"Feel like home for a moment". How the municipality in Zakarpattia oblast unites and adapts migrants
Since the beginning of the full-scale war in Ukraine, Velykobereznyanska municipality in Zakarpattia oblast has hospitably received temporary migrants from all Ukrainian regions affected by shelling and fighting. As oblast centres in the west of the country are currently overcrowded, rural municipalities are actively relocating people, trying to provide them with humanitarian and other assistance, involving displaced children in studies at local schools and uniting new residents to give them the slightest sense of home they lost.
Urban type settlement Velykyi Bereznyi has now about 2000 internally displaced persons (IDPs). Some of them rent housing from local residents or reside in their homes together with them, some people were accommodated in the boarding school and kindergarten. However, Velykobereznianska municipality at some point understood that providing people with a shelter, warmth and food so that they finally felt safe is not everything it can do for its new residents. For it is the engagement in the life of a hromada, common activities beneficial for everyone, new acquaintances and communications with the locals that give the sense of a new home.
“I just felt that we should give our guests a chance to become part of the municipality. More and more IDPs were joining us in the local house of culture to weave the camouflage nets for our military. They were getting acquainted with local residents, drinking tea together, interacting, smiling and as if distracting themselves for a while from those horrors they surpassed under the shelling in their home cities, towns and villages”, - says Vita Kashmel, acting director of the house of culture in Velykyi Bereznyi.
Thus, Mrs Vita came up with an idea to unite temporary migrants, get all those eager to join at the meeting in the house of culture and try to create a sort of a hub to exchange concerns, problems, proposals, jointly find solutions to important issues and at the same time participate in useful activities in the settlement together with the municipality residents.
“We gathered IDPs through the Facebook group of the municipality and by placing announcements on the doors of the shops. Frankly speaking, at first I had doubts that people would come. But at the appointed time our new residents started pulling up to the culture house. We got acquainted, exchanged contacts, the participants of the meeting wrote down their professions, shared the spheres in which they can be useful to the municipality, pointed out who is working remotely and who would like to find a job in the hromada, exchanged the issues of concerns to all IDPs and agreed on creating a Viber group to stay in touch. Of course, it took some time to find a person to coordinate the group and become a certain link between the municipality and migrants in order to start planning joint events and solve issues. And we eventually found such a person. Now we are all connected and are already planning our activities,” shares Mrs Vita Kashmel.
Besides, the local self-government representatives are also invited to the weekly meetings of the IDPs to give specialized answers to important questions.
U-LEAD with Europe Programme expert emphasized the significance of IDPs’ engagement in the municipality’s life:
“All Ukrainian municipalities are now as never before demonstrating resilience, coordination and unity. Many of them accept people from all over the country, accommodate them, feed them, take care of them and create the most comfortable living conditions. The initiativeness of the local residents, their sincere desire to help their municipality is now strengthening local self-governance and fosters solving of numerous issues locally. The main thing is to communicate and engage all those willing to join in active discussion and brainstorming of ideas and solutions”, - outlined Anna Kovalchuk.
They started with involving all kids of IDPs to a distance education at the local school. The municipality residents have also planned to jointly plant trees in the park of Velykyi Bereznyi, and as a bonus agreed on conducting an excursion in the ancient park. The employees of the house of culture have organized a small entertaining event for the displaced children to distract them for a moment from all those difficulties they are coming through along with their families.
In addition, several craft master classes have been conducted for the IDPs and local residents – in amigurumi crocheting (knitting three-dimensional toys) and pysanka painting (traditional Easter egg decoration).
“We did not expect to be accepted so kindly. In these difficult times, when we were forced to leave our homes, such support is essential. Now everyone needs some psychological relief, and I’m grateful for this initiative of the municipality. We have united and are ready to thank local residents for their kindness and hospitality by useful deeds. Personally I plan to conduct a master class on drawing for the kids of IDPs in the local boarding school,” says Kateryna, temporary migrant from Kyiv.
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