Katya Romanova, Project Coordinator at Red Square Festival & Design Student, Weißensee

August 21, 2020

Where did you grow up?

I grew in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. This city has always been trying to get a title of the third Russian capital because of its size, economic and industrial achievements and generally its provincial ambitions. I’m not sure it ever succeeded in this but I feel it can as well be known for its incredible sunsets and the street art scene. Even though it’s a city with over one million citizens, I often had a feeling of living in a village – you often stop in the street to greet people you know, and you more or less know the active local community.

What is the strongest memory you have of your hometown?

What I often miss about my hometown are huge open spaces. The city stands on the confluence of two rivers, and when you’re sitting high above or next to the river, you can see the endless valleys and the sky reflected in the shivering water.

When did you arrive in Berlin? What brought you here?

I came to Berlin in 2017 for a European Volunteer Service program. I worked in a youth center and realized within the first months that I would like to stay here longer than just a year. This is how I decided to study design and started working with Berlin teenagers in a local association.

What is your profession?

Last December I joined Dekabristen e.V., a Berlin-based NGO focused on international cooperation with civil society organizations and grass-roots initiatives from Eastern Europe. My main task there is coordination of the Red Square Festival. It’s the festival of critical art and activism of Eastern Europe in Berlin that initially had to take place May 15-16 and has now been postponed to October 2-3, 2020.

Previously I worked in one media project with Berlin teenagers from various social and cultural backgrounds – it was exciting to discover the city through their eyes! Before moving to Berlin I’d gathered a lot of experience working and living in Russia, Argentina and USA, but my main focus was nonprofit management, international volunteering and organization of sociocultural projects.  

What is typical about Berlin? What do you love (or hate) about Berlin?

It’s interesting to observe the difference between East and West Berlin – after 30 years of the reunion I still get a feeling the wall is there to stay for a while. I live in East Berlin, and going to Schöneberg or Charlottenburg feels like traveling to a different city. I really enjoy that each district in Berlin is special and autonomous, you can basically stay in your Kiez the whole time.

When I moved here, I constantly heard the phrase “oh, it’s sooo Berlin!” I guess everyone means it in a different way, but for me there are two #itsoberlin things. First is the incredible mishmash of cultures and languages so sometimes I prefer to “travel” within Berlin rather than go somewhere else – it’s especially helpful at the moment. Second is the wild and random combination of things, such as a mobile sauna on a gas station, beer yoga, street mayors, a hipster coffee bar in a church, jazz concerts in a former crematorium and light shows in a cemetery chapel. I love discovering these places and formats!

What is your contribution to make Berlin a little bit more beautiful?

I feel that I’m contributing through my work at the Red Square Festival. The festival aims at building and developing connections among organizations with a focus on Eastern Europe, activists and artists based in Berlin or various countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and others.

Last year I was at the festival as a guest and was amazed to get to meet so many inspiring, talented and active people who just like me moved to Berlin, and I think it’s a very positive image of the Eastern European community, which we need to support and promote. Red Square Festival is definitely one of these events that connects the dots and contributes to new projects and networks between Berlin and Eastern Europe.

In addition to that, I’m very happy that I managed to bring together my passion for design and community work in the project I’m working on now – Design Lab Moabit. I spend a lot of time in Moabit and think that it’s a very special place but not so hyped and represented as Kreuzberg or Wedding. This was the reason why I decided to create a team of engaged young people from this district, identify hotspots in the Kiez and use design tools to create a new visual branding for Moabit. During several workshops we’re going to learn how to develop logos, T-shirt motifs and zines that could represent this neighborhood.

What is your favorite place in Berlin?

I like going to these types of traditional places in Berlin – a Kneipe inside independent cinemas and swimming pools. My favorite is my Kiezkneipe at Brotfabrik where I learnt one of my beloved Germans words – trinkfreudig

Thank you for the interview, Katya. For more information about Red Square Festival follow their Insta @redsquarefestival. Get in touch with lovely Katya via Insta: @kat_romanova.

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