The Mayaki collective accommodation center in the Odesa region has brought together people of different background and age, and each with a particular story of how they ended up here, after fleeing the conflict-torn Donbas. The group strives to bring to life a seemingly utopian idea of existing as a community where each member contributes with a small share of labor and helps build up the well-being of this small eco-system.

Some take care of pigs and chickens, grow vegetables in a greenhouse, others cook for everyone or do repairs – the building of a former summer camp is in a constant need of a touch-up. Last fall the Mayaki community has also received an ICRC micro-grant to purchase cows.

Olga is one of the first tenants of Mayaki, having joined the community back in 2014, after leaving Luhansk. “It was providence that brought me here. I feel that I have found a new home and a new family. I don’t have anyone close left in Luhansk and I don’t think I will ever go back.” – says the woman. Her daily task is to prepare milk for deliveries and make cream or cottage cheese of leftovers for internal consumption.

Dmytro, another internally displaced person from the Donbas, who lives here together with his wife and children, is in charge of the door-to-door delivery of milk to their regular clients from the neighborhood. To make the transportation easier and cheaper, the ICRC provided the community with an electric bicycle – it is much more economical than a minivan they used for this purpose before. Dmytro is happy with a new vehicle but says it takes time to master the skill of riding it: “At first I kept thinking that I would tip over and spill all the milk around the place! But now I think I feel the right pace and angle. The best thing about it – even if it is out of energy, you can just cycle home.” – he adds with a smile.

The spirit of mutual aid is reigning the place. Younger members take care of their senior peers. Leonid, who is the informal leader of the community, shares a long list of his concerns. Will there be fodder for the cows this year because of the unusual drought? Will they have enough clients for the milk? How much can they save to live through the winter – the most difficult time of the year for the community that can count on themselves only. But now it’s summer, cows are grazing happily in the meadow and the greenhouse is full of fresh cucumbers, tomatoes and savory herbs – the pickles season is coming!