Heads of communities visiting Germany, Italy, France, Belgium and the Netherlands on advocacy visits were invited to a diplomatic breakfast with representatives of European embassies. The event was organized by the National Interests Advocacy Network “ANTS” together with the International Center for Ukrainian Victory (ICUV).
“I am very grateful to the local communities, and I also thank all the representatives of the embassies of our partners. It is important to help our local communities in their recovery efforts, and this was one of the reasons why we arranged for them to travel abroad, because it is their chance to make direct contact with our partners. Local communities are the key to our future. That is why we will continue to invest in their development, – said the head of “ANTS” Hanna Hopko.
The ANTS network together with ICUV became a platform between Ukrainian communities and European partners and donors. During 3 months, our teams organized visits of heads of communities to strategically important capitals of the world. A total of 20 communities visited 5 European countries, where they were looking for partners and support.
“The main topics we discussed during these visits were the situation in which our communities found themselves and the challenges related to it. For example, the Ivanovo community was under occupation. There are communities that are actually close to the war zone, and there are those that have accepted and accommodated a lot of internally displaced Ukrainians,” says Luciana Shum, a Member of the Board of the ANTS Network.
Olena Shvydka, head of the Ivanivka community of Chernihiv region, thanked the organizers of the event and noted that such initiatives are, first of all, an opportunity to talk about the challenges and needs of communities.
“I want to thank the organizers, because it is a huge opportunity for communities to talk about themselves, because we are not always shown on TV, we are not written about in the mass media. At events like this, we can talk about what happened. My community is located 100 kilometers from the border with Belarus. We never thought we would find ourselves in such conditions, but unfortunately we were quickly occupied. 10 out of 17 villages have been occupied since March 3. Unfortunately, we had everything: constant war, daily battles, torches, and murders. And I would also like to tell about one of the villages that is the Yagidne village. This is the village of my community. The entire village was taken to the basement of the local school. 367 residents remained in this basement. There were people in the basement of less than 200 square meters, without water, without food, without any means of subsistence. I was in the occupation together with my family members. I know what it’s like to lose your home. I know what it’s like to hide relatives in the occupation, because my grandmother died due to lack of medicine. The Russians killed my uncle without saying a word, threw a grenade into the house, and everything exploded. So looking at my example, I can say that the people of my community suffered. 50% of residential buildings in the community were destroyed. All communal property that existed before the occupation was either completely destroyed or damaged. Utility companies were completely looted, and all utility equipment and vehicles were completely destroyed. Schools, buses, nothing left. But I believe in Ukraine. We are a very strong nation.”
During the event, the ANTS network together with ICUV talked about the results of the diplomatic visits of community leaders:
- promotion of Ukraine’s interests in EU capitals;
- the experience of rebuilding cities that were completely destroyed during the Second World War, and have already become an example to follow;
- new partnerships that are already helping communities sustain themselves;
- the possibility of continuing advocacy visits with the participation of local self-government;
- presented plans for advocacy of Ukraine’s interests outside the country.