A life-changing experience

A visit to Karabakh in August 2012 was one of those life-changing experiences which happen when you expect it least of all.


I was born in the USSR and was a teenager when it collapsed. Karabakh, Stepanakert, Shushi were the names that followed we from radio and TV those days and years. Something that “rings the bell” as they say. Nothing concrete, just some pictures, images, phrases, intuitive feelings. Suddenly those mirages from my youth turned into something real – real places, real people, real stories. To say that I was impressed by those stories is to say nothing… By the way, “It’s mY story” was the motto of the ProFest, which was part of the YMCA Europe Roots for Reconciliation project. Where is the place for my story in this chain of stories starting with apostle’s sermon 2 thousand years ago and going through years of genocide and war, splitting and integration, death and birth?

Karabakh for me is a place where amazingly beautiful nature is reflected in the souls of its citizens. I probably have never seen so openhearted and hospitable people, who are eager to host and feed a stranger as well as to sacrifice their lives for their Motherland any second of their being. New sense of patriotism, new sense of devotion, new sense of integration – that’s what I learnt from this visit.

Being a YMCA Europe TPD (Training the programme developers) graduate I was honored to facilitate some of the ProFest activities. What a wonderful experience it was to work with those young people from Armenia, Karabakh, Georgia and Russia! Very friendly, highly motivated, well educated and incredibly positive – despite all the difficulties and privations many of them have faced in their lives. I wish more Russian participants could share this unique experience in future.

One of the benefits of living in a global world is a possibility to stay connected with many people. I could never imagine I’ll have so many friends in Karabakh, Armenia and Georgia. Now Facebook allows me not only to stay in touch but also to share pictures, impressions, ideas and projects. I trust many of those young people I met at the ProFest will join YNoT – YMCA network of trainers – to continue working together on braking borders between people and melting ice in their minds and hearts. It will be a great pleasure to meet you guys again!”

Author: Tina Larionova

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