Lena Kulyashova had studied in Vilnius for 7 years and gladly was happy to come back to Lida. We talked to the girl about the romance of provincial life, asked how to open a second-hand shop in province and finding time for helping abandoned animals and why everything just is in the beginning in Lida.
Activities: “Flea shop” – second-hand clothing and assistance to the poor and refugees “Zoo help” helps abandoned animals to find new hosts
Foundation Date: 2013
Structure: 6-7 members + volunteers
Talked to: Lena Kulyashova, 27 years. Graduated from EHU (Media and Communication department) and Institute of Entrepreneurial Activity (has a diploma of manager-economist). Founder of second-hand “Flea shop” and project for helping abandoned animals “Zoo help” in Lida.
– When leaving Lida after school graduation I was thinking: “Oh my! How amazing, at last!”. I had a special calendar where I crossed days left till the departure. And I thought that I never would come back here. After seven years in Vilnius remembering about it, I was thinking how everything can change. It was enough for me to live in another country to realize that I want to go home. I like it here, in Lida.
“When leaving Lida after school graduation I was thinking: “Oh my! How amazing, at last”
It seems that I’m a provincial deep in my mind. Don’t know why it’s so. Maybe because I spent my entire life in this town. I like more close relationships with people, here it’s impossible to walk across the town without greeting anyone. It’s a town-village, where you know everyone, and everything is so nice. When in Vilnius I didn’t feel at home. The city seemed to be comfortable for living, beautiful, with great architecture, everything is cool. But with time I’ve understood that’s it’s not the architecture what makes the city but people who live there. I can name these people here, and in Vilnius I found only a few of such kind of persons. And that wasn’t enough. I can say that I came back because of people. For me a city is people.
I think many of us got used to blame everything around except themselves. The city isn’t the right one, people are not quite good, everything is so wrong, and I’m just amazing, so why nothing happens in my life? It’s important to move all the time, and it’s possible even at the village with 5 thousand citizens.
Flea shop at the province
– Second-hand shop was opened at the second part of 2013, after I came back from Vilnius. I was imbued with all this European tradition, and here it’s not developed too much, although I see that this demand exists on our market and it’s not quite good. People want to have more trendy and fashionable clothes at an affordable price in their wardrobe. My shop isn’t the first in Lida, but the first one in my district.
Flea shop was opened at Paudnevy garadok, 25. I bought equipment at flea markets, made everything from scarp materials. Inside and outside the building there are paintings from artist Zhenya Kovak. I started the business by myself, later my boyfriend joined and now it’s a family one. For clothes and other goods, I traditionally go to Vilnius. We have a wide range of them.
Young girls with cool cars, pensioners, young mothers, poor, rich, friends and friends’ parents come to the shop. Our place isn’t big, we also opened zoo-shop in here and 5% of income goes to it. How are the things going? Well, we exactly don’t plan to close but to expand. Now are thinking about chain stores, at least in Lida for the beginning. We have a wish to organize something huge. In our plans is the creating of a little shopping centre where not only second-hand shop but also regular clothing and zoo shops will be situated. Maybe something else will be added.
“Every month we take this left stuff to the nearest villages, to low-income families and help refugees”
Much clothing was left and one day we decided to send it not to the warehouse but to the place where it would be useful. Every month we take this left stuff to the nearest villages, to low- income families and help refugees. The last ones we mostly helped in Autumn of 2015 – the peak of migrations from Ukraine. They were given houses, here, in villages. We collect pieces of furniture, tableware from people and also take stuff from our shop. We also give from 50 to 11 things to the Red Cross and church once a month. When a person who needs help appears, we react immediately.
At the very beginning we found people ourselves and later, you know how it works, somewhere they heard about us, somebody told them. We also took part in the eco campaign for the town cleaning “Zrobim” (“We’ll Do it”), within which we organized a charitable sale to collect money for child’s operation. On World Animal Day we collected everything necessary for “paws and tales”.
Zoo help Project
– Zoo help project helps homeless animals. We are an initiative group of not indifferent people, all are girls. We all have families and work but try to find time for what nobody does, we help animals. From the November of 2014 we found homes for near 100 pets. We pick them up from streets, take to a vet, if there is a possibility also pay for sterilization and then do everything to find them hosts.
We all have the same rights, there is no leader, we try to support each other, and all these activities are more like a friends’ gang. There are 6-7 main participants and also these guys who come from time to time and leave. It’s much easier to help in theory than in practice. It’s important to be fond of the idea not to spare time, energy and sleep. Sometimes some people who come realize that it’s not for them.
“At one time we had 10 cats in our home temporary shelter, if talk about dogs they were 5 of them at a time”
Lately people got to know about us and started to help with whatever they can. Until recently there was only one vet in the town who helped us and now all of them meet us half-way, examine pets free of charge and carry out surgeries. Lida TV company joined our World Animals Day’s action and made a report about us. After that it became easier to do what we do. In Lida there are a few more initiatives which organize help to animals, but officially we have no shelters or animals’ nurseries. We all know each other here because the town isn’t very big, everyone has his own functions and all together citizens try to fold a puzzle.
All the animals are taken for a temporary shelter to our homes, sometime we look for new ones. People usually look after animals under the terms of us providing them with food and all they need. At one time we had 10 cats in our home temporary shelter, if talk about dogs they were 5 of them at a time. Despite the fact that I have a cat and a dog pets. My boyfriend was very patient, it seemed that another one would oust me.
Renaissance in Lida
− I’ve started to work at new perspective PR agency recently, now we are at the stage of our development. In future plans we have a lot of social projects which are aimed at pimping the town. Now it’s undesirable to talk about what is planned but I can say that I see a good future. Now we deal only with advertisement on bus monitors, that’s why we’re called “First Minibus TV of Lida city”. In the future when we’re going to enlarge our activities, the name will be changed for sure. But now it’s this one.
Lida is about to “launch” now. It seems that there is a small amount of different interesting things, but people of our age start to organize their own business. As our friend from Minsk says: “Lida is a city of individual entrepreneurs”. Every second is a businessman, everyone starts to fill a free niche and this helps to build a community which works on barter. This community isn’t big, from memory near 15 people. I don’t know all the activists of the city for now. Somebody opens café, another – quest-rooms, some has been working with clubs for a long time. Here you can find a lot of places for your leisure time.
“As our friend from Minsk says: “Lida is a city of individual entrepreneurs”
Am I bored here after living in Vilnius? You know, I think that everything depends on the person, and these excuses about not good enough people or place, they are ridiculous. If a man likes the place he lives in, he won’t be bored and always will find what to do there. Yeah, sometimes even I look for some funny stuff but all in all it’s not boring here. What do I most like in Lida is its closeness to nature: it’s simple to be near the lake or in the forest after a ten-minute drive. If you can have fun and joy there is no need to find anything, because everything happens itself.
Text by polevik
Photos by Igor Kolas
10 friendly tips for Western journalists on how to create content about Belarus.