From Finland to Ukraine, two busloads of support

13 December 2023

In early December, two decommissioned buses packed with supplies and a gift for young footballers arrived in Kharkiv after a long journey from Turku.  

The vehicles and aid delivery were “part of Turku’s relentless support of Ukraine and our twin town Kharkiv,” explained Minna Arve, the Mayor of Turku.

“I am pleased that the buses that previously served the residents of Turku can now help Kharkiv and its residents,” added Juha Parkkonen, Managing Director of Turun Kaupunkiliikenne Oy, the Finnish city’s public transport provider.

Inside the vehicles, a surprise awaited Kharkiv’s young footballers: a shipment of winter football equipment donated by FC Inter Turku, the Finnish city’s leading soccer club.  

“Our contact person at the Ukrainian Association of Football gave us a comprehensive list of equipment needed for practicing football in winter conditions, of which Kharkiv’s junior football clubs have been short due to severe availability problems,” said Julius Hakans, Chair of the Board of Directors of FC Inter Turku. “This enabled us to target and collect the supplies for the now-departing aid delivery in a manner that will best meet the needs of the locals.”

Hakans added: “Football has the power to unite people and give hope even during the darkest moments.”

This delivery was the latest of several donations from FC Inter Turku, which has regularly shipped goods and materials to Ukraine.

Photo: Turun Kaupunkiliikenne Oy CEO Juha Parkkonen, Chairperson of Finland's Ukrainians Olena Herasimenko and FC Inter's Sustainability Manager Jani Meriläinen in front of the donated busses.
Photo: Juha Parkkonen, CEO of Turku’s public transport provider; Olena Herasimenko, Chairperson of Finland’s Ukrainians; Jani Meriläinen, FC Inter Turku’s Sustainability Manager, stand in front of the donated busses.

Twins in war and peace

Since the beginning of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, the Finnish city has provided considerable financial assistance and aid to the war-torn country.

Turku and Kharkiv – both Eurocities members – signed a twin city agreement in August 2022 establishing assistance activities and a mutually beneficial long-term cooperation in urban development, which proved crucial amidst the hardship of war.

Just before Christmas last year, the Finnish municipality delivered electric and heating equipment to Kharkiv. At the time, 30% of Ukraine’s power stations were damaged by the war, leaving some 10 million Ukrainians without electricity.

“We cannot afford to stop”

Back in Finland, Turku has worked to offer a new home away from home to Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war, providing accommodation, education and psychological support, among other services.

Moreover, in a symbolic show of support, Turku’s Library Bridge has been lit in blue and yellow since the onset of the war, in February 2022.

The Finnish city will continue to show its solidarity with Ukraine through a series of winter and holiday activities.

These days, Ukrainian stalls feature at Turku’s traditional Christmas market. They’re part of an effort to showcase Ukrainian culture at one hundred other Christmas market events across Europe.

On 23 February – 3 March 2024, a photo exhibit will be on show at Art House Turku. Donations from the event will be sent to Ukraine.

Turku’s latest delivery of aid materials to Kharkiv was conducted in cooperation with the Ukrainians of Finland association.

Olena Herasimenko, the association’s chair, provided a stark reminder that the war in Ukraine is still raging and called for continued support for the country. “We cannot afford to stop assisting Ukraine, not even for a moment,” she stated.

Top photo by Liubomyr Vovchak


Daniela Berretta Eurocities Writer