Home   News   Article

Subscribe Now

Exhibition of portraits of NVS volunteers by Ukrainian photographer Dasha Tenditna opens





The Newcomers and Visiting Scholars (NVS) society is one of Cambridge’s great unsung organisations – but that’s all changed following the opening of a new exhibition of photographs by Dasha Tenditna.

Ms Tenditna is a Ukrainian portrait and documentary photographer who arrived in the UK in 2022 with her two daughters following the full-scale Russian invasion of her homeland two years ago today. “I remember every second of those February days,” she says today. She settled in Cambridge through the Homes for Ukraine initiative and was hosted by two English families before renting her own home in the city in December last year.

Dasha Tenditna’s exhibition at the University Centre is on permanent display. Picture: Keith Heppell
Dasha Tenditna’s exhibition at the University Centre is on permanent display. Picture: Keith Heppell

One of her neighbours was Moira, an NVS volunteer, who encouraged her to go to an NVS welcome morning, and thus began Dasha’s NVS odyssey.

The NVS currently has 49 active volunteers who give 2,650 volunteer hours per year to run events for NVS’ 1,574 members. The organisation emerged from the Cambridge University for Visiting Scholars, which was founded in 1968 as a way of engaging with new arrivals in Cambridge – not just visiting scholars, postdocs, PhDs, masters’ students, academic and assistant staff, but wives, husbands, partners and families.

NVS group on the roof of Gt St Mary's Church
NVS group on the roof of Gt St Mary's Church

The NVS developed into a standalone group in 2005 and, today, it has members from 90 countries. The volunteers host a remarkable range of meetings, tours, trips, social events and activities. They are untrained, but each has their own special knowledge of Cambridge which they share with the membership – and now Dasha’s 59 photographs are on permanent display at the University Centre on Granta Place.

On Valentine’s Day last week, NVS chair James McCarthy said the collection of volunteer portraits brought “a sense of celebration and recognition of the many decades of our volunteers’ dedication to NVS”.

Prof Anne Ferguson Smith, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and the Arthur Balfour Professor of Genetics at the University of Cambridge, cutting the NVS 50th anniversary celebration cake
Prof Anne Ferguson Smith, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and the Arthur Balfour Professor of Genetics at the University of Cambridge, cutting the NVS 50th anniversary celebration cake

He added: “Dasha’s photographs capture brilliantly some of the essence of each volunteer, who also describe themselves in their own words. The early evening light, the central location and the delicious home-made cakes all added to the fun.”

Kyiv-born Dasha said to the audience of around 130 visitors at the event: “Thank you for coming to see my work; I came here because of the war. I feel so lucky to have met such a unique group of people and it’s very important for me to give something back, so this is my way of saying ‘thank you’. You inspire me. I am happy to be here among you.”

Dasha started the project a year ago. Later, she told the Cambridge Independent that she was “happy to the moon and back” about the launch event, during which she was cheered.

James McCarthy, chair of NVS
James McCarthy, chair of NVS

“I came here a year and a half ago and I didn’t know anyone, and no one knew me, and more than 100 people came to my exhibition and shouted ‘hip hip hooray’. It’s fantastic!”

She added: “I had warm feedback from the volunteers, with whom I became friends. I am happy my project brought new energy to NVS. It was a fantastic chance to tell the world about this unique group of people and to inspire others to join.

“From the start I realised how lucky me and my daughters are to come to Cambridge. It is a safe, beautiful city, with an amazing history and kind people who welcomed us and gave us support in the most difficult times.

Dasha Tenditna at the University Centre with some of her photos of NVS volunteers Picture: Keith Heppell
Dasha Tenditna at the University Centre with some of her photos of NVS volunteers Picture: Keith Heppell

“My girls continue their education, and I have a chance to work and be useful not only for my country, but to the local society too. I feel like I found my place in Cambridge and it became our second home.”

Dasha, whose photography skills were also recently on display in a Cambridge Independent feature on the upcoming Ukrainian film ‘Magura’, is now an NVS volunteer herself.



This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More