Paul Anticoni: Recent Visit To Ukraine

I returned from eastern Ukraine last week assessing the impact of a rapidly deteriorating situation on WJR’s programmes and the communities they support. My operations team have been visiting Ukraine regularly over the last few months, ensuring our partners recognise that WJR’s support remains practical, visible and secure. Such reassurance to our partners is important at this worrying time.

The mood in Ukraine is tense, complex, divisive and extremely worrying. Amongst many in Kiev, the capital, a pro-Ukrainian stance is very visible. Few seem willing to plan ahead and the interim nature of government has meant critical political decisions cannot be made pending the elections on 25th May.

Down in the industrial south east of Ukraine, where much of WJR’s programming is based, the situation appears less clear. Our older clients, many who lived through the most significant horrors and political challenges of the 20th century, are frightened of such uncertainty in their final years. They remain frightened that tomorrow they might wake up in Russia and frightened that WJR’s critical support will stop. Our younger clients, many of them participants in our back-to-work programmes, fear that massive job losses are just around the corner.

Of all the scenarios envisaged, economic crisis is the most certain. Prices will inevitably rise and state support will reduce meaning for those dependent on state assistance, life can only get harder. WJR remains poised to expand its support as the situation evolves, but given the scale of the situation, needs to ensure our assistance is well targeted and seeks to supplement, not substitute, government help.

As Daria, one of our wheelchair bound adult beneficiaries reported – “whatever government and whatever politics we have here, only WJR has built a simple ramp to help me out of my house”.

I can only see more challenges ahead for Ukraine in the short term which will sadly keep WJR busier than ever.