After more than a decade, Marina has decided to leave us for a job with the Ministry of Defence. Of course, we cannot let her go without asking her how she has found it here with us over the past 10.5 years.
Describe the FMS in 3 words: Sociable, idealistic and driven.
What will you miss the most? The people. It was always a very nice group to work with. I will really miss the whole spontaneous, informal and friendly atmosphere. The contacts with the local partners too, of course. There are people with whom I have been hanging out for 10 years. I will probably still hang out with them but I will have to get used to not seeing them regularly or talking to them every day.
What has been your most bizarre experience while travelling? That was the trip to Kazakhstan. We were followed there by I think local police or at least those security men all the time. They also had these really long leather jackets on. They also then stole participant lists from my room and there were these gawkers trying to enter the event all the time. In hindsight, it's very funny but not really at the time.
Another special trip was to the non-existent border with South Ossetia and Georgia. It is an administrative border to which we were taken by the Georgian army. There was an old man there whose garden had been split in two because the Russians had drawn the border there. It was very sad because he was completely cut off from the village. People kept throwing things like medicine over his fence because he could no longer go to the pharmacy himself because of the border.
What did you find the most enjoyable workout? The first time we did a regional training Eastern Europe. It was called Winter Academy then, because it was in winter, instead of Summer Academy now. It was really fun because there were young people from five or six different countries. Some of those countries were in conflict with each other, so that was exciting. For example, there were Russians and Georgians coming, and Armenians and Azerbaijanis, so the question was really whether that would all go together. Now, it wasn't like huge friendships were suddenly created now, but you could see that as they went along, they sought more and more contact with each other and asked each other questions. So it was really nice to see them gravitating towards each other. At the end, I think there was an Armenian boy helping an Azerbaijani who wasn't feeling well on the bus, so that rapprochement was nice to see.
In the last 10 years, of course, there have been many revolutions in Eastern Europe, how do you see the future of Eastern Europe? I think it will take a long time before democracy really gains momentum. It will also still be by trial and error. I don't think it will gradually get better but there really will still be setbacks. Over the longer term, I do really think democracy and the rule of law will be built.
When do you think Putin will step down? I think basically in 2024. I don't believe he will give up power, but I do believe he will no longer be president by then.
Who will win the presidency in the US? uhm, I'm not going to be cynical because I still have hope so I think Sanders. Although I am afraid it will still be Trump but I refuse to give up.
What tip do you have for people who want to work in this field? Be very patient and don't get frustrated too quickly. The successes you do achieve are sometimes on an individual level. Sometimes you see the young people we have worked with go into politics and achieve quite a lot there, and small changes can bring about big ones, so be patient!
We would like to thank Marina very much for everything she has done over the past 10.5 years. We are going to miss you very much but wish you all the best in your new job!