Everyday he woke up early in the morning, and took the tram to Lviv’s Central railway station where his shift started at 6.
Olesj Gomernyk was a volunteer for Euro 2012: a 21-year old student hoping to become a vet, he helped foreign fans to find their way around a foreign city. He says that thanks to the supporters’ reactions when they were leaving, Ukrainian volunteers managed to cope with the mammoth task.
“They came up and said: “We didn’t expect to have such fun here, we saw so much. Thank you for your city, thank you for your information and support.” We were surprised they were so impressed,” he says.
During the Euro group stage and the matches in Lviv 40 volunteers were on service at the railway station. Now just two of them are on each shift: anyway most of the time they are bored, as inquiries from foreigners are quite rare now. Lviv does not host any of the Euro’s knockout matches.
“Euro has opened a new page for Lviv. We have rubbed out the stereotype of the post-soviet country.” affirms Olesj.
16-year old Malanka-Mariya Podolyak, the youngest of Lviv’s volunteers walks around the mayor’s meeting room at City Hall. Just a few days ago it was a media center buzzing with the foreign journalists who came to cover the football.
“It used to look different. It was much more dynamic here: a lot of computers, permanent movement. We – volunteers – sat here, on this side were the journalists. The atmosphere here was not even working, but creative. All the time you wanted to run somewhere, write something, help someone,” says Malanka, adding the group stage’s two weeks have gone quickly. Too quickly.
“I’m very sad. It’s not a relief. It was something Lviv was needed, something we waited for, prepared for. That vortex picked us up, carried away and then released us. It’s a pity it didn’t last longer.”
Oleg Zasadnyi directed the city’s “Euro2012” department. On the pitch of the now-empty Lviv Arena, which hosted three matches, he has a mix of emotions on his face: sadness that the festival is over, happiness everything went well.
“Before the start of the Euro UEFA had a lot of worries whether Ukraine could manage to host such a tournament, because we were inexperienced. But after the first much it became clear that you can easily replace experience with overwhelming enthusiasm,” he says.
In general, in his opinion, life after the Euro will not only continue, but have a new meaning.
“The day after a Euro match the whole city was in absolute silence, you could walk through the center of it and feel it – yesterday it was a great celebration here. And it evokes a desire to work and keep it rolling – to have this feeling everyday.”
The mayor of Lviv Andriy Sadovyi knows how to make all the city residents and its guests feel like they are on a never-ending holiday. In 2015 Lviv will host the European basketball championships, and if they get the Ukrainian government’s backing, they plan to bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
“We realized that we have enough solidity and can host such big events. It doesn’t matter how much we spend on promotion of our city and country – we would never achieve such a great result without this Euro,” says Sadovyi.
Euro 2012 in Ukraine and Poland is coming to an end but here the tournament actually ended with Carlos Velasco Carballo’s final whistle sending Germany through at Denmark’s expense.
Now the streets of Lviv’s old city are deserted and unusually quiet and calm. Specialists and experts have started to calculate and analyze how many fans visited Ukraine during the tournament, how much money they spent. And the Ukrainian people are getting used to a lovely and slightly unusual feeling. The feeling of pride.
“Pride. Pride for Lviv. Pride for our native country. It’s a special feeling that sends shivers down the spine, when tears appear. And you want so much to have this pride permanently,” concludes Sadovyi.
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