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Het verhaal van Jenia

“I feel free when I can ​​afford to pay the price of my choices.”

I am from Ukraine and have been living in Rotterdam for four years now. I moved from Kyiv to Gent to study architecture there. After graduating I started working at a Rotterdam-based architectural bureau. It’s an awesome bureau and I really enjoy working there. Currently I live in the westside of Rotterdam, which I very much like, because I feel very welcome here. People are open and don’t judge so quickly. I feel very much at home here.

I’ve thought long about what freedom means to me. It seems straightforward at first but the longer you think about it the harder it gets. Freedom to me is to be able to do as you choose and be responsible for your choices. It is also the possibility to go where you want to go. To be who you want to be. The more freedom you have the broader your conception becomes. If you have lots of rights and are free, your definition of freedom becomes broader, more diffuse maybe. If you are unfree and have no rights at all, your definition of freedom is very fundamental. Core values such as the freedom to move, to go out, to live, to choose, to speak up. Freedom is not always given to everybody in the same way. Some have to pay a higher price for it, others have to fight to be free.

My sister is in Kyiv with her boyfriend. They cannot come here, because her boyfriend can’t leave the country since every man between the age of 18 and 60 is obliged to stay, help and fight. So, these are very uncertain times. I remain in close contact with them. It’s easy to forget how much freedom we actually have here. It feels weird that I am here, living a comfortable life, while they are there, living a very uncertain life.

Sometimes I feel that for me it’s harder to get to where I want to be than it is for, let’s say Dutch people. I am from the Krimm, and for us it used to be a tradition to return home for Christmas. Since 2014 this matter of course has become less certain. Since then the price I need to pay to visit my family is going up every day, very scary to see. Now it’s almost impossible to return home. That’s a harsh reality to accept. It makes me feel unfree.


My freedom song is Hotel California from The Eagles.

Fotografie: Weia Tan


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