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The Future of Donbass – Humanitarian Aid for Eastern Ukraine from Germany

By Thomas Trautzsch

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    By Thomas Trautzsch, for FRN – The conflict in the East of Ukraine is in its 4th year now and was recently pushed to elevated prominence again, as the head of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk fell victim to a nasty terror bombing attack. The conflict, which was shortly flaring up every now and then, was rarely noticeable in the German Mainstream Media although it never really lost its intensity in terms of military clashes and exchanges of saber rattling. The situation concerning the military confrontation calmed down significantly in the last years, yet the life conditions of particularly those people living near the frontline has become considerably worse. Those people are still depending on humanitarian aid. Many volunteers, also in Germany, started to organize themselves via social media and started humanitarian aid activities to various degrees, some of which also had my personal support. The frustrating part for a full-time employed pupil was always the limitation to help only via money or in-kind donations, instead of helping directly.

The Activity Alliance

Some time ago I discovered an Initiative via Facebook, of which I hadn’t been aware of yet. Its name is “Aktionsbündnis Zukunft Donbass e.V.” (Action Alliance Future of Donbass) and it is organized by a Lady who originates from the Ukraine and who lives in Germany for 40 years now. Dr. Raissa Steinigk, who started to teach Russian Language at the Pedagogical Institute in Erfurt (Thuringia) in 1974 and promoted for a PhD in Erfurt in 1981, is married to a German for 40 years now and has two adult daughters. She contacted me via Facebook and after I quickly got myself a rough overview, we agreed to a meeting in order to talk about the activities of the organisation and to check out possible fields of joint activities. Dr. Steinigk told me about her current activities, which she was able to set up with very few resources and helping hands.

Everything started quite spontaneously and within a rather limited scope when the Ukrainian conflict escalated in 2014 and increased the subsequent suffering of the people in the Donbass. Many German Aid Organisations, most of which were founded by sympathizing private persons, started to help in a more or less organized fashion. Most of these organisations and people had to go through a learning curve due to the initial lack of experience in the field of humanitarian aid organisation. The efficiency of any organized aid work always depends on a precise knowledge of the emergency situation in the field and the surrounding structures in the affected area, as well as various special aid requirements. The original judgement of the throughout well meaning organizing German people couldn’t always be lead to an efficient humanitarian aid result due to lacking possibilities of inter-mediation and assessment. When Ms. Steinigk got notice of this problem, she decided to start organizing help for the Donbass People in her own effective way, despite her relatively advanced age. Projects with urgent needs were identified by Ms. Steinigk directly at the location during a journey to Lugansk in 2016. Those projects were subsequently supported in a very targeted fashion allowing for the maximization of the aid effect. Dr. Steinigk visited 3 hospitals in Lugansk, in Novosvetlovka and Pervomaisk, which were strongly affected by the war activities in the region in 2014/15. Back in Germany, she started contacting local hospitals together with her daughter Ivana, asking for expired materials, furniture, medical devices etc. and she collected donations for the purpose of transportation of the donated goods. Today, Dr. Steinigk is in contact with 8 hospitals in Thuringia, which indeed are willing to donate materials, which are expired by the strict German standards. In a broader sense this also concerns things like medical bedding, dressing material, wheelchairs, discharged medical devices, workwear garments for medical staff and other furniture. Due to a structural reform within the medical facilities in the Thuringian City of Jena, many of the local hospital buildings are currently moving into a very large newly built central hospital. In this process, many furnishings, medical materials and devices, which are still perfectly intact, are actually discharged. Thanks to Dr. Steinigks organizing efforts and heartfelt activism those goods find a new continued purpose in hospitals in Lugansk. But also in-kind donations like babyfood, Washing and detergent materials and other small items for daily use find their way to Lugansk via Dr. Steinigk’s organisation.

The perhaps most impressive donation so far is a magnetic resonance tomographical imaging machine, which was discharged according to the strict German standards. This MRT-device has been brought to a hospital in Stahanov, where it is re-installed right now and is going to be put into service again within the next few weeks.

Installation of a donated MRT-Device in Stahanov

So far an impressive 17 truck-loads consisting of donated aid-material have been shipped from Thuringia in Germany to Lugansk. The Action Alliance has also grown to 6 constant members and is also an officially registered association now by the name Aktionsbündniss Zukunft Donbass e.V.. Apart from in kind donations, the organisation also gladly accepts money donations, which are mainly used for financing the transportation from Germany to Lugansk, as well as supporting various projects there.

Truck-Loading in Jena am 20.09.2018

Donated money is collected for instance for the transport of 2 used but intact minibusses to Lugansk.

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Donated Minibuses for Lugansk

Another project aims at the creation of a meeting place for elderly people, who often suffer the most from the ongoing existing war conditions. The Action Alliance is going to sponsor the project for another year. Two children homes, as well as another hospice are going to benefit from the activities of the organisation and the made donations.

Project Bread instead of Words in Lugansk

The delivered aid is enormously important for many people in Lugansk. Which way the the donated money and goods are spent is being meticulously listed and documented, as I was told and as can be reviewed at the Website www.zukunftdonbass.org. Donations for the projects are gladly received via the German Donation Platform Betterplace.org.

Even though Dr. Raissa Steinigk, as the main driver in this organization, would have every reason to praise all her activities, which amount to a daily 10 hour job, in a larger spot light, she prefers to act modestly in the background and rather puts the focus on the projects and the people, who are being helped with this. “The knowledge that people are being helped so much with these things is gratitude enough for me.”, she told me at our first meeting. For me this meeting was indeed reason enough to start engaging in this projects with my possible means.

Unfortunately, it is not visible on the horizon that the Ukrainian conflict is going toward a deescalation or let alone a solution. Hence it is foreseeable that the people in the Donbass Region, particularly in the frontline areas, continue to depend on humanitarian aid. Because the official western aid organisations don’t deliver aid into the self-proclaimed republics in Eastern Ukraine, it remains a matter of local organisations, like the Aktionsbündnis Donbass e.V., and private persons, to deliver humanitarian aid also from our country to the people living on the eastern side of the frontline.

 

T.Trautzsch

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