German-Ukrainian center for humanitarian aid launched in Ivano-Frankivsk region


A family in Transcarpathian region offers German aid to the former soldiers and other socially vulnerable groups and shares experience of positive cooperation with local businesses and authorities.

Kyiv, October 20, 2016. A civic-run center for humanitarian assistance started its work in Ivano-Frankivsk region on October 14. “The center provides assistance not only to families of ATO veterans [soldiers who have fought in the East Ukraine – UCMC] but also to low-income families, disabled etc. These socially vulnerable groups now lack attention from the state. It is fully understandable, as the war is ongoing,” said Kurt Simmchen, head of the German NGO “Ukraine is Europe” speaking via Skype at Ukraine Crisis Media Center (UCMC) in the framework of UCMC’s project “Spokesperson of peaceful life” implemented under support of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of the German Federal Republic. The center was opened on the Defender of Ukraine Day that is also the day of Pokrova religious holiday.

Simmchen family, Kurt and Myroslava, have been living in Tysmenytsia, Ivano-Frankivsk region, for 12 years now. Almost all this time they have been assisting orphanages and families with many kids. The Simmchen family was actively helping out since Euromaidan. After the war in the east started they began to collect humanitarian aid in Federal state of Germany, Saxony, and transport it to Ukraine. “We decided to help, someday each of us will face the question: what have you done in your life and what have you not while you were able to,” explained his motivation Kurt Simmchen. In addition to this, the Simmchens are trying to distribute the information about the actual situation in Ukraine among their fellow countrymen. They have organized two flashmobs “Easter trips for Ukraine’s freedom and Unity and peace across Europe”. “To me this is not just an anti-terroristic operation (ATO) but a war, a real war,” he emphasized. “Ukrainian volunteers and regular military who constrain the Russian aggression stand there for the peace in the whole Europe.”

Work based on the “shop-without-money” principle

People in need will get invitations (or vouchers). When activists confirm that a person needs assistance, she/he is invited to the center where she/he can choose whatever she/he likes according to her needs, said Myroslava Simmchen. The beneficiaries had this idea as they were passing previous consignments of aid. “We noticed quite a number of times that sometimes when we offered something to a people did not really like. While something different would probably fit them best,” she explained.

Help from the local community and authorities

Premises for the center were provided free of charge by local entrepreneurs, Myroslava and Oleh, whose surnames are not revealed. “They used to have a shop there but a part of it was empty, so they gave us that space,” noted Myroslava Simmchen. Local authorities of Tysmenytsia also helped. “We required a shop sign and advertising signage, they helped us with all that. […] They have also committed themselves to paying our electricity bills and promised us to budget next year the money for village visits to check the recipients of assistance,” she added.

First cooperation experience

Union of ATO veterans in Tysmenytsia and Pyrohov first volunteer field hospital help facilitate the work of the center. Simmchens were passing the individual targeted assistance to the ATO zone through them. “Vasyl Oleksyuk from the Pyrohov first volunteer field hospital has a task of visiting the people who have applied for assistance and check whether they actually need it, as there are sometimes the cases of abuse. Lists of ATO veterans are provided to us by the head of the local union of ATO veterans. For the two of us it would have been unreal to do all this work, that’s why this cooperation is very important,” noted Myroslava Simmchen.

Essentials for the donors

The activists are not making a count of the assistance provided, they just report on its transfer with photos. According to Kurt Simmchen over the past two years he personally brought into Ukraine at least 15 consignments of aid. “To me each small thing is important, because each one who is now supporting Ukraine, is on the peace side, on the side of the progress,” he noted. Thus, photo reports even without additional figures are representative of the scales of Simmchens’ work over the past two and a half years. Most expensive gift from Germany if not take into account medical equipment and medicine has become the hydraulic pump for a fire fighting vehicle from the city council of Radeberg. It is being widely used all across the region.

Myroslava Simmchen noted that there are many people ready to help. It is important for them to understand that the process is really transparent. “People see that assistance is getting in the right hands and that’s why they trust us,” she added.

Since the war in Ukraine started Germany has been constantly supplying humanitarian aid to the affected residents of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. In 2015 Germany’s support to humanitarian assistance in Ukraine amounted to EUR 4,5 million. German volunteers and activists have been also helping the people of Ukraine since Euromaidan times, their contribution is of no less importance. German non-governmental organization “Ukraine is Europe” is one of them.