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What I discovered during the 'Healing the Past' dialogue

Monday, 15. October 2012

From 6-9 September, a dialogue on the theme 'Healing the Past' took place on the shores of the Black Sea in Crimea. This part of present-day Ukraine includes many different cultures and ethnicities who have suffered historical injustices, including famine and forced ethnic re-locations during the Communist era.

The four-day dialogue was attended by 18 participants and was organized by Foundations for Freedom and the Crimea branch of Club for Young Leaders (both IofC-inspired programmes) with funding from Kerk in Actie-ICCO (Church in Action, Netherlands).

The 'Healing the Past' dialogue process is based on four core principles


  • treating everyone with equal respect, honesty and integrity
  • seeking what is right rather than who is right;
  • facing the facts about history inevitably involves facing oneself
  • shaping the future involves taking responsibility for the past


With facilitation from Diana Damsa (Romania) and Olena Kashkariova (Ukraine) the participants learned how to listen, to hear, to apprehend; they searched for answers to the question 'who are we?' - for their roots - as well as discussing topics of their own choosing. 

One of the participants, Yuliya Kryvosheyina, writes about her experience:

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I have long suspected that the secret of our world is love.

The dialogue-seminar 'Healing the Past' has just confirmed that for me. I don’t know exactly what I came to understand there, but I felt I was in an atmosphere where I could be sincere. And I learned that my words can hurt someone, even if they are true. 

I am very grateful to one girl, a Crimean Tatar, who shared with me her personal story impregnated with her pain. I felt, at the same time, her pain and also the indifference of the person who hurt her. Because this story was partly about me.

Ukraine dialogue Learning from the Past - Sept 2012At some point in my life, not speaking badly about Crimean Tatars became an achievement for me. Now I am ashamed of  bad way I used to think about them. I only hope that God will forgive me.

I used to think: 'How can I treat them nicely, if the adults around me say this and that ...' But at the seminar-dialogue 'Healing the Past' I realized that the past is so ambiguous. I can adopt one or the other side, and be hurt either way.

I can demand an apology - and justify my absence of love. Or I can forgive. Nothing else can be done with the past.

Yes, on the one hand it was so scary. I felt an enormous wall and that I couldn’t forgive. In my little heart there is so much weird and heavy junk.

And then I just came to a new way of thinking about things.

I am grateful to a girl with whom I’ve become friends over the last year. She has become a part of my life and invited me to visit her family. She told me about her situation. Only a year later have I started to really accept her. She has broken down my wall. Dialogue has helped me to understand that if one Crimean Tatar is my close friend, and if her family is so nice and hospitable, then WHOM does my heart have hatred for?

I have let it go.

I have a desire to understand the challenges that Crimean Tatars are facing today. And I want to help them to overcome those problems. I'm not taking sides with anyone. I’ve just understood myself and have seen that I have no reason to be indifferent to them.

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The next 'Healing the Past' dialogue will take place 15-18 November in Eastern Ukraine. Citizens of Ukraine over the age of 18 are invited to apply online here (Ukrainian language only)