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Odarka Tsymbal

Clinical psychology student at UEHS

How to turn words into weapons

Odarka is a Ukrainian, who arrived in Poland just after 24.02.2022. Odarka writes poems, but she managed to turn her passion into something that helps her country. She managed to turn words into weapons, poems into military equipment, prose into artillery…. It’s a metaphor, but only to some extent. Here in Poland, she organizes music and poetry events, and donates all the money raised from them to the Come Back Alive Foundation, which supports the soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

icon button go to media Excerpts from performances and initiatives supported by Odarka Tsymbal

Hi, Odarka! Thank you for agreeing to talk and, what’s more, inviting me to your magical meeting!

Tell us, please, about your "Prytomni" project. When and why did you come up with such an idea? Why this particular way of expressing yourself?

The story of our project began in the summer of 2022. We are doing it to support the spirit of the nation and show that Ukrainian culture still exists and will continue to exist. I started the project on my own, but now my friends are helping me. Some of them are good at organizing, some use their public speaking skills, others are creative, artistically talented.

The money you raise during the meetings get sent to the "Повернися живим" ("Come Back Alive" - author) foundation. What does the process of donation look like?

Yes, we raise funds for the this foundation. We simply donate all the money that people donate during the event, and after each collection we make and publish a report on our account on Instagram @prytomni.

If you don't mind me asking, what kind of money are we talking about? How many meetings have you already held? What's the average attendance for this event?

During the last two evenings we raised more than a thousand zlotys for each of them. When we started, we used to raise about 400 zloty at a time. So far we have held about 10 such meetings. Regularly 40-50 people attend. In total, we have donated more than 4,500 zlotys.

It's amazing - by being creative you can help those who are fighting for their homeland! In addition to reading poetry, what else goes on at your events?

We play music too and read not only poetry, but also prose. We are always open to new experiments. Our goal is to show that Ukrainian culture is alive, modern and interesting to people – just like the people who create it.

If somebody wanted to perform at your event, what would they have to do? What are the steps?

To sign up for the poetry reading, just contact us via Instagram (@prytomni) to discuss the program. The idea is that the event is about Ukrainian culture, but we’re always happy to have people read in Polish, English and Belarussian, or whatever language suits them. After the basic program, there is time at the open mic – then anyone willing can present something of their own.

How many Poles come to your meetings? Do Ukrainians write in Polish?

As I mentioned, we are open to anything new. We have evenings that are more international and evenings that are more Ukrainian. When there are international ones, a lot of Poles come. According to me, about 30% of the audience is Polish. Ukrainians sometimes write in Polish, but this is rather an exception.

Is poetry presented in Russian? If so, what is the reaction of the audience? What is your personal position on this?

Time after time performers choose the Russian language, but it is very rare.  Usually people react negatively or also quietly. I think it may be that way because there are a lot of Russified Ukrainians, or there are old poems written under completely different political circumstances. However, the question I ask myself is what is the significance of that language these days? In any case, I believe that everyone has the right to choose his attitude to the language. Of course, I am for the spread of the Ukrainian language!

What are your poems about?

They are about what hurts me, or about what I love. This is so typical for writing. It’s always about something different, yet the same thing. I write about the things that evoke the most emotions in me. That is the war in my country and love. These are probably the factors I write about most often. However, love is a broad concept for me, because it is in everything around me.

What are your plans for the project? Do you plan to develop it?

Our group, perhaps because of its size, is very cozy and family-like. But more well-known people are also joining us, and we are ready for that 🙂 But right now my main plan is to work with funds that are and will be used to help my country. This is the main goal of the project. In turn, other factors are based on how our group sees the next event or who wants to join us. This is what forms every event.

You've done so much already, although it seems to me that you haven't been here very long. When and why did you move to Poland? What city of Ukraine are you from?

I came to Poland after February 24, 2022. I spent most of my life in Kiev.

Why did you choose our university? What is the field of your study? Why is this particular one?

I liked the fact that our university has many psychological specialties. I chose the one that interests me. I am studying clinical psychology. I find it interesting and necessary. First of all, it helps me to  understand people better, and secondly, I just feel a lot of strength in myself and want to help others, so this is the reason why I am involved in the “Prytomni” project. 

In the future, of course, I want to help people in other ways. In a word, this direction is a reflection of my soul.

Do you have a favorite subject at university? Or a favorite lecturer? I ask because I am also studying psychology, and some of the subjects had an impact on my outllok. I am very grateful for that. What does it look like for you?

I like Cognitive Processes the most. It’s a very interesting subject, even though it’s difficult. Every Tuesday I have from 3 to 4 lectures, and I think it’s the lecture that makes me eager to get up and go to the university. The lecturer, Piotr Burkacki, MA, because of his openness, is very supportive, you can always ask him any questions and learn a lot from him.

Great! What practical opportunities do you see after completing your degree?

After graduation I want to work individually with people in need of help. I also really like coaching and art therapy.

You love to help, but is there someone who supports you? Who are you here with?

I’m here by myself and help on my own. I study and have a job.  The work I do is always related to people, whether it’s helping to start a project or help with translation. For me it’s important to work creatively with people, because it fascinates me.

What is your job? What are your responsibilities?

Until recently, I worked on a project for young immigrants. My responsibilities included finding such people, helping to organize various initiatives, answering questions about the project online. Soon, I am going to have a new job, which will also be related to the organization of the project, but also to the mental support of these people.

You seem to be a hard-working and active person who knows what to do. However, there is no way to forget that this is a different country, so how are you living in Poland?

Of course, it’s a different country, with its own customs, but I like where I am now, I just feel that I am where I should be 🙂

From the bottom of our hearts we thank Odarka for the great interview and for the work she does, the role she plays and the good she brings! 

Alona Trokhymchuk,
UEHS in Warsaw

Excerpts from performances and initiatives supported by   Odarka Tsymbal

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