The war has especially changed living conditions for children, who are the hardest to protect, the mayors say.
“What hurts the most is children,” Semenikhin says. “They suffer from the war. They have to live with it. Children even play at checkpoints: they set up roadblocks, stop cars, say some password in Ukrainian, collect money for the army, and then transfer this money to funds to purchase various equipment for their towns.”
Children could fall behind for years
Children are in danger of falling way behind, and consequently the country will suffer for a long time, says Solomakha, the mayor of Myrhorod.
“We must not lose a generation now,” he says. “If we do not educate this generation of children during the current war, then in five to 10 years we will have many other problems. Children must have certain knowledge and skills, in order to build Ukraine in the future.”
Semenikhin, the mayor from Konotop, echoed the feelings of Vitrenko, the education first deputy minister, when asked to list the main needs of Ukrainians today. He said providing shelters for those without homes is a top priority. After that, the mayors listed fresh food, electricity generators, more fuel, more weapons, fighter jets.
“The most important thing is bomb shelters, where people can stay for a long period of time to save themselves,” Semenikhin says. “A shelter within easy reach saves not just dozens, but hundreds, thousands of people. Not enough attention is paid to this problem. The shelter facilities are the greatest need. The most important thing.”
Building shelters requires people to do the work, but the mayors said they also need more investment and flexible repayment terms. “If we are talking about reconstruction and restoration, then we also need more expertise –technical expertise, economic expertise – so that we can carry out this work according to high European standards,” says Morhunov, the mayor of Vinnytsia.
Three main elements of the European Investment Bank’s package for Ukraine involve expert technical assistance from the advisory services team, quick decisions on investments by loan officers and project engineers, and flexible financial terms. Since the start of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, working hand in hand with the European Commission and the government of Ukraine, the Bank has mobilised €1.7 billion to help the country.
The mayors are optimistic that the war will end in Ukraine’s favor, but none can predict when this will happen.
“I would really like everyone to understand that Ukraine is no longer the country it was before February 24, 2022,” says Mayor Semenikhin. “Today, we are fighting for every square centimetre of our territory, our land. We value it, and we feel we are fighting for freedom for the whole civilized world.”