Story by Tomek Zawisko

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I spent in Nizhny Novgorod nine months and I am pretty sure, that this was the best part of my short life. Is very hard to evaluate or describe in several sentences, what I have experienced there, but I will try to do this from the beginning.

I came to Russia on September 2, 2012. It was my second time in this country, earlier I was once in the capital and in Petersburg. I have learned Russian before, but first contacts with language were for me a little bit hard. Fortunately I met a great company of other volunteers and a support from Sfera. Over time it was better and better and I started to consider Nizhny Novgorod like a my place on the Earth.

I worked in VERAS project with disabled children suffering from autism, down syndrome and cerebral palsy. On the beginning I participated in the elder group for youngsters and I felt myself a little bit useless, because pupils were quite self-standing. After one month my colleagues proposed me an assistance with the younger group, where I stayed till the end of my project. I was feeling that I was making something important, and that I was learning a lot and forging my character. To the people, who are considering participation in this project I have two advices. First: it is not a hard work, you do not have nothing supernatural to do, so do not be afraid. Second: it is a project for people with self-distance, who are not hypersensitive. Sometimes you have to scream, sometimes someone bites you. ;-)I have great memories from VERAS: I had a lot of run in this job and I really miss my colleagues and especially children.

Of course EVS life is not only volunteer’s project. During these nine months I met other volunteers and Russians, who were helping us and participating in our life, I made friends. I had great company of my neighbours: in September Giovanni, who showed me the city, useful places and helped a lot on the beginning; from October till the end Artjom and Jose. With them I spent 8 months and many, many parties, discussions, adventures. I had a great support from Sfera office and Irina. I do not like to mention all the people I miss, because it is too much to describe and I am afraid that I can skip someone.

For me my life in Russia was also an opportunity to make, what I always wanted to do. I started writing about Russia for Polish magazines. My articles where even translated for Russian medias and were quite popular. I visited places that I always wanted to see, especially Northern Caucasus: Chechnya, Dagestan and Northern Ossetia (twice), Georgia, Altay Mountains in Siberia. Besides that also many Russian cities like for example Volgograd, Kazan, Astrakhan, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg. I still read a lot and sometimes write about Northern Caucasus, so I can say, that thanks to EVS I have a new hobby.

I can add, that EVS changed my private life. I moved just now to another country and I am trying to start a new life there. It is also connected with the person that I met thanks to EVS.