European Wilderness Volunteer DiaryThe Diary of the European Wilderness Society Volunteers

When the sun rises in the Alps

Hi! My name is Karolina and I’m from Ukraine. One month and a half ago I became an EWS volunteer.

My story started in February. One of my work projects in Kyiv was coming to the end I had the feeling that I want to do something meaningful. After my quick research on European Solidarity Corps website, I found a lovely project about nature protection in Lung au, Austria. That was a pretty attractive offer because I worked with a phytopathological organization before and to spend 12 months near the Alps sounded amazing to me. I filled out an application and started to wait. 

How everything was changed at once

My story started in February. One of my work projects in Kyiv was coming to the end I had the feeling that I want to do something meaningful. After my quick research on European Solidarity Corps website, I found a lovely project about nature protection in Lung au, Austria. That was a pretty attractive offer because I worked with a phytopathological organization before and to spend 12 months near the Alps sounded amazing to me. I filled out an application and started to wait. 

On the 24th of February, everything changed. I woke up at 5 am from my friend’s call. She told me that she heard a couple of powerful explosions near her house and Russia started military inventions in Ukraine. I turned on the news on TV and it was true. My country was under attack.

The next 4 days were one of the most stressful of my life. My friends and I spent nights in a bomb shelter and were watching the news 24/7 with the hope that the situation will change for the better. On the 5th day of the war, we decided to evacuate from Kyiv because the prognoses of military experts were quite uncertain and the capital of Ukraine was one of the main goals for Russian troops.

On the 29th of February at 6 am right after another night in the basement we went to the main train station. The way in evacuation trains took me more than 60h and finally I met my friend in Poland. After I moved to Salzburg where my mother lived for the last 4 years. 

I was saved, but the feeling of anxiety and foresight was very annoying. I guess it is what all people feel when they pushed to leave their settled life and flee. And understanding that your reality never is the same leads you to acceptance and anger at the same time. 

I started to search for a new job or study program in Salzburg when Iryna, my coordinator from EWS called me and offered to join the project to which I applied before. I was extremely happy. There was a chance to bring yourself back to stability and be valuable to society as well. After closer acquaintance with the team, I got to know that organization has a close connection with the Ukrainian nature protection network and lounged a project to support other displaced Ukrainians in Lungau, which made me even happier. 

Arrival to Tamsweg

Here the pleasant part of my adventure starts. Tamsweg is a cute little town with a friendly local community. The old buildings make the atmosphere of medieval mixed with features of modern society. On my day of arrival, I was quite surprised to receive greetings from people who don’t know me at all. 

At the start of March, the weather was sunny. On the first weekend, my flatmates brought me to the lake Prebasee. It was still frozen, but we had amazing time sledding and hiking. Also, I tried some traditional food in a local restaurant. The best one was Lungau soup with cheesy dumplings: delicious and nourishing. 

Let’s see around…

Also, I visited a couple of local churches. One of them is in Mariapfarr, the village near Tamsweg, and it is well known for bats that live under the roof. Sounds scary, but nothing to be afraid in fact. My favorite place in Tamsweg, for now, is the hill near the fort field church named by St. Leonard. There is an incredible view of the town surrounded by mountains. 

Three weeks ago, I had a trip to Vienna to visit a friend of mine. Vienna is a gorgeous city with fabulous architecture and stylish people. We walked downtown, visited a couple of modern art museums, and had a lot of laughs during our Ukrainian-Austrian dinner at my friend’s place. I highly recommend visiting Vienna to any travelers who plan to be in Austria. Defenetly worth it! 

In my case, this volunteering journey started with the traumatic experience of the war, but I’m happy that it brought me to the team of bright individuals in the middle of the Alps.

I always remind to myself the quote from Victor Hugo to overcome hard times: “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” And the sun will shine bright as never before! 

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