Natalia Kalmykova, executive director of the Ukrainian Veterans Foundation,

in the column for “Ukrainian Pravda

Ukraine will be a state of veterans. What to do with it and how to prepare – we have to think already.

It is important to understand that you should not draw direct parallels with countries that are permanently at war (Israel) or the experience of the Second World War, because the phenomenon of the veteran movement in Ukraine is unique in every sense.

Our War of Independence brought millions of people together on the battlefield, through volunteering and other forms of support. We are fighting for our land on our land, and the hundreds of thousands of people who will be fighting will be a unique situation in the world of the 21st century.

So far the Ministry of Social Policy reports on 770,000 people who have the status of a participant in hostilities. Up to 5 million veterans and their family members are projected.

That is, every Ukrainian, if he or she is not a participant in hostilities, will definitely have a veteran in his close circle.

After the elevation and admiration of the veterans of the ATO in 2014, an ambiguous attitude began to form in society.

The background (experience – ed.) of the “ATOshnyk” was often sought among people who committed some kind of crime. In this way, the society’s connection with the veteran defenders was lost. However, a full-scale invasion turned everything upside down.

As a country, we have a chance not to repeat old mistakes. It is important for us to stitch society together and keep this union after victory.

The Ukrainian Veterans Foundation, created under the Ministry of Veterans Affairs, before the start of the full-scale invasion, launched a number of projects and programs for change in its 6 months of existence. One of the aspects with which we work is the formation of a new image of a veteran in society.

Trust to the army and veterans is growing

Recently, the Sociological Group “Rating” on the initiative of the Ministry of Veterans conducted a sociological survey. It turned out that more than 90% of Ukrainians trust the military of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, veterans of the current war and veterans of the Anti-terrorist Operation (ATO) of 2014-2021.

Two months before the start of a full-scale war, Kyiv International Institute of Sociology recorded 72% confidence in the Armed Forces, and in 2020 the percentage of confidence was 66%.

In general, the majority of Ukrainians feel positive emotions about the military and veterans of the Russian-Ukrainian war. This effect is now clear, because the war continues. However, will the same mood remain after the victory? Probably so.

The involvement of society in the volunteer movement and the army has increased significantly compared to 2014. This will have a long-term effect. More people will have veterans in their environment therefore they will be more interested in building institutions for their reintegration into civilian life.

From civilian to military: #позивнийУкраїна (call sign Ukraine)

Veterans are not born. Our army now consists of a large number of people who never planned to connect their lives with military affairs. Civilians who left their peaceful lives and donned uniforms without prior military experience are massively joining the ranks of the Armed Forces.

To emphasize this social phenomenon, we launched the project #позивнийУкраїна. Artist Nikita Titov creates illustrations depicting people of civilian professions who stood up for the defense of their country: “I never thought that I would wear a military uniform, but this is my land!”.

We fix in the public consciousness the moment that civilian people make the same important contribution to the defense of the country as those who studied military affairs.

Who does society consider a “real” veteran?

Currently, there is still no unified vision and perception of who a veteran is. In the study mentioned above, we investigated how society perceives veterans. About a third of Ukrainians surveyed believe that veterans are those who are fighting today. But just as many answer that veterans are participants in the Second World War.

Young people more often support the stereotype that a “veteran” is a participant in the Second World War. Residents of the east and south speak more often about veterans as participants of the Second World War, while respondents from the west and center often mean fighters fighting for Ukraine today by this term.

Information campaign “I am a veteran”. Why it is important to talk about veterans now.

When talking to young defenders, you can often hear that they have an ID card of a participant in hostilities, but do not consider themselves veterans. Our social status and age have merged together.

The fighters themselves often do not realize that young people with combat experience are veterans. The Soviet stamp works: veterans are people of respectable age with medals.

In order to change these images in the minds of Ukrainians, we placed boards and streetlights with images of young defenders on the streets of the whole country. The slogan “Yes, I am a veteran and I continue to defend” reinforces the photos.

There is a percentage in the country that sympathizes with Russia and the Soviet Union. Seeing photos of young people who defend them on the streets of their cities, they must draw conclusions about how their sympathies are now costing the country itself. And it’s time to change your ideas.

il-So-I’m a veteran

Self-realization tools

Such a trait as paternalism does not correlate well with courage and resourcefulness. The past experience of our country is the experience of benefits that came to us from the Soviet Union. Already now, the Ministry of Veterans Affairs, together with other executive bodies, is developing conceptual changes to veteran policies.

A veteran is not a beggar, but the strongest person in our country. Our duty is to create conditions for proactive reintegration. Why not give us the opportunity to earn a car with honest work instead of waiting for a minibus with a free seat for a beneficiary?

Veteran business is one of the drivers of the economy, which is so important right now, when we are at war. After all, it is a means for family life, and taxes are paid, and jobs are created.

By the way, the taxes paid are then transformed into the state’s purchase of what is necessary for the front. That is why we are already launching projects aimed at development.

Since June, the business micro financing program has been in effect, within the framework of which veterans, their family members, and relatives of fallen defenders can receive 20,000 hryvnias for running their own business. These are funds that can be obtained quickly by submitting the correct package of documents.

On September 5, we will start accepting applications for financing veteran businesses in amounts from 500,000 to one million hryvnias. Entrepreneurs and enterprises whose founders are veterans, their families and families of fallen defenders will be able to apply. Detailed instructions are available on the website of the Ukrainian Veterans’ Foundation. You can prepare a package of documents and write projects in order to submit your application on September 5.

This is how we all together make the strong stronger.

Natalia Kalmykova for Ukrainian Pravda

Банківські реквізити:

Український ветеранський фонд
ЄДРПОУ 44565396
МФО 820172
в Державна казначейська служба України м. Київ

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