20 years ago AEGEE-Lviv was created. It’s a beautiful story: In February 1993, former AEGEE-Europe President Pavel Cernoch-Miladinovic was looking for the right place for his AEGEE advertisement at the university in Lviv, when he met Vyacheslav “Slavko” Mischenko by chance. Slavko became official founder and first President of the antenna, his girlfriend Jarina first Secretary. This year, their 17-year old son Marko started studying – and joined AEGEE-Lviv. The Golden Times wanted to know more.

Slavko 2010
Slavko Mischenko in 2010

Golden Times: Slavko, I heard you are still in contact with the current generation of AEGEE-Lviv?
Slavko: Yes. Three weeks ago Ivan Petrenko, one of my successors as President of our antenna, and I visited an AEGEE-Lviv presentation at the university. It was a big surprise for girls. And also my elder son Marko joined AEGEE!

Golden Times: That is so great – this is the first second generation member I heard of. Can you tell us more?
Slavko: He is 17 years old and in his first year of studies. He has not participated in any AEGEE event yet, but I feel that he is proud that his parents were founding members.

Golden Times: So your wife is from AEGEE, too?
Slavko (smiles): Yes, she was the first secretary of AEGEE-Lviv. We knew each other already before we founded AEGEE.

Golden Times: Can you tell us a bit about yourself? How old are you, what did you study, what do you work now?
Slavko: I’m 44 years old, studied historical studies at the University of Lviv from 1990 till 1995. I’m living in Lviv and work as General Manager at LPK – probably the largest distributor of beer in Ukraine…

Golden Times: When and how did you hear about AEGEE for the first time?
Slavko Mischenko: Once, in February 1993, skipping a lecture at the university, I met a stranger. A Czech guy, who did not know where to hang better AEGEE advertisement. So I helped him. The guy was Pavel Cernoch-Miladinovic, who became President of AEGEE-Europe two months after our meeting.

Marko and mom
Marko and his mom Jarina

Golden Times: What did you think about the idea to found AEGEE?
Slavko (smiles): Some of my friends initially thought that Pavel is foreign swindler and the whole point of AEGEE was collecting dues. A fee of 20 Euros was almost astronomical for Ukrainian students back then. But we believed him! And we immediately decided to organize a Summer University in 1993.

Golden Times: Was it hard to find other members? Or was it rather hard to find the right members? After all, AEGEE-Kyiv was deleted before for some visa irregularities…
Slavko: The first two years members of the organization were mostly my friends, friends of my friends and me. Shame on me! But, fortunately, they were the right and active members. Although the true flowering of the antenna began only in 1995, when we conducted an active campaign to find new members.

Golden Times: What was the first event you visited?
Slavko: It was an East West Working Group meeting in Kaunas in February 1993 – only two weeks after the first meeting with Pavel. That’s when we felt the crazy AEGEE spirit for the first time! And we also became friends with David Stulik and David Lingen – and this true friendship continues till this day!

Pavel Cernoch
It’s his fault: Pavel Cernoch-Miladinovic went to Lviv to promote AEGEE

Golden Times: Your AEGEE contact was registered in 1993, but when did you sign the Convention d’Adhesion?
Slavko: At the Spring Agora 1993 in Prague we participated as a contact, and we signed the Convention d’Adhesion at the spring Agora 1994 in Munich, if I remember correctly.

Golden Times: How did people in the network react to the new branch in Lviv? Enthusiastic? Friendly? Or rather distant?
Slavko: I think all of these emotions and thoughts were there. Just four people from other countries took part at our first SU in 1993. But it was a lovely Summer University! And I hope that all participants remember it with pleasure. Ask Tobias van Nimwegen from the Netherlands!

Golden Times: How did you communicate with the other antennae, the CD and with your members? After all, not many people had e-mail then…
Slavko: Mostly we communicated by old good letters and postcards. Our antenna’s statute was written on a typewriter. Oh, I forgot, we already had a fax! Somewhere in 1995 we were joined by Dmitry Shymkiv. He was a pioneer of Internet in Lviv. From that moment on we knew all the joys of e-mail. Isn’t it logical that now he is General Manager of Microsoft Ukraine?

Slavko (right) with AEGEE Honorary Member David Stulik

Golden Times: Impressive! How easy was registering the antenna in town? And how was fundraising for events? Did you get some university support?
Slavko: I think that the registration process was not very difficult, but in that time… it was our first experience of organizational work! At the first stage, we received a large financial support from the Lviv branch of the Soros Foundation – thanks to Oleksa Sofiy. The Lviv University gladly gave us rooms for our events.

Golden Times: A big obstacle to travel were visa. Was it hard to get them? What other challenges do you remember?
Slavko: Of course, in those days, the consular bureaucracy was not a pleasant thing… But it seems to me that now it looks a lot worse. A couple of years ago my wife was denied a visa to Germany without any arguments. The purpose of our visit seemed suspicious to them: to fly to visit our friends for a weekend. And this despite the fact that the relevant documents had been provided. In short, I hate visa – it is very humiliating thing

AEGEE-Lviv is famous for outstanding events, like the Chernobyl conference in 1997.

Golden Times: In 1995, David Stulik was coming with his Case Study Trip Ukraine, which was a milestone event. How do you remember it?
Slavko: Oh, it was so long ago… and David Stulik visited Ukraine quite often. You know about the incident with a bully attack on David at the disco in Kviv? All remember this case! But seriously, the CST had shown the growing interest in the network in Ukraine. And this was very important for us.

Golden Times: AEGEE-Lviv is famous for its crazy spirit until today. But how was the beginning? Also crazy or rather serious?
Slavko (smiles): I hope that AEGEE-Lviv has always been crazy and serious at the same time.

Golden Times: How quickly did AEGEE-Lviv develop after you left?
Slavko: After 1997 I was unable to participate in the life of AEGEE-Lviv. But as far as I know, the active development of antenna went somewhere before 2000. And then there was a light decline until 2008, when Maryana Semenyak and other active girls joined the organization. Thanks to them, AEGEE-Lviv is going through a renaissance.

Golden Times: What’s your favourite AEGEE memory? And what are you most proud of?
Slavko: I am happy that fate has given me the chance to join this movement. And I am proud that this antenna lives in Ukraine already for 20 years. So there is public demand for it. AEGEE is a very good school of organizational work for socially active students. Many of them have achieved great success in business, social or political activities. Concerning personal memories: it was a very fruitful period of life – with dozens of new friends, thousands miles of hitchhiking, sleeping in the gym or even in the open air at gas stations. Where could I have found this somewhere else?