April-May 2023 |

Building the bonds of friendship

Building the bonds of friendship

James Onions, Coordinator for Rotary GB&I’s Inter-Country Committee, discusses how the committee have helped organise to support the people of Ukraine.


Ukraine - One Year On

April - May 2023

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As war began in February 2022, members of our Inter County Committees (ICC) with Ukraine and Moldova were presenting over Zoom at a District 1130/1145 Peace event.

Maryna Dolzhenko, the ICC’s Great Britain & Ireland Ukraine lead in Ukraine, courageously continued presenting from Kyiv as attacks commenced.

She discussed the Rotary Peace Garden which had just been created by clubs in Kyiv and London. Dirk Lustig covered programmes which had been planned by Rotary to clear mines in Eastern

Ukraine left from the 2014 war, a project encompassing an area nearly half the size of Wales.

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ICC is all about developing working relationships nation to nation – ours were already in place with Moldova and were well developed with Ukraine. The foundations for great support were solid and used to set up our Ukraine Taskforce.

Very rapidly we supported Moldova, the poorest country in Europe, to absorb the hundreds of thousands of refugees passing through. With only 100 Rotarians in eight clubs, their task was challenging.

Our ICC, led by Past Rotary GB&I President, Peter King, helped Moldovan Rotarians organise shelter and essential succour for 5,000 of the 95,000 refugees who stayed.

With local supplies in Moldova rapidly exhausted, Districts 1145 and 1200 financed shipments of essentials to the Moldovan capital, Chisinau. Local Rotarians distributed these goods travelling food bank style. Their efforts were covered on Moldovan TV and the two lead clubs – E-Club of Moldova International and Chisinau Triumph – received letters of thanks from Moldova’s President.

As we built our taskforce through ICC contacts in Ukraine, particularly Sergii Zavadskyi, we were the first nation to work with Ukraine’s Taskforce and commenced weekly meetings. Close, trusted relationships from ICC throughout Ukraine enable us to work together productively. A year on, those relationships have served us well.

As Rotary International Director and Vice-President, Nicki Scott, said: “ICC is like Friendship Exchange on steroids with a very long-term relationship.”

ICC is all about developing working relationships nation to nation.”

Our Peace Park in Kyiv was cared for even during the first months of the war, becoming a symbol of their desire for peace. We all hear the warm thanks from Ukrainian people for the UK’s support, who have noticed how Rotarians from Rotary GB&I have been a part of that.

Demonstrating to all the people of Ukraine the support provided by communities in Great Britain & Ireland, benches have been placed in the popular Shevchenko Park in Kyiv.

ICC leader in Ukraine, Maryna Dolzhenko, led this reminding the people of Ukraine that people of other countries, and not just governments, are with them.

Robin Jowit, an honorary member of Kew Gardens Rotary Club, was recently in Kyiv to research the impact of the war on children and their education and was photographed sitting on one of the benches.

One year on, very brave people continue to resist aggression showing both resilience and innovation. A new project with Dirk Lustig to detect and destroy mines, in an area now the size of England, is commencing.

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