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Ukraine’s veterans return home to bias and unfair treatment

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IOM
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As Ukraine’s Veterans Return Home, IOM Survey Finds Bias and Unfair Treatment

Kyiv – Some 370,000 military veterans currently are attempting to reintegrate into civilian life in Ukraine. Researchers from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) surveyed over two thousand veterans and their family members last year between the months of July and October. Many reported facing unfair treatment. 

Almost half of the veterans of the six-year conflict in eastern Ukraine suffer bias and mistreatment in their daily lives, with one third feeling excluded from society, according to a new study based on IOM’s survey which the which the Organization released here Thursday (23 January) in Ukraine’s capital. 

The survey – supported by European Union and the Ministry of Veterans Affairs, Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons of Ukraine – revealed that bias to those questioned is most common when accessing medical or social services, or on public transport. 

Additionally, three of four veterans believe that their experience can be understood only by those who have a military background. 

One third of the male and almost half of the female veterans who had jobs before military service, returned home to find their jobs gone. 

While many (67%) eventually found paid work, started businesses of their own or registered as private entrepreneurs, others cited a need for re-training and support in finding new income opportunities. 

“The EU is very pleased to have funded this survey,” said Ambassador Matti Maasikas, Head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine.  “The results help authorities to understand better and to address the challenges that veterans face after they return from the battlefield.” 

European Union funding has allowed IOM to support almost 800 veterans like Andrii (see sidebar, below) with training and equipment to develop their own small businesses. 

“IOM is committed to supporting the reintegration of veterans and the well-being of their communities through socio-economic recovery and psychosocial support that contributes to the restoration of trust, social cohesion and stability,” explained Anh Nguyen, Chief of Mission at IOM Ukraine. 

IOM has implemented this EU-funded project, launched a year ago, in three pilot regions: Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Lviv. In addition to livelihood training and grants, the project supports social cohesion activities, such as sporting events and roundtables with local authorities. 

Qualified psychological assistance is provided by professionals, who were specifically trained in psychosocial support for veterans and their families. 

The Secret Gardener 

Andrii is a radio engineer by profession, who did a year-long stint as a navy seal in the east of Ukraine. Upon returning home, he wanted to earn a living again, but his health was severely affected: “During my time at the front I had to settle in for the night in all sorts of conditions, from deep snow to impenetrable swamps. We had to spend up to ten days in the field with a 50 kg backpack.” Andrii decided to do follow his secret passion. As a veteran, he got a plot of land near his parents’ house, and within a few weeks, with the help of his father, it was cleared of shrubs Now the former Ukrainian navy seal has two greenhouses with a total area of 500 square metres where he cultivates flowers, lettuce and cucumbers. Together with his partners Andrii is also engaged in landscaping, pruning gardens, and lawn care. As part of an EU-funded grant from IOM, Andrii received a lawn mower, pruning shears and other gardening equipment. “When a person is non-stop stressed for a year and a half, they need a little peace and quiet. They say that plants help reduce stress. You go to your garden, you sit a little on the swing, and you feel relieved,” he says.

“Guided by the principle ‘nothing for the veterans without veterans’, we deeply value studies such as these as they allow us to implement data-based programmes and policies,” said Oksana Koliada, Ukraine’s Minister of Veterans Affairs. 

Later this winter, IOM and EU will launch a public campaign to tackle the stereotypes affecting Ukrainian society’s perception of veterans. 

For more information, please contact Varvara Zhluktenko at IOM Ukraine, Tel: +38 044 568 50 15, +38 067 447 97 92, Email: vzhluktenko@iom.int

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