The winners ' games are a grandiose, large-scale and the most life-affirming project of the Gift of Life Foundation. This year the Games were held for the ninth time. As usual, they were organized by a team of volunteers under the leadership of Nadezhda Kuznetsova, who brought winners' Games in our country. They became part of Nadia's story.
You've been a volunteer, since Foundation inception. Tell me, what is volunteering?
Good question. Twelve years have passed, and during this time, my understanding of volunteering, of course, changed. I came to the Gift of Life when I had a lot of free time — moreover, I had some crisis of thought. I worked at a decent job; I did not know for whom I was doing it, and I did not see people who benefit from my work. I went to the hospital to find meaning, people, and pastime. So now it seems that volunteering is about obtaining meanings, friends, about the opportunity to give your time to other people. In General, a volunteer is a person who is very heated from the inside, whose resource flows over the edge. Also, if this resource is not spent, then inside, the person begins to wander and turn into vinegar... I'm lucky in life, I have a very heated battery, but I do not need all of that energy to solve their problems. So I go and spend it somewhere else.
How did your volunteering start?
I saw Kate Chistyakova's post in a Live Magazine that the children in the hospital are bored, that they are sick and suffer not only physically, but that they are locked in four walls. I understood their feelings very well because the one-half of kids could not get out of the room, and, no one comes in. So when I got to the ward, I saw how hungry the children were for fellowship. For the first time in the hospital, I met Mikhail Maschan, who told the new volunteers about how this situation looks through the eyes of a children's doctor. After that, I did not have any chances to stop. I was a volunteer. I was acquired with specific tasks, sometimes not even entertainment: to fix something in the office, find the wipes. We carried bedpan, helped mothers who had children in a severe condition, participated in General cleaning, ironed clothes, folded napkins. For me, it is valuable that I went through all this myself, with my feet and hands.
You say that it is essential for you to see the result of your work. Moreover, what do you consider the effect for yourself in volunteering?
For me, the result is when the child's mood improves. Alternatively, when he did not eat for a long time, and then asked to eat, for example. Alternatively, when he has some specific desires. So if it is possible to cause delight, for example, a surprise, it is generally enjoyable. By the way, at first, I thought that when moms are happy, it's great. Also, then I realized that it's even better when you become the person that she can cry with. This is like when you start to open a window for her to release her emotions. This is trust, high value, and result.
For you, the Winners' Games started earlier than for everyone else. Tell me, how did you bring this project to Russia?
I will start from afar. I am a teacher of Polish language and literature. I always knew that I wanted to attend philological faculty, and I chose Polish because I have Polish roots. This is a bizarre reason, but now I understand that all this happened not by chance. If I did not know Polish, I would not be sent as a volunteer with children in Alcoholemia in Poland, and if I hadn't been sent to Alcoholemia to Poland, I wouldn't bring back this idea and wouldn't make Games.
What attracted you to this project?
I suddenly found that there is a way to talk about the disease differently, without tragedy. Kids do incredible leaps in their development, restoration, and Games for children that recovered from cancer in Poland showed us that. We came back from there with the absolute certainty that it was a bomb and that we should have it.
Russia held these Games for the ninth time. Was it hard at the start?
The first Games were held for me under the slogan: "We are embarrassing but funny." At that point, I did not understand what I was getting into; we all did not understand it. However, in some fantastic way, from the very beginning, everything related to logistics, types of competitions, and content was well organized. In the first year of the Games, I realized that I work as an Event Manager, having nothing to do with this profession. All my friends and family know that I am an unorganized person. In nine years, many things in this plan changed, but it didn't become my strength, to be honest.
A couple of months before the Games, I woke up every night and felt my hair stand on end from the fact that maybe we missed something, or we forgot to invite someone. It let me go a couple of weeks before the Games when I reached the bottom of the excitement.
In the beginning, I had the illusion that we would be able to prepare so well for the Games that we would walk around the venues, listen to concerts, watch children compete, communicate a lot, laugh and have fun. It seemed to me that there is hell, that nothing works, everything failed, everything is terrible. So when our sponsor who delivered flowers, at the end of the first Games gave me flowers, I was ashamed to take, so I gave it to my colleague and said: "Take it, I'm ashamed, I can not take the flowers, I have nothing to congratulate." It took me a very long time to objectively assess what we did then. Now I understand that we raised the project on a frenzied enthusiasm, and only professionalism would not be enough for us, it was necessary to breathe emotions into the project.
The games are a complete volunteer project. Why do so many people help make Games for free?
The organizing Committee team has been working on the Games for ten years. During this time, we gave birth to children, built a career, married, divorced - in General, did anything. Moreover, we continued to work on the Winners' Games because of our wholeheartedness, adrenaline, and magnetism that charges us. When you once try, it is impossible to give up. I am very proud that the project did not die during the first three years, as it happens with many events.
Do people who work on a project with such high goals need motivation?
Sure, you do. I always feel bad that all the buns, publicity, and gratitude go to me personally, and the team remains in the shadows. It is not fair, because from the very beginning many people make this project. Only those who are sure that nothing is impossible work in our Organizing Committee. These are people who can invent, think, manage others, love the project. Each of them has a strong motivation, but they still need support.
For a long time, it seemed to me that if you are working in a brisk job and if everyone around you is so cool, then there should be no conflicts in this team. Motivation should not decrease. However, in any human team, there is a natural dynamics, an excellent working atmosphere must be maintained; otherwise, the fermentation processes begin. We have a great team, only the stars, really, and I am very grateful to everyone for the fact that they are in the project. As a leader, I have to motivate them, but if I have very little energy, I can only work on my tasks. Also, the leader must have a reserve of energy to share it, invest in people, warm them from the inside, and smooth out the sharp corners within the team. When last year I was diagnosed with cancer, I became very stingy with energy, it was barely enough for my family and me.
During chemotherapy, did you delegate some of your responsibilities to the team?
Only a part, not wholly because during the preparation for the Games there are different unforeseen situations. However, I did not want my life during treatment to be significantly different from the usual. Although everything is arranged in the organizing Committee so that everyone is fully responsible for their part of the work, and each team member has enough space for their ideas and independent decisions.
A personal victory over cancer had any impact on your view of the Game?
I was diagnosed with cancer in the sixth month of pregnancy and then started chemistry. Before the birth of the child, I went through three blocks and one after his birth, now we are, fortunately, both healthy. During the illness and immediately after it, it seemed to me that this experience did not affect me in any way. However, now I understand that a person who has been ill, his family and friends get a massive amount of fears and experiences and that it is challenging to digest it all. However, the Game helps to understand that life goes on, that you can and should move forward. I like that because of my illness, my experience, I have the right to speak on behalf of people who have experienced cancer. In my opinion, our project will only benefit from this, because now I can say for sure that we will never do anything at the Games that can injure a person who has had cancer.
Games for you...?
For myself, I understand the Game a little deeper and more difficult. For me, the winners are not only those who have recovered; for me, the winners are even those who have left. I knew guys who very adequately passed the test of illness. It is significant for me that the parents of the departed children could also come to our Games and not feel like strangers. Games for them: any person who visited this war and did not give up, he is already a winner.
Do you have time for family?
Is there! As soon as I had my first child, I closed the history of hospital volunteering. Maybe I'll come back to it later, but for now, I try to devote all my free time to my children. I have two boys: the older one is six, the little two almost. We love to spend time at home, and our dad is responsible for the games. He arranges carnage, zombie war. It's all hilarious and funny. I believe that there is time for everything and always. The question is whether a person has a desire to do something. You can accommodate a lot in your life. The main thing is to want.