Self-govern­ment on the front line

How the lib­er­ated parts of Don­bas set up their ter­ri­to­rial com­mu­ni­ties

The Ukrainian Week - - FOCUS - Ye­lyza­veta Hon­charova,

The re­forms of lo­cal govern­ment in Donetsk Oblast, de­spite mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions, are mov­ing quite briskly, but not al­ways pro­duc­tively: some cities and towns have merged into the new amal­ga­mated ter­ri­to­rial com­mu­ni­ties (ATCs), while oth­ers have not been given green light for var­i­ous rea­sons. These in­clude the re­luc­tance of the ru­ral pop­u­la­tion to unite with eco­nom­i­cally un­sta­ble towns, the in­abil­ity to add set­tle­ments in which hos­til­i­ties are con­tin­u­ing and the prospect of elect­ing lead­ers for vil­lages in­cluded in the new ATCs.

One of the pi­o­neers of decentralisation in the Don­bas and Ukraine over­all was the Ly­man com­mu­nity. This was an easy task: the 40 set­tle­ments gov­erned by Petro Tsymy­dan since the post-merger elec­tion in Novem­ber 2015 have been amal­ga­mated since 1989. At that time, the county and its cen­tre town par­tic­i­pated in an ex­per­i­ment that con­cen­trated all ad­min­is­tra­tive func­tions in the town. As a re­sult, the com­mu­nity only had to sub­mit the doc­u­ments in 2015 to set up an amal­ga­mated ter­ri­to­rial com­mu­nity and elect a head.

Ly­man was one of the first places freed from the sep­a­ratists. The town re­ceived sub­stan­tial funds to re­store in­fra­struc­ture (in­clud­ing the over­haul of the lo­cal hospi­tal to which part of the Donetsk Med­i­cal Univer­sity was evac­u­ated). Although Ly­man was rather well pre­pared for the changes, ex­pec­ta­tions were very high. Nearly two years later, the first changes can be seen in the com­mu­nity. Of­fi­cials re­port that in 2016 the Ly­man Ur­ban ATC re­ceived UAH 23.2 mil­lion in sub­si­dies to build and de­velop so­cial in­fra­struc­ture, in­clud­ing the re­fur­bish­ment of the Ad­min­is­tra­tive Ser­vices Cen­tre, the re­pair of water sup­ply sys­tems in vil­lages and towns con­trolled by the Ly­man Town Coun­cil, the ren­o­va­tion of a nurs­ery school in Yarova and nine com­mu­nal roads, and the pur­chase of spe­cialised equip­ment for the lo­cal pub­lic util­ity com­pany. The ex­am­ple of the com­mu­nity can quell the most com­mon fears that schools will be closed af­ter towns and vil­lages merge: all ex­ist­ing schools were con­verted into Teach­ing and Learn­ing Com­plexes, while a hub school has been es­tab­lished in the ATC cen­tre town. In ad­di­tion, at the end of 2016 Ly­man opened the first Com­mu­nity Safety Cen­tre in Ukraine, which is home to the State Emer­gency Ser­vice, am­bu­lance and po­lice. The re­gional bud­get con­trib­uted UAH 5.2 mil­lion to the project, and the head of the Donetsk Civil-Mil­i­tary Ad­min­is­tra­tion Pavlo Zhe­brivskyi promised that such cen­tres will be opened in each ATC of the re­gion.

"I felt the changes through seem­ingly lit­tle things. For me as a dis­placed per­son, it was very in­con­ve­nient to go to so­cial ser­vices in the town to solve the prob­lems that arise al­most con­stantly due to changes in leg­is­la­tion. Af­ter the com­mu­nity amal­ga­ma­tion, we have mo­bile con­sul­ta­tions with spe­cial­ists from dif­fer­ent ser­vices on a reg­u­lar timetable in each of the 12 vil­lage coun­cil ar­eas. This is re­ally con­ve­nient," says Maria, a mother of two chil­dren who moved to Ly­man County from Hor­livka, now in the oc­cu­pied part of Donetsk Oblast.

Res­i­dents of the ATC that was es­tab­lished in De­cem­ber 2016 are still not en­tirely sure of the ben­e­fits or dis­ad­van­tages. The Illinivka ATC brought to­gether 9 vil­lage coun­cils (25 set­tle­ments) in Kos­tiantynivka County with the cen­tre in Illinivka. Other lo­cal­i­ties were not happy about this. Mem­ber of the Olek­san­dro-Ka­ly­nove Vil­lage Coun­cil An­driy Tara­man shares his doubts: "You know, ev­ery vil­lage coun­cil has its own am­bi­tions, but we were brought to­gether and some­one else was put in charge. Firstly, Illinivka is on the edge of the newly cre­ated ter­ri­tory. Se­condly, one kilo­me­tre from the hub school es­tab­lished there now is an­other hub school in Kos­tiantynivka. In our school, which


is now a hub school, about 50% of the pupils are not from vil­lages, but from the town. That means we have to pay for chil­dren from Kos­tiantynivka to study from our bud­get, while ours will have to travel through the en­tire county to get there. So I don't re­ally un­der­stand why this is the case."

The young coun­cil­lor, who was elected as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the united com­mu­nity af­ter de­mo­bil­i­sa­tion from the Armed Forces, told us about some pos­i­tive changes: this year's bud­get al­ready in­cludes money for plan­ning re­fur­bish­ment of the Cul­ture and Leisure Cen­tre. This is very im­por­tant, as his fel­low vil­lagers would like Olek­san­dro-Ka­ly­nove to be­come a cul­tural cen­tre. A unique mu­seum of Ukrainian cul­ture and life has been cre­ated here and the vil­lage hosts the of­fice of the Kle­ban Byk land­scape park, which is lo­cated nearby. There are also plans to set up a Safety Cen­tre in Olek­san­dro-Ka­ly­nove.

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