Vladyslava: How Ukrainian woman got stranded in Zanzibar adopted indigenous’ life

Kizimkazi, located almost 57km from Unguja town in Zanzibar, is one of the villages of Kizimkazi Mkunguni town. The area is occupied by 2,617 people whose major economic activity is agriculture.

The homes of the local people, ‘Waunguja’ are different from those in town where the majority have been roofed by dry grasses. To them, privacy is important; a reason why homes are fenced by grasses. Visitors opt this area not because of being an important tourism destination but its state of remaining natural amidst tourism businesses going on in the Isles.

At least you have a picture of how Kizimkazi looks and the life of indigenous. As you are still imagining that, you will be struck by the surprise to meet foreign nationals who mingle with locals in the pursuit of life. Whether at Kizimkazi or Paje, don’t be surprised to meet locals identified by the Swahili locals as ‘Mzungu’ to mean white people.

Yes, these are Ukrainians, who have accepted the reality and decided to join the locals of Kizimkazi to pursue their daily life. Once you arrive there, don’t be surprised to be welcomed by jovial faces of Ukrainians as they invite you to enjoy the well-preserved nature at Kizimkazi.

Vladyslava Yanchenko, 27, is a woman with her brother, Viktor Tkachov, 45, who arrived in Zanzibar to experience the wonders and beauty of the area almost one-and-a-half years ago. The duo enjoyed various places in Zanzibar’s archipelago. Perhaps, they got a good story to tell and a good song to sing when they get back to their motherland, Ukraine. Sadly, so far they have not been able to do so due to the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.

It was a challenge for them and other Ukrainians who visited Tanzania, more specifically Zanzibar, to accept the reality-of what was, and still is, transpiring in their country. But sometimes, it is an environment which dictates people’s lives. This is a case to them as they have been accustomed to life of indigenous. The locals treat them as part of their community and life goes on as usual.

“I will never forget the day [February 24, 2022] when the situation changed in my country (Ukraine). We got a report of the sound of gunfire and bombs as people ran around for the purpose of hiding,” says Vladyslava.

Vladyslava, the marketer by profession, explains that they were later informed that their country had been plunged into war. This bad news distracted their arrangement to return home.

To her, it was a moment she learned that being a woman, in such a situation is courageous whose main responsibilities are to protect her, others, as well as leading the society around her as a whole.

Despite this, it was not easy to witness pictures of his brothers circulating on social media and being shown on television how people ran to find help to hide. It was a psychological disturbance.

“I learned that at home women and daughters are being raped by soldiers while the maternity and children’s wards are burned mercilessly,” says Vladyslava, the Ukranian leaving in Zanzibar.

Vladyslava explains that in their country, children recognized the importance of self-defense, and understood that they needed skills to protect their physical and psychological health. Hence, the desire to learn and grow became a beacon of hope during this difficult time for them.

New life, new relatives

“The effects of war spread across all nations and our lives changed completely. But amid the chaos and uncertainty, the light reappeared. Today, I would like to share with you my perspective on how being a woman from Ukraine has turned my life around and given me the ability to embrace change and move forward with unwavering strength as men,” says the Ukrainian woman.

She has learned that it is important to be able to be independent and protect oneself in any situation. To achieve this, getting prepared physically and mentally was the primary concern, perhaps more than others. This led her to face various life challenges including accepting a new life.

“I came to Tanzania as a tourist, where I live right now. I’ve discovered a different world. Here, women thrive and thrive. It is a place where women and men live in unity, supporting each other and helping others as well,” Vladyslava says adding:

“In this new world, we are not being discussed on the basis of our gender or our nationality, but on our ability. We are motivated to be leaders, take charge, and succeed. Together, we reframe various narratives, dismantling culture and social stereotypes.”

According to her, she and her brother are ready to start a family in Zanzibar, thanks to love, peace and stability on the islands.

“God bless Tanzania, Tanzania first,” Vladyslava concludes her narrative.

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