Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Yevgen Bezvushko, July 16, 2021

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

 

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00:00:07 - Initial connections to Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Uh, today is July 16, 2021. I'm Peggy Walton, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Ukraine from 1994 to 1996 and as a Response Volunteer also in Ukraine from 2013 to 2014 and then again from 2015 to 2016. Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Yevgen Bezvushko who was a counterpart to Volunteers in the city of Khmelnitsky in Ukraine.

Segment Synopsis: While still a high school student, Bezvushko became friends with a local Peace Corps Volunteer and helped him as a translator for 3 years. This Volunteer was an economic advisor and set up a non-governmental organization which is still in operation. Later, Bezvushko worked for the organization which arranged home stays for Volunteers and his family once served as a host family, too.

Keywords: Counterparts; Extensions; Friends; High schools; Host family; Jobs; Khmelnitsky (Ukraine); Older volunteers; Students; Translation

Subjects: Interpersonal relations; Non-governmental organizations; Peace Corps (U.S.)--2000-2010; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ukraine; Volunteers

GPS: Khmelnitsky (Ukraine)
Map Coordinates: 49.416667, 27
GPS: Ukraine
Map Coordinates: 49, 32
00:04:30 - Career path

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Partial Transcript: What was your position within the organization? At first, it was simply a translator and then, and then what?

Segment Synopsis: For a year, Bezvushko served as a volunteer translator for the local Peace Corps Volunteer. Later, Bezvushko was hired to work for the non-governmental organization started by the local Volunteer. Bezvushko progressed through the ranks to become the elected director after 3 years. The organization received support in fundraising from a second Volunteer.

Keywords: Funding; Jobs; Support; Sustainability; Translation; Traveling; Volunteering

Subjects: Non-governmental organizations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ukraine; Student activities; Volunteers

00:07:27 - Peace Corps Volunteer contributions

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Partial Transcript: How did having, uh, a Peace Corps Volunteer enhance your work?

Segment Synopsis: Bezvushko acknowledges the first Volunteer, Bill, as the moving force behind the creation and early functioning of the non-governmental organization. Bezvushko describes some of the early projects of the organization. The second Volunteer, Jeff, helped establish longer term, more financially stable projects for the organization.

Keywords: Grants; Non-governmental organizations; Sustainability

Subjects: Finance; Non-governmental organizations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ukraine; Volunteers

00:09:38 - Becoming a Peace Corps counterpart

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Partial Transcript: How well do you think Peace Corps staff in Kiev, uh, prepared you to be a, a counterpart?

Segment Synopsis: The Peace Corps staff conducted interviews with hosting organization members who anticipated working with the Volunteer and made on-site visits. Also, before becoming a host family, Bezvushko's family was interviewed by the Peace Corps staff and given instruction. Once a Volunteer had been assigned to the organization, there was on-going contact with, and support from, the Peace Corps staff.

Keywords: Application process; Applications; Applying; Arrangements; Communication; Conversations; Host family; Housing; Kiev (Ukraine); Paperwork; Peace Corps interviews; Peace Corps staff; Preparation; Security; Site visits; Support

Subjects: Non-governmental organizations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ukraine; Volunteers

GPS: Ukraine
Map Coordinates: 49, 32
GPS: Kiev (Ukraine)
Map Coordinates: 50.45, 30.523333
00:12:51 - Serving as a host family

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Partial Transcript: Uh, what was the re--the, uh, reaction or--of, of having a person, an American, in, in your home as a host family?

Segment Synopsis: Bezvushko comments that his parents in particular were not used to the directness of their Volunteer guest. Bezvushko's family was surprised by the appreciativeness displayed by their Volunteer guest and had a positive experience.

Keywords: Changes; Conversations; Cultural differences; Expectations; Interpersonal relations; Questions; Second Goal

Subjects: Lifestyles; Manners and customs; Parents; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ukraine; Soviet Union; Volunteers

00:17:10 - Lessons learned from Volunteers

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Partial Transcript: What did you learn from your Volunteers?

Segment Synopsis: Bezvushko believes that the American approach to problem solving tends to be more structured than what is normal in his country. Bezvushko learned to be more open-minded and flexible. Work with the Volunteers made Bezvushko's organization more viable. Bezvushko learned that a project's failure indicated that improvements needed to be made and not necessarily to just abandon the entire project.

Keywords: Acceptance; Changes; Communication; Counterparts; Cultural differences; Flexibility; Funding; Improvements; Learning; Personal growth; Resilience; Sustainability

Subjects: Finance; Intercultural communication; Lifestyles; Manners and customs; Non-governmental organizations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ukraine; Volunteers

00:23:42 - Challenges as a counterpart

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Partial Transcript: What kind of challenges did you face, uh, being a counterpart?

Segment Synopsis: Bezvushko comments that the 3 Volunteers with whom he worked the most all were college graduates and had relevant work experience. Initially, the language barrier was a problem. Overall, Bezvushko has positive memories of dealings with the Volunteers.

Keywords: Conversations; Intercultural communication; Interpersonal relations; Language and languages; Language barriers; Problems

Subjects: Non-governmental organizations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ukraine; Volunteers

00:25:08 - Travels with Volunteers

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Partial Transcript: Where did you go?

Segment Synopsis: Bezvushko traveled to Kiev with Bill several times. Projects, aimed to better coordinate activities of different industries, took them all over the country. Bezvushko describes several of the projects, some of which involved coordination with local universities. Some of the resulting business practices contributed to more transparent governmental procedures in Ukraine.

Keywords: Changes; Clothing; Cooperation; Expectations; Flexibility; Funding; Kamianets-Podilskyi (Ukraine); Khmelnitsky (Ukraine); Kiev (Ukraine); Non-governmental organizations; Nonprofit organizations; Reforms; Skills; Technology; Tourism; Tourists; Traveling

Subjects: Non-governmental organizations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ukraine; Ukraine; Universities and colleges; Volunteers

GPS: Kiev (Ukraine)
Map Coordinates: 50.45, 30.523333
GPS: Khmelnitsky (Ukraine)
Map Coordinates: 49.416667, 27
GPS: Kamianets-Podilskyi (Ukraine)
Map Coordinates: 48.683333, 26.583333
GPS: Ukraine
Map Coordinates: 49, 32
00:39:02 - Advice for future counterparts

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Partial Transcript: Let's see. What kind of, um, hmm, suggestions, tips for success, uh, would you have for future counterparts?

Segment Synopsis: Bezvushko recommends staying open-minded and taking advantage of the Volunteer's input. Counterparts should be ready to change and have their own proposals ready to put forward. Bezvushko's contact with Volunteers has resulted in making several lifelong, trusted friends.

Keywords: Attitudes; First Goal; Friends; Impact

Subjects: Interpersonal relations; Non-governmental organizations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ukraine; Volunteers

00:42:40 - Reflections on Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: I, I just wanted to thank the American people, and Peace Corps, and you personally for, for helping Ukraine.

Segment Synopsis: Bezvushko extends his thanks to the Peace Corps which has had a transformative effect on him and on Ukraine. As a small, sideline business, Bezvushko, inspired by the spouse of a Volunteer, builds and then sells affordable houses.

Keywords: Arizona; Houses; Influences; Volunteers

Subjects: Finance; Non-governmental organizations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ukraine; Small business; Ukraine; Volunteers

GPS: Arizona
Map Coordinates: 34.2744, -111.6602
GPS: Ukraine
Map Coordinates: 49, 32