Good Days Family Surf Camp uses surfing to heal and support Ukrainian children escaping the horrors of war.
Like many others, Kshisya Tachanskaya’s life changed completely when Russia began its attacks on Ukraine. More than 12 million people have been displaced from their homes since the beginning of the war. But after escaping, she wanted to help. So she started a free surf camp in Portugal to share the healing of the ocean with as many displaced Ukrainian families as possible.
For the past five years, Kshisya has been immersed in the Ukrainian surfing community while also organizing international family surfing trips Vasiliy Kordysh, President of the Ukrainian Surfing Union. The goal was to get more Ukrainians surfing, and surf trips to locations with warmer, milder climates and gentle breaks offered an accessible entry into surfing compared to the colder temperatures and tougher surfing conditions caused by the wind swells that form in the Black Sea.
Then, in 2021, Kshisya started Good Days Family Surf Camp in Baleal, Portugal. The sandy island village has been a mecca for surf tourism for over 20 years and offers beginner-friendly breaks like Lagide’s gentle reef break, as well as miles of open beach breaks that give beginners plenty of room to practice their turns.
“It was amazing because I saw the positive effects surfing and being out in nature had on both the kids and adults at our camp,” Kshisya told FanSided. “The kids came with their gadgets on the first day and they were glued to their screens. But once the surf camp program started, they forgot their screens and devoted themselves full-time to surfing.”
“Nowadays, children are inextricably linked to technology. But you can’t take your devices into the water with you. When you surf, you can forget the past for a moment and just be in the present moment. You can also meet like-minded people and build relationships with those around you.”
At the beginning of 2022, Kshisya set a goal to organize more surf camps in Portugal for Ukrainian families. But that all changed at 4:30 a.m. on February 24, 2022. Kshisya woke up in her family’s apartment in central Kyiv to find her windows shaking. The first Russian missile had landed near her home, signaling the start of a war that would destroy her family’s life.
“It was probably the worst time of my life,” Kshisya said. “We watched rockets fall from the sky and quickly realized that we were not safe in our own home. We woke our two kids, grabbed some bags of clothes and drove 25 hours until we finally arrived in the west of the country.”
After realizing the situation was escalating, Kshisya and her daughter Evdokia, 7, and son Kornii, 11, drove across mainland Europe to Portugal for five days, while her husband stayed in Ukraine to help defend their family to help the country.
“When we got to Baleal, we had nothing,” said Kshisya. “But I told my kids to jump in the sea. The kids arrived feeling devastated by the war but after surfing the water had lifted their spirits.”
“My husband helped defend our homeland and I couldn’t just sit around in Portugal and wait for the end of the war, I knew I had to help wherever I could. So I decided to organize free family surf camps for anyone who is on the run and maybe afraid to come and relax by spending time in the sea.”
Having spent the past five seasons organizing surf camps, Kshisya was already familiar with the area. She started a charity foundation and posted a video online detailing her plans to help people through the power of surfing. Devastated by what they saw on the news, many people took to social media and saw her video and felt compelled to help, which resulted in donations from people around the world wanting to support their efforts. With these donations, Kshisya was able to organize the first free surf camp for Ukrainian refugee families.
“I know how it feels to lose everything in the war because it happened to my family too,” says Kshisya. “I just wanted to help the families who fled Ukraine to find their community. Finding friends in the lineup and connecting with nature. We’ve all lost something. But we’re still here, and surfing the ocean can help us regain the strength to keep going.”
The first seven-day surf camp welcomed 16 Ukrainian children and their parents, complete with accommodation, daily meals and a full program of surfing, beach cleaning, art classes and a visit to a local surfboard shaper. For a few short hours each day, these families had the opportunity to break away from their thoughts of what had been taken from them and escape in blissful moments by catching and riding waves along the Portuguese coast.
“When the children arrived on the first day, it was tough,” says Kshisya. “These children had escaped the war and experienced hard things and I wasn’t sure if we could help them. But after the first day of surfing, they started to smile. It was as if the heavy weight was being lifted. They got rid of their phones and the war news. Instead, we filled their days surfing, creating art, cleaning up beaches and learning how to take care of the ocean. We drew their attention and surfing helped them find joy again.”
After a first successful camp, Kshisya organized further surf camps so that more Ukrainian refugee children could benefit from them. Billabong Europe heard about her work and offered her cooperation. Together they organized an international surfing day for over 40 Ukrainian families. Billabong even invited Championship Tour graduate and Surf Olympian Frederico Morais to teach the kids how to surf. Kshisya continues to organize more surf camps for Ukrainian refugees.
“Thanks to the posts about our surf camp on social media, I found a lot of support in the surfing community. So many people have opened their hearts to our people and donated to help us. It really means everything.”
With the generous help of people around the world who have donated to support Good Days Surf Camp, Kshisya has created a safe haven for Ukrainian families to speak their native language, connect with each other and overcome the trauma of war heal. Meanwhile, the situation in Ukraine remains volatile.
“Many people live in a new reality at home, where sirens and bombs are part of everyday life. Rockets continue to target populated areas in Ukraine and many civilians continue to die as a result of this war. When you know what’s happening over there, it’s hard to live with.”
Much like her husband who defends her country within his borders, Kshisya is dedicated to helping wherever she can, from 2,500 miles away. She plans to help refugee families for as long as possible.
“I have received hundreds of applications from Ukrainian refugees to join our surf camps. So the more support we get, the more people we can help. I believe that nature is a powerful healer and when you do good things, good things come back to you. Two Ukrainian friends helped me organize the surf camps and we saw how the joy of surfing can help someone forget about home. We all need good days.”
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If you would like more information about the Good Days Surfcamp, Please visit their website.
https://fansided.com/2022/08/15/ukrainian-families-surf-camp/ The surf camp brings displaced Ukrainian families to the sea