22, 2024
February 22, 2024

In Hamburg itself, it was strange not to hear air raid warnings, not to pay attention to the curfew, and not to feel the war… It was nice to see so many different people living an exceptionally peaceful life – hurrying to work, going to the store, walking along the waterfront, drinking coffee, holding hands. It was unpleasant to realize that there were definitely russians among these people – we repeatedly heard the characteristic “russian speech”, and at such moments I tensed up, expecting something bad from them, but without their missiles and bombs, they are not so bold.

Incredibly beautiful people

YULIIA: In the morning, we saw a clean, peaceful city. People were walking carefree along the wide streets. It was strange not to see checkpoints, anti-tank hedgehogs and military vehicles.

We went to the Memorial and I saw Svitlana’s photo and mine on large banners. And then – all those with whom I “dig” Moshchun every weekend. Wow! We are talking! We are being seen! The exhibition allowed us to look at volunteering from the outside… This is important and significant work of everyone who makes up the B50 community. Yes, there is still a lot of work, and we are used to it. But we are all outstanding! And B50 has incredibly beautiful people.

When I started volunteering at B50, I didn’t think that this work would be so well recognized. I hoped that the war would end in the summer of 2022…

PHOTO: Mahnmal St. Nikolai
PHOTO: Mahnmal St. Nikolai

I liked the exhibition in general. The photographs are well combined with apt text. The stories of almost every host and volunteer are also great. It’s all so real to me. I know where and when it was taken and how it came about. And I’m very grateful to the photographers for capturing everything that happens at the locations during the cleanups. For the real us, for conveying our emotions.

Of course, it was strange to see your interviews in the center of Hamburg 🙂 It was embarrassing to see people stopping in front of the photos and reading my thoughts about the war, life and volunteering.

The former church where the Memorial is located was impressive. It is a burned-out building that is still beautiful. The museum would make a good bomb shelter)) And from the bell tower, you can see the whole city!

Weekend volunteer trips announcement: Moshchun, Zavorychi, Hamburg

SVITLANA: In Hamburg, we presented the exhibition and the community’s activities in general. At first, we were very nervous about this honorable mission, but later we calmed down – we know the material well (we have been “boiling” in B50 for a year and a half))), we supported each other, and the Germans were very friendly.

The official opening of the exhibition took place on February 23. First, we gave interviews to the local media and conducted a tour of the exhibition. Around that time, we heard the Ukrainian anthem played on the Memorial’s carillon for the first time, it was incredible, I had goosebumps)))

Yuliia Horbasenko.
Speech at the opening of the exhibition.
February 23, 2024
With the guests of the exhibition opening.
February 23, 2024
Svitlana Rudokvas.
Speech at the opening of the exhibition.
February 23, 2024

We addressed the guests of the opening (including the Consul General of Ukraine in Hamburg, Dr. Iryna Tybinka, and the Vice Mayor of Hamburg, Katharina Fegebank!) with speeches about our community, our own experience of volunteering, and life during the war.

In the following days, we gave visitors to the exhibition small tours in English and answered questions. I was surprised by how little some people knew about the war in Ukraine (for example, a couple of young Portuguese had never even heard of Bucha)… I was also uncomfortable with phrases like “putin’s war”… Of course, we quickly debunked the myth of “putin’s war”, because the destruction shown in our photos was not caused by putin alone. It appears that we were engaged in counter-propaganda))

In addition to the tours, on February 25, we were interviewed by Karla, a representative of the Memorial, and shared stories about our volunteering. We talked to Carla in front of our banners and in the elevator that took us to the very top of the Memorial. It was very cold, but very beautiful!

Conducting tours
for visitors.
February 25, 2024
PHOTO: Mahnmal St. Nikolai
Stuff from volunteering
that was mentioned
at the presentation.
February 26, 2024
Presentation about
the work of the
of the B50 community
February 26, 2024

On February 26, we held a presentation on the work of the B50 community, telling about the organization’s various projects and our achievements. Then, in a relaxed atmosphere, we answered questions, described our own lives during the war, and shared our personal stories.

Despite the fact that non-Ukrainians do not fully understand us, Ukrainians, on the issue of war (in my opinion, they do not realize the scale of the tragedy), we generally had good impressions of communicating with locals and tourists. We were warmly welcomed; everyone was attentive and sociable, interested in the exhibition, and offered to help.

