Nataliya Lazarenko, works as International Cooperation Manager at the Association of Ukrainian Cities (AUC), which is the all-Ukrainian association of local governments established in 1992. Today, the association brings together 1 002 municipalities in all the regions of the country, where more than 90% of Ukrainian population resides. AUC is the official voice of the local governments, the engine of reforms. It’s also a partner of the Parliament of Ukraine, the Government of Ukraine, the Office of the President of Ukraine and international organisations like the Council of European Municipalities and Regions. Nataliya Lazarenko and the Stand with Ukraine initiative were also present at the URBACT City Festival in June 2022 where a special session on “How to welcome Ukrainian residents in your city” took place.
Collaborative painting based on the art work from Ukrainian painter,
Maria Prymachenko, in the United for Ukraine stand at the URBACT City Festival
A year after the invasion of the Ukrainian territory, how do you perceive the situation today?
Last year brought a lot of horror to our lives, forced millions of people to leave their homes, killed thousands of civilians, damaged or totally ruined thousands of residential buildings, roads, hundreds of schools, kindergartens, hospitals, churches, cultural heritage… but it united us. We’ve one clear vision and desire: to win the war, to get back all our territories within the borders of 1991, to bring our people back home, to cure souls and wounds, to reconstruct our municipalities, to foster our future development. Also, it showed us that Ukraine is not alone in this battle. The world stands with us.
It was a very difficult year to all of us, because we had to adapt to rather unpredicted or sudden changes. For instance, since October 2022, after regular massive missile attacks, we have been regularly facing the blackouts, with many hours without electricity. This greatly impacts our lives and work, but we do our best to cope with them. A lot of important things were implemented with our international partners, of course. Thanks to their support municipalities were provided with energy-generating equipment. And here I would like to thank European municipalities and businesses for being so fast, responsive and helpful.
Still, many municipalities need assistance. Many of them have no electricity, gas and drinking water. Internally displaced people need new homes and some territories are still occupied by invaders. We still face missile attacks. There are still a lot of challenges. But indeed, we feel stronger than a year ago. We feel proud of our people. We feel grateful to all the countries that stand with us. We feel sorry that we have to ask for help, but we are convinced that we must win for the sake of the world’s security and for the democratic values.
I would also like to draw special attention to the fact that since the beginning of the war, 59 local government officials have been abducted by the Russian military. Among them there were 35 mayors, today, 5 mayors are still in captivity. We urge for the freedom of our people.
How do you see and imagine the future of Ukrainian cities?
My dream is to see peaceful, well-developed and comfortable Ukrainian cities, towns and villages with happy citizens. Also, I dream about the time when Ukraine had its own International Development Agency, like USAID or GIZ, and implements projects to share its best practices with other countries.
How European cities can support Ukraine and the Ukrainian residents?
Last year a special initiative www.cities4cities.eu was launched by the city of Sindelfingen and supported by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, Council of European Municipalities and Regions, and Association of Ukrainian Cities. This year this initiative will be upgraded and you will be able to see the full profiles of Ukrainian municipalities that would like to establish long-term relations. So, if you want to help, please contact Association of Ukrainian Cities. If you want to find a partner municipality, please contact email@example.com. We need your assistance to win the war and reconstruct our municipalities. Our local governments are preparing projects for their restoration.
At the moment, basic needs of the Ukrainian municipalities are:
- Development of partnership relations between communities of other countries;
- Participation in projects for fast, mid-term, and long-term recovery and development;
- Building housing, bomb shelters, new technologies to do that, construction materials;
- Energy saving technologies, water purification technologies;
- Municipal equipment and transport;
- Medical equipment.
You may also provide a support to the Association of Ukrainian Cities as a representative of the whole local governance in Ukraine. Also, we encourage municipalities to establish partnerships with the Ukrainian municipalities. I thank URBACT for the opportunity of sharing this messages and I do hope to build and reinforce future cooperation with European cities.
United for Ukraine stand at the 2022 URBACT City Festival (original drawing by Maria Prymachenko, Ukrainian artist)
Are you from an European city? Get in touch with the Association of Ukrainian Cities at firstname.lastname@example.org to establish a partnership. The current URBACT open call for Action Planning Networks is also a unique opportunity for eligible partners to invite a Ukrainian municipality to join their journey as an observer. Together, we stand for Ukraine!