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FEATURE STORY October 15, 2020

Ukraine – Building A New Life and Staying Safe

This summer day is one of the happiest for Maxym. Together with his mother Larysa, the young boy is visiting the newly constructed Safety Center in Sursko-Lytovska Community. Maxym observes how the firefighters brigade is being trained. The boy is invited to sit in the fire engine truck and is now dreaming of becoming a firefighter and fighting fires.

“Six years ago, we escaped the Donetsk region, rented a house, and started a new life here. We have planted roots. My kids don’t want to go back. They have forgotten their friends there. My eldest son says that he likes this place, he has new friends and feels like he was born here,” says Larysa, Maxym’s mother. The family are refugees from the Donetsk region.

The Sursko-Lytovska Amalgamated Community unites four villages and has a total population of more than 6,000 people. This fast growing community has many development needs. Among those needs is to ensure local households have adequate fire protection in place.

Changing climate has caused an increased number of hot and dry days over the recent years, raising number of fires.

“It’s about 45 kilometers between here and the nearest regional fire department. When there is an accident in the large Dnipro city nearby, the firefighters go there rather than helping us,” says Olexandr Yakovenko, Deputy Head of the community.

But fire safety is just one of the several challenges faced the Sursko-Lytovska Amalgamated Community. Over the past six years, the community has accepted more than 60 internally displaced persons (IDPs), like Larysa and her son Maxym, from Donbas.

In addition, local citizens who had participated in anti-terrorist operations (ATO) in Donbas have returned home as ATO veterans and many are dealing with physical and/or mental traumas.

“People who come here looking for a better life need comfort and security. Of course, in our community, all people are important, but we pay special attention to IDPs and veterans,” says Olexandr Yakovenko, Deputy Head of the community.

To help people transition back to ordinary life and solve some of the community’s infrastructure and security problems, local authorities recently invested in the construction of the Safety Center. To equip the newly built center, they applied to the Ministry for Reintegration of the Temporary Occupied Territories of Ukraine, through its Conflict Response and Recovery Pilot and Capacity Building Project.

This project was supported by the State and Peacebuilding Fund grant from the World Bank. The grant enabled the community to receive fire engine truck, purchase important special safety equipment and Personal Protection Equipment for the firemen of the Safety Center and conduct awareness trainings for the local residents.

“The community is extremely lucky to receive such a high-quality, modern equipment. Without a doubt, we now have the best fire engine truck in the entire region,” says Eduard Gorbachov, Deputy Director of Emergency Services in the Dnipropetrovsk region.

Olexiy is an ATO veteran who joined the firefighting team recently. “When I came back from the Donbas ATO zone, my main task was to find a new job. Here I was told “yes, we have a job for you.” In the battlefield I witnessed shelling, fires, and the aftermath from those. I think civilians need my help, not just during a time of war, but in times of peace as well,” says Olexiy.

Maybe one day, he will be joined by Maxym as a firefighter, the young refugee who is making a new life in Sursko-Lytovska community that now enjoys a modern Safety Center thanks to support from the World Bank.