Willkommen in Hamburg

YULIIA: The evening before the exhibition opened, Hendrik welcomed us at the train station, helped us check into the hotel, handed us tickets for local transportation, and answered other questions that interested us as newcomers to the city. In the morning, he returned to walk us to the Memorial and introduce us to the other members of the team that hosted the exhibition – Katja and Carla, in particular. I can say that everyone we had to cooperate with in Hamburg was extremely friendly.

It felt like these people cared about us and our comfort. After the interview, Carla treated us to hot tea because we were cold. Hendrik was there to support us on the tours we took around the exhibition and during the presentation. Oleksii, our translator, was very helpful in reducing the language barrier and building a light atmosphere during the conversation.

Our stay in Germany ended with an informal dinner with the Memorial staff, exhibition sponsors, and a translator.

I think it is the personal stories that make the strongest impression. How Svitlana takes the kids to the bomb shelter, how the girls carry bricks, and how we cope with daily stress and do not lose hope. After the speeches, people came up to us and asked how they could join B50’s activities, whether they could come to Ukraine in the summer to volunteer with us, and how dangerous it is now.

We had no conflicts with the “local” russians. We saw them. They heard us. Neither Svitlana nor I planned to be silent or hide. But there must have been some special vibe coming from us that made them stay away. As for the Germans, their attitude was very friendly.

Marsh through Hamburg

SVITLANA: We spent 4 days in Hamburg and managed to do a lot. In addition to volunteer-work activities, we had the opportunity to be tourists and walk around the city. Hamburg is beautiful, interesting, lively.

Yuliia and I took a lot of walks in our free time. I liked the waterfront, the city center, and the St. Nicholas Memorial, where our photos are displayed, the most.

We also attended a tour conducted by our translator Oleksii. I remember his words at the Memorial (which was bombed in the summer of 1943): “It is a historical regularity that war always returns to the country that started it.” I am looking forward to seeing this pattern work in this war…

We were also allowed to go up to the bell tower of the church and try our hand at the carillon, and Yuliia even played the national anthem (with the help of a professional musician).

I especially remember the march on February 24 in support of Ukraine, which Yuliia and I joined. It was an impressive sight – thousands of people carried yellow and blue flags, anti-war posters and shouted, among other things, “Glory to Ukraine.” On February 24, many Ukrainians and Europeans came out to support Ukraine on the second anniversary of the full-scale invasion. Posters calling to stop the war, to give Ukraine weapons, people of different nationalities and ages, children wrapped in yellow and blue flags, a long column of protesters – this picture brought tears to our eyes…

The event held on February 24 near the town hall was also impressive. Posters with information and photographs of children killed by russia over the past two years were placed on the square nearby. The death of one child is already too much, and we will probably never repay the deaths of dozens, hundreds of children… Despite the fact that the picture was hard, this action is mega important, it (like the B50 exhibition) shows the terrible consequences of war and reminds the whole world who our enemy is …

March in Hamburg on February 24, 2024
Chronicles of two superheroes volunteers

YULIIA: I would like the exhibition and Ukrainians to be understood… The exhibition is held in a well-visited location. So we hope that we will have a lot of like-minded people.

The world continues to live. Unfortunately, this is primarily our war. And it depends on us how it will end and what will happen here next.

This trip was useful for both of us. We now know how to talk about Moshchun and the consequences of the russian invasion in English. With each such tour, we become more confident in speaking from the podium. We are able to convey our messages to foreigners more accurately and precisely. I think both Svitlana and I have proved to ourselves that we can do more than we think. And I was once again convinced that there are incredible people in the B50 community.

Of course, things like the exhibition about volunteers are needed. In this way, we fight russian propaganda, remind other countries that the war is ongoing, show that Ukrainians are fighting, that we are worth believing in and supporting. I hope that new foreign volunteers will also join in one way or another.

I would like to thank our German partners for welcoming us and the exhibition in Hamburg at such a great location. And also for taking care of us in an unfamiliar city. For their warmth and sincerity. Personally, such actions allow me to not give up and continue doing what our community is doing. It is easier not to lose hope when you know that someone else cares.