The below article was drafted by Sandro da Costa Fernandes for Eurocities.
Although the war is still raging on, Ukrainian cities are already gearing up for a post-war future, with help from Dutch municipalities.
To strengthen local governments in Ukraine and lay out solid reconstruction plans, Utrecht drew up POSIV (‘sowing’ in Ukrainian), a project offering Ukrainian civil servants temporary employment in Dutch municipalities.
POSIV enables information exchange and strengthens links between Ukrainian local governments and other European cities. The overall goal is to lay the groundwork for the future development and restoration of Ukrainian towns.
The programme also allows Ukraine municipalities to research other cities’ top practices in areas such as construction, mobility, recycling of construction waste, and infrastructure (including water, heating, and electricity).
According to the POSIV scheme, Ukrainian employees work for at least one year in the Netherlands, devoting 50% of their time to future Ukrainian rehabilitation efforts. For the remaining 50%, they perform tasks for the Dutch municipality in which they’re employed.
“Through the initiative, cities of the Netherlands share their best-practice knowledge and experience, and make them directly applicable in Ukraine thanks to the efforts of people who know the local language and culture”, says Mikola Tryfonov. Before the start of the Ukrainian war, Tryfonov was a project manager at the Mariupol city hall; since August 2022, he found a new job as an advisor at the Utrecht municipality.
POSIV is the brainchild of Utrecht and Ro3kvit, a collaborative coalition of Ukrainian and international urban designers and researchers.
Ro3kvit manages the deployment of Ukrainian civil personnel, matching existing knowledge in the Netherlands with local demand in Ukraine.
“We have a unique combination that brings together the progressive expertise of European cities with municipalities in Ukraine where these skills are needed and can find practical applications”, explains Tryfonov.
“We are trying to use Utrecht’s experience, for example, in strategy development, spatial planning, construction and energy security. We will then replicate it in Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities, as part of their post-war reconstruction projects”, Tryfonov adds.
The right time is now
Utrecht’s initiative will create favourable conditions for post-war rebuilding projects, whenever that time will come.
“When the reconstruction starts, we will have the right tools and the right partners for the efficient use of resources and time”, explains Mykyta Biriukov. Thanks to the POSIV programme, today Biriukov works at the municipality of Utrecht as a mobility policy advisor, the same role he held back home in Mariupol.
“After the end of the Russian occupation, the (Ukrainian) municipalities will have no time to plan something. They will have to react quickly and take measures. We need to understand that the right time to make good rebuilding plans for our Ukrainian cities is now”, concludes Mykyta.
Mikola and his wife left home in Mariupol on 24 February 2022 to visit friends in the city. On that exact day – Mikola’s birthday – Russia invaded Ukraine. Mikola and his family never returned home. The couple first moved to different friends’ homes in Mariupol, as there were no safe corridors out of the city, before eventually escaping to Ukraine’s Berdyansk, then Georgia, Italy and finally the Netherlands. The house of Mikola’s parents was bombed; his brother was badly wounded and later died at the hospital.
Since the onset of Russia’s offensive on Ukraine, Mykyta gathered all his family at a house in Mariupol, except for his grandparents who decided to stay in their home in another part of the city. A month later, a mine fragment killed Mykyta’s grandfather in his house. At the end of March, Mykyta left with his family to Belosarayskaya Spit, a village 30km from Mariupol, before moving to the Netherlands with his wife at the end of July.