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KHARKIV ACTIVIST HONORED BY REFUGEES INTERNATIONAL FOR ASSISTING IDPs
April 25, 2016 @ 12:00 am EDT
Washington, DC – Olena Honcharova, founder of the Kharkiv Station NGO which assists internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ukraine, spoke at a U.S.-Ukraine Foundation roundtable on April 25, 2016. She was in Washington to receive the Refugees InternationalRichard Holbrooke Award, given to an outstanding national NGO working with the displaced. She was honored at the Refugees International 37th Annual Dinner, along with Sir Richard Branson and Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD).
Regarding the dire situation of hundreds of thousands of IDPs in Ukraine, Olena Honcharova emphasized that there continues to be a great need for clothing, medicine, hygienic products and housing. Finding jobs for IDPs is also an important priority.
During her visit to USUF, Ms. Honcharova expressed concern that Ukrainians are getting tired of the conflict and, as a result, private donations of assistance for the IDPs are in decline. She was also critical of what she views as unsympathetic characterizations of IDPs by some Ukrainian government officials. Honcharova criticized the withholding or delay of social payments from residents of the occupied territories who cross the line of contact and come to Ukrainian government-controlled areas to obtain those payments. She stressed that as citizens of Ukraine, they are legally entitled to their pensions, for example.
|Nadia McConnell (USUF President), Olena Honcharova (Kharkiv Station) and Dawn Calabia (Refugees International) at the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation roundtable (left to right).|
Olena Honcharova also described the genesis of Kharkiv Station, which grew out of her Facebook campaign to mobilize assistance for IDPs (initially from Crimea and subsequently from the Donbas) and explained that in peak periods her NGO was being visited by some 600 IDPs per day. Many are not getting the help from the government that they need, she said. Ms. Honcharova said that Kharkiv Station obtains support from numerous donors and volunteers and partners with other non-governmental organizations in the region.
Speaking to the audience of the annual gathering of Refugees International, Olena Honcharova said: “The war in Ukraine continues. And no matter how hard we try we cannot help everyone. Our resources are exhausted. Our society is very tired from the war. And we still need assistance.”
|Olena Honcharova, head of the Kharkiv Station NGO, being interviewed by VOA’s Ukrainian Service. (VOA website, photo)|
In an interview with the Voice of America on the sidelines of the awards ceremony, Olena Honcharova emphasized that IDPs, who sometimes come with negative attitudes about the central authorities are quickly won over by the generosity of those who provide them with support: “Even those that have been spoiled by propaganda and who fled to our area and thought that the terrible ‘Kyiv junta’ is here and that they will be shot and killed, they see in time, when they are treated humanely, by volunteers, by local residents-in time they stop supporting the ‘Russian world.’ From their own experience they see it is better to live in Ukraine. There have even been families who planned to move to Russia but having interacted with volunteers, having obtained some assistance, have stayed in Ukraine. I met with them later-they are just like us, they have adapted, are living here and are helping others.”