Andy Burnham marks Ukraine war anniversary with pledges of continued support

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Andy Burnham says that Manchester will continue to support Ukraine as it enters its second year of war.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has marked the anniversary of the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine by reiterating the city’s commitment to helping the Ukrainian war effort and refugees in Manchester.

He was joined at a press conference by deputy mayor Kate Green, director of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain Bohdan Ratycz, UK-Med fundraising director Jackie Snell and two Ukrainian refugees now living in Manchester.

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Mr Burnham said: “What we’re saying today, here, in Greater Manchester is that we are not fair weather friends. We are in it with you for as long as it takes and we won’t leave your side.

“The main message is we see you, we feel for you, because, for us, we see the news about Ukraine and it will come into our lives and pass on to someone else, but we know that you’re living this every day, every single hour of every day. We know that this is traumatic. If there was ever a sense of the world having moved on, that would only make that even worse.”

He also stressed that Manchester has a long relationship with Ukraine that dates back to when the first Ukrainians settled here after the Second World War.

He said: “We’re conscious of that history going back. We’ve got to the same that our predecessors did in the Second World War in welcoming people in. We’ve got to do the same for Ukraine in its our of need.”

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Ukrainians in Manchester gather in Piccadilly Gardens for their weekly anti-war protests. Credit: Sofia FedeczkoUkrainians in Manchester gather in Piccadilly Gardens for their weekly anti-war protests. Credit: Sofia Fedeczko
Ukrainians in Manchester gather in Piccadilly Gardens for their weekly anti-war protests. Credit: Sofia Fedeczko | Sofia Fedeczko

“You are welcome here”

Deputy Mayor Kate Green also addressed Manchester’s Ukrainian community with messages of continued support.

She said: “Manchester is a city with a proud record of offering refuge and I would be proud and honoured to open that door again. We are really pleased to be here today to mark this terrible anniversary, so that we can say: ‘You are welcome here.’ What is happening in Ukraine is unforgivable and we stand in solidarity with you, to bring a justice to your people as quickly as possible.

“We know that what you want is to be safe back home and we absolutely stand with the international community in saying that there must be peace in Ukraine and our country must play its part in helping to secure that.”

Mr Burnham also highlighted some of the initiatives in Greater Manchester that have been set up to help the 2,000 Ukrainians that have made a temporary home in the city, such as the United for Ukraine employment service. He said that, in the future, he will also be working with Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko as part of the Resilient Cities Network.

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UK-Med is another charity based in Manchester Mr Burnham has been working with. The charity, which is now launching its second Ukraine appeal, works on the ground in Ukraine to help alleviate the pressures on the struggling Ukrainian health services. They set up and deploy mobile clinics to provide hospital-style support to war-torn areas, and also help train Ukrainian doctors in field and emergency medicine.

Fundraising and communications director Jackie Snell was supposed to go out to Ukraine last week but was instead called out to deal with the earthquake crisis in Turkey. She said: “Obviously the hospitals near the frontline are overwhelmed with countries, with injuries that their medics are not used to seeing. Also in the formally occupied areas, we’re seeing people who have had no access to healthcare, who have been unable to flee. We’re seeing a whole range of things, all the kind of challenges driven by just being in a war zone.

“We know what we’re doing there is making a difference. What we are doing there is life-saving, by getting more mobile clinics out there to support people with GP and hospital-type services by supporting the treatment of the war-wounded in the emergency hospitals, delivering surgical care and also training up Ukrainian surgeons.”

“Don’t forget about us”

Members of the Ukrainian community were also there to share their stories and stress the fact that the war is far from over. They said that for Ukraine to be victorious, it needs support from the western governments and people.

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Bohdan Ratycz, a second generation Ukrainian and director of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain explained how the community has come together to help the war efforts.

Refugees Alina and Lyumila  recall what it was like leaving their homes at the start of the war. Refugees Alina and Lyumila  recall what it was like leaving their homes at the start of the war.
Refugees Alina and Lyumila recall what it was like leaving their homes at the start of the war. | Manchester World

“There is a terrific amount of work going on behind the scenes. For instance, the AUGB, we’ve started a humanitarian fund and is raised £3.5million to date and that money has gone through three major charities, like Ukrainian Red Cross, to help individuals.

“In Manchester itself, there has been £200,000 raised and that’s been used for things like body armour, medicines. £200,000 for a community like Manchester is absolutely brilliant. The support is there but there’s concern about the future.

“It’s a mixture of emotions really, we’re talking of concern, worried about families, worried about the future of Ukraine. We’re at a very critical point actually because, if the West were to forget about Ukraine and the West not to give the support for economic reasons, or whatever, then Ukraine could be taken over by Russian forces.”

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One Ukrainian refugee, Alina, recalled the first hours of the war. She found out via a text from her mother at 6am telling her to put the news on.

She said: “I saw three words in capital letters, in red colours: Putin started the war. I will never forget these words. It’s a a difficult feeling. I was working as a journalist and of course, I knew the news, I knew the predictions, but my brain didn’t want to know.”

She has recently returned from a trip to Kyiv and told journalists today about how the city has changed since the start of the war.

She said: “It’s a city without electricity, it’s a city without any traffic lights, it’s a city which works on generators. It’s a city that smells of petrol, it’s essential for the generators, but it still stands and it’s an amazing feeling to understand that Kyiv will stand, Ukraine will stand, we just ask you to not forget that the work goes on.

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“Every day we are losing the most important, the most valued people and I just ask you not to forget about that and try to support us. Just to remind people that we are fighting not just for us, but for all Europe. We are strong, we will stay strong.”

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