IDP suitcase

On May 10th, the opening of the exhibition “Put your life in suitcases” took place at the Museum of the History of Kiev (Bogdan Khmelnitsky Street 7). The exhibition is devoted to the problems of internal displacement after the beginning of the occupation of Crimea and part of the Donbass in the spring of 2014. The exhibition was organized by Internews Ukraine together with partners from the non-governmental sector, among which was the Vostok-SOS Charitable Foundation. It will continue in Kiev from May 10 to 27, then go to Lviv, and then South – to Odessa.

The executive director of Vostok-SOS Foundation, Alexandra Dvoretskaya, spoke at the opening of the exhibition. We publish the full text of the speech:

“I wanted to thank the journalists for their attention to this topic and I am sure that it is important to experiment with formats in order to maintain such attention on the issue. But I would like to start my speech with something else, I myself am an internally displaced person (IDP), and although I am heading an organization called “Vostok-SOS” (“East-SOS”), I am a Crimean. And today is not a day like all the others, but exactly 5 years since Oleg Sentsov was detained at his home.

This is our friend and the person who did not become internally displaced. There is a big difference between us, I collected my small bag and traveled for several days, but it turned out that 5 years would pass; he however stayed to fight for our fate with you.

Our organization, Vostok-SOS, was formed in a rather natural way. We ourselves left and wanted to help those who leave their homes. We knew what they were facing, we knew that most likely they did not have a place to live, that they took essential things – a toothbrush and what to change into, but they definitely didn’t take the bed and towels, the pan and the kettle. And this is the first thing that a person who rents an apartment may encounter, because there may simply not be anything familiar there.

Aleksandra Dvoretskaya

And I recall the last words of the Minister of Social Policy Andrei Reva – “I feel sorry for them.” Not those who stayed, not those who left, not those who suffer. But Ukrainian citizens turned out wiser than politicians. Only our organization settled in a private dwelling about 60 000 people. In 2014, we just became the control point between people who want to help and those who need such help. We were offered free rooms in people’s own apartments, empty apartments that were previously rented and would provide money, dachas and summer houses, so that the IDPs could survive that terrible summer of 2014.

It is now 2019 and we cannot use the same methods for help, we need a systematic problem solving. But then without this first aid, without this crazy solidarity, we wouldn’t have been able to go through everything. Housing was offered everywhere, in the beginning for Crimeans, housing was offered even in Donetsk and Luhansk before they became occupied. The proposals were from Uzhgorod, Lvov, Kharkov. I remember the appeal of a family from Lviv, who were surprised that they had already filled out the application three days before, but no one had yet arrived and they asked me on the phone if they needed to do anything else, and although they were Christians, they would be happy to meet Crimean Tatars on a visit at their house.

And I would very much like us to continue to maintain such wisdom. Despite the statements of politicians, such as the Minister of the Interior Arsen Avakov, who claims an increase in crime caused by immigration. He, of course, later said that he had been mistaken and had been misunderstood, that the problem was that the immigrants were victims of crimes, but that had already been said. And I am very sorry that a large number of people, including families with children, are going back under the occupation. They return because they could not adapt, could not pay for expensive housing, because they could not find a job. After all, there has not been a quality program for either housing or employment over these 5 years.

We had more than half a million beneficiaries over the years of work who contacted us by telephone, online and in our offices in Kyiv, in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. But what unites almost every one of these people is that they clearly remember the date when they left their home. Not everyone will now remember the date of their last vacation, but the IDPs remember everything about this last day: the date, time of day, and clothes they were wearing. And I would very much like that with the help of our exhibition we were able to convey a part of this atmosphere.”

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