IF you were asked what you knew about Ukraine what would come to mind? You’d probably think of the recent conflict that’s been heavily featured on the news – mass protests, unrest, and war between the post-revolutionary Ukrainian government and pro-Russian insurgents.

But there is a different side to the story and to the country – which is one of the largest in Europe – centring on a traditional way of life where being part of a community and living sustainably means everything.

Nataliya Cummings, a Ukrainian woman who now lives in Hereford with her partner and daughter, wants people to abandon the package holidays, extravagant resorts and instead visit a place where things are, let’s say, ‘different’. At least once.

She organises trips to the Trans Carpathian mountain region of Ukraine each year, promoting socially responsible tourism and taking people to small, rural villages where they stay with host families, enjoy traditional music, cuisine and the breath-taking beauty of the area.

Second to that is her desire to break down barriers here in Herefordshire and to encourage people to embrace the many different cultures that can be found in the county.

She said: “One way to help people living in Ukraine is to bring people to experience the wilderness that's still there and not really that far away while respecting different cultures. It's a unique opportunity to see the social life of communities while contributing to them and without destroying them.”

The trips are all led by local guides and money is raised for a youth project called Molotok which works with disadvantaged children and young people in a very rural part of the country.

“The mountains are very unique and very beautiful. A lot of people hear about the Romanian side of the region because Romania is in the European Union but there are many positives about the fact that Ukraine isn't in the EU as things are still well preserved there,” she said.

“95 per cent of wildflower meadows still exist in Ukraine while two per cent exist here in the UK. The variety of wildlife is amazing.

“People are fascinated. They hear about Ukraine and it's mostly news bringing negative things, especially in the last two years but it is really a big country – one of the biggest in Europe and the same size as France.

“It has such a rich culture that is so worth exploring.”

The trips help sustain local communities, meaning people don’t need to travel to the UK for seasonal work.

Nataliya is also behind a number of events and workshops being held in Herefordshire in a bid to help break down cultural barriers.

A Ukrainian night is taking place this Saturday at Fownhope Village Hall (March 5) and will include traditional Ukrainian cuisine, vodka and music.

“When I came to Hereford it was not very inclusive. It was very hard for me,” she said.

“People assume you are working in a chicken factory or that you are a seasonal worker but there are so many different reasons why people live in different countries.

“I think there's a lack of understanding of people from different cultures – partly because sometimes those people can stay in their own groups but a lot of people do want to mix and share.

“It's important we don't close our eyes and pretend it’s not happening because you should benefit from different cultures living around you.

“It enriches you as a person. It doesn't help racism issues if you don't do anything to change it.”

Tickets for Saturday’s Ukranian event cost £10 and can be bought by calling Sue on 01432860003 or Nataliya on 07963090838 or by emailing nataliya.cummings@gmail.com

To find out more about the Ukranian trips visit experienceukraine.co.uk