Oksana Kirilyuk, executive director of the Association of Small Towns of Ukraine, said that her decision to flee Ukraine was based on the idea of safety of her two daughters, her husband remained in Ukraine, but she and her daughters have been in Valmiera for more than a year now and, as Vice-President of Valmiera Municipal Council Ričards Gailums said, she is continuing work here.
“In principle, the mission is already in operation with the arrival of Oksana Kirilyuk in our council, and Oksana is also an official member of our council and, in principle, also a bridge to the Ukrainian community here,” Gailums said.
Kirilyuk, living and working in Valmiera, was first involved in organizing aid goods. Different cooperation opportunities were also sought and contacts with Latvian and Estonian municipalities were formed to help Ukraine.
“We saw opportunities to help the Ukrainian municipalities, and we managed to sign many cooperation agreements this year, they are with the municipality of Valmiera, with the Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments, with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and with the municipality association Rīgas Metropole,” Kirilyuk said.
On Thursday, the representation of the Association of Small Towns of Ukraine will gain official status in Valmiera, but, according to Kirilyuk much has also been done in the past year to help the Ukrainian municipalities improve their work.
Kirilyuk said: “Latvian specialists and experts willingly agreed to share experience, we had a lot of video workshops, there have been more than 140 experience-sharing video workshops at this time since the war, in each of these seminars between 50 and 100 representatives of the Ukrainian municipalities [participated], which means that although there is war, the people of our municipalities are ready to learn. I see what we're doing from here needs to be done.”
One of the main concerns now is the accession of Ukraine to the European Union.
Kirilyuk said: “We hope and believe that, after winning, we will become full-fledged members of the European Union, so now we must prepare our municipalities for these European Union standards, for example, if we are talking about rebuilding a nursery, then, of course, it must be restored in a way that is better than it was, and that it should be true to all."
Another important course of action for the representation in Latvia will also be to address issues related to Ukraine's post-war reconstruction.
“We have to think about how we will rebuild our country, how we will live in view of the post-war circumstances, where many businesses are torn down, maybe some of them should not even be restored, or have been transferred to another area. There are local governments where there are few people left, or on the contrary, because of internal migration, the number has increased, so it is necessary to learn to change the strategy of action depending on the challenges posed by hostilities,” said Kirilyuk.
In parallel to these operational objectives of joining the European Union and rebuilding the country, it is essential to continue providing humanitarian aid to those Ukrainian municipalities whose territories are under fire from the Russian army.