‘People come to the Communists’: Interview with Lugansk district leader Galina Tishchenko

August 4: Galina Tishchenko is a Communist and a teacher, a mother of five and grandmother of eight grandchildren.

She joined the Party (then the Communist Party of the Soviet Union) in 1976, and since then has not changed her beliefs. Comrades know Galina Nikolaevna as a reliable person, who is not afraid of very hard work, is very demanding and principled.

Three times the residents of Artyomovsk, Lugansk region, showed their confidence in her and elected her deputy of the District Council, where Galina Tishchenko led the Communist faction.

For many years she has headed the primary organization of the Communist Party in the Mirnyi (Peace) district of Lugansk city. People know and respect Galina Nikolaevna, coming to her with their problems, seeking advice, sharing experiences, fears and hopes.

We asked the Communist about her challenging work among the people, their concerns, the past and future.

Comrade Galina Tishchenko (right) and other Lugansk Communists
meet with international guests on Victory Day 2016.
Photo: Greg Butterfield

Galina, your primary organization has existed for more than 20 years. During this time, for sure, a lot has been done, and there is much to tell.

We started back in 1992. The primary organization is the basic unit of the party structure, which works in close conjunction with the residents of a particular locality, in the case of rural primary organizations, or the district, if we talk about the primary organizations in the city. We met regularly with the people, helping the Party deputies — from the district and city deputies, all the way up to the deputies of the Verkhovna Rada [Ukraine’s parliament] – to identify the problems of Lugansk from the residents themselves, and to get help from the Communist Party. We were able to defend the interests of the people in the courts, and before officials. We spoke the truth about the housing and utility reform afoot by the city government, that it posed a threat to all of us. We got people out to protest actions, demanding improvements in the economic life of the city.

When the Communists took over responsibility for the organization of the municipal transport fleet and the purchase of large buses, we actively involved the residents of our district in preparing proposals for the development of a new route network. Many residents of our district were able to get legal aid in the fight for the legalization of auxiliary heating in apartments. The Communists led a long fight again the arbitrariness of the water utility and other public utilities, protecting residents’ right to receive quality services. We also have organized and conducted children’s events for young residents.

So, you’re always at the forefront and aware of the most pressing problems of the residents of your district?

Yes, people are already accustomed to come to us. All these years have taught them that only the Communists are unafraid to confront arbitrary power. And not only unafraid, but able to find real solutions to problems. The struggle starts each Sunday with an agitation tent. But there we not only hand out informational materials and talk to people about the Party or what position it takes on a particular issue. It is very important that we meet with the people. Residents talk about their problems, and together we try to solve them.

The Communists had a very good program called “Every primary organization undertakes a socially significant cause.” Was there such a thing in your primary organization?

Of course! This was our favorite brainchild — “Friendship” park. We gave it that name because it’s a symbol of the unity of all the residents of our district. Communists and Komsomol members planted more than 1,000 trees and shrubs there, laid several flower beds, brought and installed park benches, made a sandbox for the children. Now, this is a comfortable place to relax for many residents of our neighborhood.

Memorial plaque for Lugansk residents killed during 
the Ukrainian bombing in 2014.
Photo: Greg Butterfield
Mirnyi district, where your primary cell is located, found itself under bombardment more than once during the war in 2014, homes were destroyed, people suffered. How did the Communists act during this time?

We stayed with the people, who every day risked their lives. It was a terrible time for the whole city. And the Communists tried to be exactly where their help was needed — setting up shelters, fighting fires, organizing the collection and distribution of humanitarian assistance. The life of a Communist at this time was no different from the life of any other Lugansk resident. They all had common troubles and problems, all tried to somehow help one another, to offer a shoulder. We’ve work with the people for many years, we do not need to be deferred to, everybody knows that we are Communists. And we do not need to say that this effort somehow makes us special — actions say more than any words.

So, people continue to come to you with their problems? Which of these would you say is the most urgent for your neighborhood?

One of the most pressing issues for the residents of our district is completion of the well-room [water pumping station]. The work began before the war. Then everything was cast aside. And now it is necessary to do something.

In general, people share the common concerns. Since the war, under the blockade, these problems are familiar to almost everyone in Lugansk. These include humanitarian assistance, recalculation of pensions, and payment by the Ukrainian side. Teachers are worried about wage arrears from 2014. Many people have difficulty buying medicines – pharmacies have a limited range available, and the prices “bite.”

In addition to your Party work, you are also a schoolteacher. What are the challenges facing modern education?

A new curriculum was introduced in the schools. But, unfortunately, the books were not delivered in full, they do not have enough for all students. Largely because of this, teachers have difficulty with the preparation and conduct of lessons. In addition, there are no visual aids, instruments and reagents for laboratory and practical works. But the school, of course, lives, even if we have to teach children on their fingers.

Has patriotic education changed in the new curriculum?

Yes, today it is at our highest level. Before the war it was very difficult to conduct in our schools. Now we bring a copy of the Victory Banner to schools, hold meetings with veterans, take trips to Krasnodon. Children read patriotic stories on the history of their native land, learn to love and take care of their home and their land.

The impression I get from your words is that, despite the large number of difficulties, people still have not lose hope for a better future. Is this true?

Absolutely. Most of our people were afraid of an unending and protracted war. But the active hostilities ended, the peace talks began, and among the people there is hope that it will all end, and a peaceful life will be built. If the economy is restored, it will create new jobs and all those who had to leave the city because of the war will come back. Our people love and know how to work; it is no wonder the Lugansk region is famous for its labor glory. Lugansk residents believe that the worst is already behind us, and in the future they will have a chance to recover a normal life under a peaceful sky.


Translated by Greg Butterfield

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