Ukrainian community center in Rīga moves location

On Tuesday, the Ukrainian and ally community center Common Ground begins work at a new location in the Old Town of Rīga, Latvian Radio reported on April 18.

After becoming popular as a social networking club in Andrejosta, with concerts, festivals, games and classes, the Common Ground initiative, with the support of Rīga City Council, has now moved to Old Riga, the basement floor of the council building (Rātslaukums 1).

Inese Dābola, who started the idea together with Ieva Irbiņa, said: "Common Ground was created on February 24 last year. Our team organized the Rīga International Biennal of Contemporary Arts. You can't ignore what's going on around you when you work with contemporary art. We announced on February 25 that we should pause our preparations for the exhibition and focus our efforts on helping."

“We thought, what can we do? We can organize. It would be important to create a place where when a person has come out of the Ukrainian refugee center, can socialize, can ask for something. There are a lot of people who are alone here, often mothers with children,” Dābola said.

In a quickly-repaired hundred-year-old station building in Andrejosta, where the Common Ground support group first met, it quickly became popular among refugees, but, unfortunately, utility bills were too expensive. New premises are provided for free by the Rīga City Council.

Besides the Common Ground, which has become an association at this time, the headquarters include the “Your Friends” association and the “I want to help the refugees” movement.

“We are the only municipality in the world that has given its facilities to refugees,” Dābola stated.

Common Ground employs four Ukrainians, but there are around 200 volunteers in the database. 

Stanislav, an engineer from Belarus, has been visiting Common Ground for a year. He has organized activities of the Belarusian community in St. Petersburg, then was pursued, and he now lives in Latvia.

Stanislav: Common Ground is like a second family, like friends. I help people here, and I also get new acquaintances, that's important to me.

Latvian Radio: What do Ukrainians say that a Belarusian is helping them?

Stanislav: First of all, I do not have 'Belarusian' stamped on my forehead. Secondly, when I meet them and introduce myself...

Latvian Radio: Are you a refugee like they are?

Stanislav: Yes, a refugee, but technically - something a little different. I am fleeing political repression, but they are fleeing the war.

The official opening of Common Ground at the premises of Rīga City Council is scheduled for April 29. Another branch of the Ukrainian chain restaurant, Borscht, is also opening its door here.

Common Ground's initiator Dābola still asks Latvian volunteers who want to communicate with refugees to join in..

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