Communities of the "Incredible villages of Ukraine" set a good example

Interview of the Agricultural counsellor Reinoud Nuijten to the Ukrainian publication "Agroportal".

RN Incredible villages 2022
Beeld: ©UAgroNL

Recently, the competition "Incredible villages of Ukraine" was restarted. Ukrainian village communities will submit their applications before June 26.

4 months ago the priority was in the sustainable development of rural areas. Today  we speak more about fearless inhabitants of incredible villages and their role in defending Ukraine.

Reinoud  Nuijten, Agricultural counsellor of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ukraine, shared his thoughts.

About the definition of "Ukrainian village"

I have always admired Ukrainian villages and their inhabitants. Rural areas are not just about agriculture, delicious food, beautiful nature, and beautiful tourist places that everyone should visit, the village is the core of the nation, powerful in its people and communities.

During the war, the Ukrainian village gained new significance. The Ukrainian villages  on the border were the first to meet their enemies. After the terrible occupation and destruction, the villages are facing a long process of reconstruction. Unfortunately, the occupation of the southern and eastern territories continues.

On the occupied territories, the inhabitants of Ukrainian villages were and remain the only suppliers of food to the cities. Ukrainian villages  constantly receive an influx of refugees who are forced to move due to the dangerous situation in their region.

According to my observations, rural communities gather people and almost no one can stay uninvolved . The villagers work tirelessly not only to feed themselves but also to help those in need. In the villages, people undoubtedly have a close connection with their land, it is difficult for them to leave their homes, even the elderly and women show heroic resilience and courage.

About cooperation in the villages

I would say that the extreme conditions in which Ukrainians now live, strengthen the sense of unity and cooperation. I am proud that the communities of villages who earlier received awards from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ukraine in the competition "Incredible Villages of Ukraine", Dunaivtsi (Khmelnytsky region) and Malomykolaivka (Dnipropetrovsk region), set a good example to others.

In the Netherlands, many people admire the way Ukrainians unite, take the initiative and act as one.

I believe that this unity will be the driving force behind the country's reconstruction. The population of many rural communities has increased due to internally displaced persons, and this may be an impetus for the development of old and new projects.

The well-being and support of rural community initiatives is one of the main reasons for me to support the "Incredible Villages of Ukraine" contest. I believe that the Ukrainian village keeps soul, strength and the culture of the Ukrainian people.

About the prize fund of the competition  "Incredible villages of Ukraine"

There are always many good proposals and it is difficult to choose. We were able to reallocate some budget to introduce the second and third places with cash prizes. I would like more sponsors to join the competition, because the support of Ukrainian villages has become even more important today.

About the impact of the war on food prices in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, as in other countries, there is a certain increase in food prices. Vegetables, berries, bread and a typically Ukrainian product - sunflower oil - became more expensive. Consumers are not happy with this trend, so suppliers tryi to hide it by reducing the size of the package or the amount of product in the package. In the Netherlands there are also people with lower income. Of course, it is difficult for these people to cope with such a rise in prices and one can understand the general dissatisfaction.

About support of Ukrainians by the Dutch people

The people of the Netherlands were completely shocked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And the shock turned to horror when the scale of the atrocities became clear. The Dutch support the Ukrainian people in every possible way: from supplying financial aid, humanitarian aid and the settlement of refugees in their own homes.

Dutch farmers and representatives of Dutch business in Ukraine, as well as Dutch companies that have close ties with their Ukrainian partners, volunteer foundations, NGOs, businessmen and just caring people, immediately began to help Ukrainians in Ukraine and those who were forced to leave the country. In addition to the humanitarian aid,  volunteers are sharing information about the real situation in Ukraine. The Ukrainian flags in the cities and villages in the Netherlands are  especially noticeable with support from the citizens of the Netherlands.

In general, the support of the Netherlands is huge: from the supply of military equipment and ammunition to the field hospitals. Important messages were givenduring the visits of the Dutch Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs to Ukraine and speeches before the deputies in the Verkhovna Rada. The Ministers of Agriculture are also in contact,  a bilateral working group between the two ministries is being established to ensure closer cooperation between our countries.

About his volunteer work

At the end of February I was forced to return to the Netherlands. And in a few days the first wave of Ukrainian refugees began to arrive in my hometown of Bergen op Zom. These people lost their relatives and friends, homes and peaceful lives. We wanted to create comfortable living conditions for them to recover from their experiences.

Our municipality has allocated a building to house Ukrainian refugees, and I started working there as a volunteer. At first there was a lot of practical work: it was necessary to prepare rooms, arrange furniture, organize food, distribution of food and clothing, then help with registration of people in the municipality, organize children's education at school.

Of course, this is just a small point in the overall picture. I cannot be physically in Ukraine, but I support Ukrainians, hear their stories, sympathize with their pain and help those in need in my hometown.

About returning to Ukraine

Unfortunately, it is difficult to make any personal plans. If it was up to me, I would return to Kyiv tomorrow.

I want Ukrainians to know that I admire their courage. I look forward to meeting my Ukrainian friends, and I dream of resuming trips to Ukrainian villages to meet more incredible people.

Interviewer Natalya Pomianska, Agroportal