It’s going to be one of the highlights in 2013: the bus tour of the Eastern Partnership Project through  Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova. The two weeks long event will take place in the end of August and beginning of September. “We are going to investigate the engagement and contribution of youth into processes of establishing the civil society”, says Elena Senko from AEGEE-Kyiv, who will coordinate the tour.

Elena Senko3Golden Times: Elena, you are one of the coordination team members of the Eastern Partnership project. Among other things, you are organising the bus trip through Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova. What is its purpose?
Elena Senko: The purpose of our bus ride is to investigate the engagement and contribution of youth into processes of establishing the civil society in the Eastern Partnership region. What is more, we would strive to improve the management capacity, funding and networking capabilities of the involved organisations.

Golden Times: You are going to very different countries – from Poland, an EU member with well-established democracy to dictatorships or countries with at least little freedom of media… Why did you specifically chose these countries?
Elena: The answer is simple! From the name of our project you may see that such countries are our target audience and we are making efforts to positively influence the young generation, who will rule these countries tomorrow. Let’s say we want to make the life and future at least a bit better there. Moreover, this project is the greatest opportunity for EU citizens to discover Eastern Europe, get in touch with the locals and share best practices of building open societies with high respect of human rights and freedom value.

Golden Times: Not every government might like that. How will you guarantee the safety of the group? Are you cooperating with AEGEE antennae?
Elena: Surely, we will cooperate with AEGEE antennae! Moreover, we will collaborate with other NGOs and youth organisations which are active players in the visited countries.

Golden Times: Which antennae will help and contribute to the programme?
We already have some agreements with locals, but we will keep our route and programme a little mystery for now.

Orthodox church in Chisinau

Golden Times: How long will the trip last and when will it take place?
Elena: The bus ride project will last 14 days and will take place during the last week of August and the first week of September.

Golden Times: That’s less than four days per country… Which specific places in the countries do you want to visit?
Elena: The trip starts from Warsaw and will be finished in Chisinau, passing through the western part of Belarus and central Ukraine. You will know more soon.

Golden Times: How many people can take part? And based on what will they be selected?
Elena: Right now we are thinking about 25 participants. The competition for these places will be hot as many people already get very excited. Half of the group will be EU and half will be Eastern Partnership representatives. Most probably we will ask for motivation letters.

The centre of Warszawa

Golden Times: Do the participants have to prepare themselves, for example by doing research and give presentations in the tradition of the AEGEE Case Study Trips?
Elena: Our participants should be engaged into work with the Eastern Partnership region or be  interested and acquainted with basic information about the political and socio-economical situation in the Eastern Partnership countries. They definitely should be able to discuss and contribute during sessions and panel disscussions. We want the project to have outcomes and follow-up, so we would like to see people who can use the gained knowledge and facilitate information promotion in their organisations, cities and societies.

Golden Times: You go to Moldova – will you also visit the separatist republic Transnistria?
Elena: We will discover this country from the perspectives of the capital city. Non-governmental organisations and youth from Transnistria will be invited to participate in our activities, which among others will be an NGO Fair and a very vital workshop about conflict resolution.

Theatre, opera and ballet in Minsk

Golden Times: A couple of words about you: how old are you, what do you study?
Elena: I’m 23 years old. Last March I finished my Master in Project Management and my Bachelor studies was about International Relations.

Golden Times: When and how did you join AEGEE? Is there a nice story about it? 
Elena: I joined AEGEE just one week before Agora Kyiv 2009. At that time I was active at the Language Exchange Club Kiev and luckily during our meeting in one café the President of AEGEE-Kyiv was sitting nearby with one of the Agora coordinators. My friend knew them and as he already told me about the existence of such an interesting organisation. So I was happy that he introduced us. The girls were very open and I gladly became a volunteer for the Agora. I attended only one party, so my first party in AEGEE became the European Night! So, you can guess that I was amazed by the variety of cultures and people! Moreover, it was so well organised with costumes, contests and different presentations.

Golden Times: How and why did you get involved in the EaP project?
Elena: I was chosen for the Eastern Partnership project in January 2011 by the CD. It was at the very beginning and at that time except the project team had just five members. This sounds surprising as nowadays we have the biggest team among all projects. Actually, I applied because it was in the sphere of my interest due to studying international relations and also the possibility to work on the European level was quite exciting for me.

Elena Senko4
Elena Senko at Agora Budapest

Golden Times: What was your favourite event or greatest AEGEE moment so far?
Elena: The Winter University in Riga last year. Winter events have another special atmosphere, different from an SU. There is the New Year mood – and the beauty of the Old Town gave us a feeling of being in a fairy-tale. Besides, we had great people and – what is uncommon – the average age of the participants was 30. And this really enriched it.

Golden Times: Please complete the sentence: “AEGEE is…” 
Elena: “…the greatest opportunity to find your soulmates and to explore new horizons!”

Golden Times: What other hobbies do you have except for AEGEE?
Elena: I was dancing for nine years in the national folk and sport dance ensemble and after a long break I rediscovered the pleasure of yoga practice.

Golden Times: How would you describe yourself in five keywords?
Elena: Positive, energetic, sincere, open-minded and ambitious!