‘With Warmth from Heart to Heart’ project — addressing the needs of frontline communities

September 15, 2023

Journalist Marharyta Lubkova (left) and the principal of the gymnasium Olena Vasylieva (right)

Photo credit: Artem Poznanskyi / UNDP in Ukraine

With the support of the EU4Dialogue project of the European Union and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Kyiv Institute for Strategic Analysis and Reforms (KISAR) has assisted 11 communities in the frontline areas of Ukraine by providing them with the most necessary equipment in case of power outages.  

In the Shyroke community in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, we start the morning surrounded by children from the local gymnasium, which is now operating as a shelter. It is here that internally displaced people (IDPs) from Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts have found shelter.  

The principal of the gymnasium, Olena Vasylieva, is in a hurry to meet us. Despite the constant threat of shelling, she confidently leads us to a room. “We recently received a powerful generator, which we have already used during an emergency power outage,” she explains.  

In addition to the generator, the community received electric blankets, portable solar-powered lanterns, large thermoses for food storage, a wood splitter and a chainsaw. 

Olena Vasylieva at the firewood storage

Photo credit: Artem Poznanskyi / UNDP in Ukraine

“The chainsaw and wood splitter are used by our firefighters to prepare firewood for IDPs and local residents. We received all this equipment thanks to the cooperation of the Shyroke community with KISAR,” Olena adds. 

Besides the Shyroke community in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, assistance has been provided to 10 more communities in the frontline areas of Ukraine. This rapid response project ‘With Warmth From Heart to Heart’ is being implemented by the Kyiv Institute for Strategic Analysis and Reforms (KISAR) with the support of the EU and UNDP in Ukraine. 

Donated portable solar-powered lanterns

Photo credit: Artem Poznanskyi / UNDP in Ukraine

“Initially, we were preparing equipment for seven communities in Mykolaiv, Sumy, Poltava, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Dnipro oblasts,” said Olena Kozliuk, project manager and board member of KISAR.  “During the tender, we managed to save money, so a joint decision was made to purchase diesel generators and transfer them to four more communities in Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhya, Sumy and Chernihiv oblasts.”  

Journalist Marharyta Lubkova (left) and project manager of KISAR Olena Kozliuk (right)

Photo credit: Artem Poznanskyi / UNDP in Ukraine

The organization learned about the urgent needs and requests of the communities from its longtime partner, the Association of Territorial Communities, the all-Ukrainian coalition of local authorities. In total, KISAR has counted forty-eight such requests for the arrangement of shelters, and the reserve list is constantly updated. 

“We chose those communities that need help the most”
— Viacheslav Kozak, founder of KISAR

“We have been cooperating with the Association of Territorial Communities since its establishment,” said Viacheslav Kozak, founder of KISAR. “So we rely on the experience of our partners, their awareness of the needs of communities located close to the front line and hosting a large number of IDPs. We chose the communities based on their proximity to the combat zone and our internal understanding of who needs help the most.”  

Journalist Marharyta Lubkova (left) and founder of KISAR Viacheslav Kozak (right)

Photo credit: Artem Poznanskyi / UNDP in Ukraine

A native of Luhansk, Viacheslav Kozak has been working in the public sector since 1994. Together with other like-minded people, he founded the Luhansk Oblast Regional Development Agency, an organization that focused on regional development in the Luhansk Oblast, in 2001. 

“At that time, there were no public institutions that would perform such functions at the regional level,” said Kozak. “There was a kind of amateur movement in Ukraine. My partners and I founded a non-governmental organization in Luhansk that served as a regional development agency for a long time. We had many projects, mostly focused on local governments. The main idea was to provide strategic assistance to local governments in the context of regional development. We worked not only on the regional level, but also on the level of local governments, focusing on helping territorial communities.”  

