As you all know, the war in Ukraine and its severe consequences for blind and partially sighted people continues to be the most worrying development in present times. This month, we have been able to re-establish direct contact with our Ukrainian member, UTOS, and granted them with some financial support. This has been possible thanks to your generous donations you gave to our Solidarity Fund in the early days of the war.
I will not attempt to summarise the tough conditions for the blindness movement in Ukraine, I prefer you to learn more about the situation by reading the following automated translation of an extract of a letter UTOS sent to us in May. This is definitely more authentic and moving than reading my words. Please continue to keep in touch with me regarding the war in Ukraine and your potential further support. Here is the extract from their letter:
“On 24 February 2022, the Russian Federation, with the support of the Republic of Belarus, launched an unsuccessful full-scale military aggression.
Innocent civilians have been killed as a result of missile attacks by the Russian Federation and Belarus, missile and bomb attacks by the Russian air force and artillery fire on Ukrainian settlements, Including people with visual impairments who are members of the Ukrainian Association of the Disabled (UTO), which is a member of the European Blind Union.
The war is ongoing until today and the consequences are terrible.
There are significant losses among the social enterprises of the UTOS community (hereinafter referred to as the OSG), in particular the Kramatorsk TPS UTOS, the Rubizhansk TPS Unit 1 UTOS, the Mariupol TPS Elektroaparat UTOS, the Lysychansk TPS UTOS, which have been dismantled, Vinnitsa TEA UTOS’ windows were damaged in the impact of the missile, Ivano-Frankivsk TEA UTOS is located near the military airport, so the facade of the UTOS building was damaged as a result of the impact on the airport, In particular, significant cracks have developed that require extensive repairs. The premises of the Luhansk regional HMS organization are also completely demolished.
However, we continue to work. The Ukrainian Association for the Blind evacuated a total of more than 500 volunteers outside Ukraine and continues to evacuate people every day. People are being moved from areas where the war has broken out to western Ukraine or to more peaceful places.
Time-limited accommodation centres have been set up.
The UTSO in Dnipropetrovsk took over the evacuation of people from Donetsk and Luhansk regions and especially from the city of Mariupol. In addition, together with the Dnieper UVP UTOS, it has established the production of "jaywalkers" - devices for obstructing traffic or stopping wheeled vehicles, as well as a centre with all the necessary facilities for the accommodation of refugees in the UTOS organization, which currently houses 82 people and has more to come.
A similar facility has been established in the city of Vinnytsia for 50 people. At the base of POG "Vinnitsa UVP UTOS" operating volunteer hub, local farmers gave pigs for the needs of the army, so we were able to run a regular production process. They have already produced 1.5 thousand cans.
There are also accommodation facilities in the western Ukraine in Mukachevo, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk equipped with the necessary equipment for short and long term accommodation.
Volyn, Lviv, Transcarpathian, Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernivtsi regional UTSO organizations are the most active in placing internally displaced persons from the northern regions of Ukraine, The main objectives of these areas are to meet, relocate and provide humanitarian aid and housing for people who have moved from the war zone. In addition, they are engaged in transferring these people to neighbouring countries.
Particular attention is paid to insulin-dependent ATO members.
Accommodation was not previously designed for so many people so we have to pay for utilities for electricity, water, sewage, sewage, at least minimally cover the cost of our employees and the fuel (eg drivers may be blind people require wages.) or other one-time assistance, because at this time of everyday work, at risk to their health, blind workers are left without means of subsistence, They spend their own resources on daily work and do not receive wages or any other remuneration, and cannot be engaged in any other work other than at the UTOS.
The Ukrainian Association for the Blind has little financial support from the state until 2022, but the programme is now closed as all the money is being spent on the war. The UTOS is appealing to the authorities, but they cannot help the Association for the Blind.
The Association is left without financial support, but with the obligation to help the members of the Association - people with visual impairments.”
Lars Bosselmann, EBU Executive Director