We have found true friends”, Volodymyr Moskalenko, mayor of Korosten, about support of Lithuanian twin city Ukmerge
Author – Dmytro Klymenko, Regional Visibility Expert of U-LEAD with Europe
New twin cities are appearing in Ukrainian municipalities after the beginning of Russia’s invasion against all odds. And under the current circumstances when municipalities are in trouble, having no electricity, heat, water and Internet, these are real friends.
U-LEAD with Europe helps Ukrainian municipalities to find such partners in European countries and to establish sustainable relationships with them.
Korosten city, Zhytomyr oblast, has signed partnership agreement with Lithuanian city Ukmerge. The municipalities have already exchanged visits of their delegations and their cooperation has yielded first results.
Korosten suffered significantly from the Russian aggression, in spring over 40 thousand residents left the city, most of them women and children, who moved abroad and to other regions of the country.
Some streets of the city, such as Kovelska, were severely damaged by the Russian aviation, and since October the municipality is suffering disruptions in electricity, heat and water supply due to constant attacks of the Russians on energy infrastructure. Therefore, the Ukrainian municipality is establishing cooperation with its partner to reduce the aftermath of the war.
Volodymyr Moskalenko, the mayor of Korosten city, told how the Lithuanian twin city helps residents of Korosten, what projects the municipalities are planning to implement and how deruny (potato pancakes) united the two cities.
We talked to Mr. Moskalenko online, on 13 December, before another Russian attack.
Welcome Mr. Moskalenko, thank you for taking the time to have a talk, I know that it is not easy with ongoing interruptions in power supply and Internet connection.
At what stage is cooperation with Ukmerge?
Let me start by thanking U-LEAD with Europe for helping us to find a partner in Lithuania and to establish contact. It is important for municipalities.
We have already signed cooperation agreement between Korosten and Ukmerge. We did it online with participation of the members of Ukmerge council and our representatives. In the agreement we specified the subject of our cooperation, but it is clear that our key activities will be related with war in Ukraine.
In May, Ukmerge had City Day and our delegation also visited the city. And we were impressed by the attitude of Lithuanians towards us. There were more Ukrainian flags in the city than the Lithuanian ones. Their attitude is very touching, they are showing empathy and willingness to support us. The city mayor (Rolandas Janickas) really wants to visit our municipality and we are ready to meet him, just security situation is to be considered.
We were in Lithuania not only in May, every time our representatives visit Poland, they also go to Ukmerge, as it is nearby. On the City Day we presented them with a picture of red bull and other symbols present on their coat of arms.
What kind of support have Lithuanians already provided?
At present our cooperation is focused on humanitarian assistance provided by Lithuanians. Initially we asked for medicines and long-term food packages. And we brought these supplies. We continue to receive this kind of support from them.
They also donated a large bus which we gave to the military. When the problem with electricity emerged – we received 7 4 kw generators from our partners. They are not large but much needed. We handed over some of them to the military and resilience points. The delivery also included trench candles.
Rolandas Janickas, the mayor of Ukmerge city, wrote a column about your cooperation in an article published on one of the Ukrainian news sites. In particular, he described cooperation plans in the area of development of industrial parks. Can you elaborate on this?
Yes, we both have industrial parks. But Lithuanians have no problems with electricity. They have several generator units and their park is based on wood-processing cluster. Over 10 enterprises are already processing wood, and others are in the process of construction. Those enterprises use 10 MW plant to generate energy from enterprise waste instead of gas.
In Korosten we have allocated land for solar power plant. We were planning this work but due to certain inconsistency in compensation of costs of installation of solar panels many investors left. But we allocated two land plots – 43 and 25 hectares for installation of the panels. Due to hostilities the process was put on halt. Still we are not giving up this idea and attacks of the Russians on energy infrastructure have shown importance of the capacity of municipality to address the key needs on its own.
We have 34 boiler houses in the city, 7 out of them use alternative fuel. Their modernization process is ongoing. At the moment we don’t have problems with heat and water supply, but we don’t know what to expect. We also had hits on our energy infrastructure which supplies some areas of the region but everything was promptly fixed by our engineers.
Implementation of such projects means not only funds but also human resources. And again, the mayor of Ukmerge Mr. Janickas wrote in his article that he struggles to make the Ukrainian refugees move to small Lithuanian towns. He is fighting for human capital. How many residents have left the municipality and how many people have returned?
We do not have separate statistics on Ukmerge, but there are general figures. In March we evacuated 40 thousand residents of Korosten, women and children. To Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, France. We evacuated them quite fast by buses and trains.
At present there are around 1.5 thousand children abroad, and slightly less number of adults. But these numbers are changing due to active migration, we can track children by online learning.
What projects are you planning to implement jointly with your Lithuanian friends?
We are interested in their experience of building boiler house which is using waste from wood processing. We want to study their experience as we have sufficient amount of this resource in the north of Polissia and we want to use it as efficiently as possible.
In addition, Baltic countries are advanced in the use of alternative energy, and there are certain distinctions of the functioning of this sphere in comparison with our country. Therefore, their experience is interesting for us.
We are also intending to develop our cultural cooperation and exchange. And it is worth mentioning here that the Russian invasion was the catalyst for uniting national cultures in Ukraine.
Emotional ties are important. Our kids from Children and Youth Creativity Centre handed over crafts to their peers and also received presents from Lithuania.
Now all our efforts are aimed at victory. Each of our conversations comes down to the question – how can we help you? And we are impressed. Lithuanians have a very positive attitude towards Ukraine. We have found true friends, which is Ukmerge municipality. We both want to develop our partnership.
Before the invasion Korosten had twinning relations with the cities of Belarus and Russia. When did the municipality break these ties and what other partners have you found, besides Lithuanian Ukmerge?
On 24 February, we had a session of the city council and we broke the twinning relations with Mozyr from Belarus and two cities from Syberia in Russia. What twinning relations we can have with them if they are our enemies.
We have already signed the agreement with Ukmerge. Bourges city in France contacted us. They hosted our 200 women and children. We are constantly in touch with them.
We have twin towns in Poland, Krasnik and Police. We have also established contact with Moldovan city of Anenii Noi, close to Chisinau. We met in Lithuania and visited them on the City Day, 9 November. Our delegations informed them about the actions of Russian troops in Ukraine.
We also have contacts with the cities of Great Britain, China, Japan. But just contacts so far.
We had contacts in Nagasaki, and our cooperation was focused on prevention of radiation.
Today we have a difficult situation in Ukraine. And it’s hard to talk about our contribution to such projects as cooperation between Ukmerge and Korosten. But still what is the contribution of your municipality to the project?
We are very impressed with the support of the Lithuanians. In every meeting we feel understanding and wish to help. On the Independence Day of Ukraine, the mayor Rolandas Janickas congratulated us in Ukrainian. Today our contribution is in the cultural sphere. In Korosten we traditionally hold a festival of deruny. These are hundreds of recipes of the meal and over ten thousand tourists. This year I told my colleague about my tradition to cook on the day of deruny. And I gave him my recipe of the pancakes.
So he organized a separate holiday in his municipality and cooked pancakes for his guests. This is our Drevlian culture which has been spread to Lithuanian Ukmerge.
Thank you for the conversation!
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