In 2004, the agency implemented a number of projects under the general title Vector of Integration Processes in Eastern Ukraine. Viacheslav Kozak was offered a job in the public sector. For some time, he held the position of Director of the Strategic Development Department at the Ministry of Construction, Architecture, Housing and Communal Services of Ukraine, and acted as Deputy Minister. 

“In 2005, I moved to Kyiv, and the NGO gradually shut down its activities,” recalls Viacheslav.  “This was also facilitated by the adoption of the Law on the Principles of State Regional Policy, which clearly defined that regional development is now the responsibility of agencies as public institutions. Previously, these functions in the Luhansk region were performed by our NGO.”  

In 2018, the team decided to change the address and name of the organization, having become the Kyiv Institute for Strategic Analysis and Reforms. This is how a local initiative eventually grew into a nationwide organization that cooperates with international institutions and projects. 

“Since then, we have been more involved in strategic aspects, including the development of strategic planning documents for communities,” said Kozak. “We also worked on the development of new financial instruments for territorial communities, which can help them attract resources for infrastructure restoration and development.”  

Olena Kozliuk, also originally from Luhansk, joined the team in 2001, at the stage of establishing the Regional Development Agency in Luhansk Oblast.  

“This was my first contract after graduating from university and receiving my diploma,” she said.  “It so happened that I was recommended for a project implemented by this organization. This job found me. I don't work for the organization on a regular basis, but this cooperation has been going on for years. When there is an urgent need, they approach me, and I join in.”  

Olena worked in Crimea for three years, and also helped with the strategic development of communities in Chernihiv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Luhansk, Chernivtsi, and other oblasts of Ukraine. “I've been helping NGOs for many years,” she said.  “I believe in them: if there are active people, their energy can be channeled in the right direction. Most of the challenges arouse around reporting by the communities. For example, in 2007, there was a case when I was already working with a laptop and smartphone, and they brought me documents from a typewriter.”  

Olena experienced the war in 2014. She previously cooperated with many of the currently occupied territories, working on community development strategies for them. “Somehow I found the strength to collect my belongings from my old apartment and see what happened to Luhansk,” she said. “When I saw it with my own eyes, it was so sad. They simply destroyed the city! You go to different Ukrainian communities and see how they are doing with the improvement. After the decentralization reform, all of our cities, especially the small ones, seem to have spruced up. And here I see Luhansk: dead trees right in the city center. No one cleans it, no one wants to buy apartments there. Old Ukrainian signs that no one even thought to remove and replace with new ones. If you go out at night, the lighting is dim. The minibuses are old. It's a shame, it's so painful: the infrastructure has been destroyed to such an extent.”  

The Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine forced KISAR to immediately adapt its activities to rapid response projects. The team has a long history of cooperation with UNDP since 2003, within the framework of socio-economic development projects and the Millennium Development Goals, which in 2015 became the Sustainable Development Goals. 

“We see ourselves as active participants in the country's reconstruction”
— Viacheslav Kozak, founder of KISAR

“We immediately realized that the directions of strategic regional development have lost their relevance. We had to refocus on the serious challenges brought by the war: humanitarian problems in the de-occupied communities, as well as in those that host many IDPs. We continue to actively expand this component in various projects. In the future, after the war is over, we see ourselves as active participants in the country's reconstruction, especially in the context of the resumption of administrative reform as the second stage of decentralization,” says Kozak. 

The NGO ‘Kyiv Institute for Strategic Analysis and Reforms’ (KISAR) is one of the organizations that received support within the programme ‘Response of civil society to the needs of women and men, especially those living in hard-to-reach places and representatives of vulnerable groups’ supported by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the EU-funded EU4Dialogue regional programme to address the most urgent needs of war-affected communities in Ukraine.   

Author: Marharyta Lubkova  

Photo: Artem Poznanskyi / UNDP Ukraine   

Note: This article was produced with the financial assistance of the European Union and UNDP under the EU4Dialogue programme. The contents do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the European Union or UNDP.