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jueves, 9 de octubre de 2014



In Western Ukraine, Attitudes Cooling Toward IDPs

By Vitaliy Syzov, Halyna Tereshchuk and Claire Bigg
Ukrainian children from Makeevka, eastern Ukraine, watch TV in a refugee center in Kyiv.
KYIV -- When heavy fighting erupted in her hometown of Horlivka, in eastern Ukraine, Yulia and her husband didn't think twice.
They packed a few suitcases, buckled their children in the car, and drove all the way to Kyiv. 
Both have since found employment in the Ukrainian capital. 
Five months on, however, the family is still camped out in a hotel room. 
"It's almost impossible for displaced people to find apartments," she says. "People immediately ask where we are from -- and then ask 'From Donbas? Goodbye.' One morning, I walked into the kitchen and my husband had been placing calls from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. In the space of these two hours, he had been turned down 17 times."
This is an increasingly common tale in western Ukraine, where people displaced by the fighting are reporting huge difficulties finding landlords willing to rent them a flat.
No Africans, Eastern Ukrainians
Attitudes toward IDPs in Ukraine appear to have shifted since the onset of the conflict pitting government forces against pro-Russian separatists in the country's east.
As displaced families continue to stream westward, the initial outpouring of solidarity -- which once saw residents extend free accommodation to IDPs -- is slowly giving way to impatience and distrust.
"You can often see ads that say 'Flat for rent, people from Donetsk, Luhansk, and Africa please abstain,'" says Ivan Kudoyar, a real estate lawyer in Kyiv.
Things like this aren't just happening in Kyiv.
Anastasia, a young woman who fled Donetsk two weeks ago, says she's losing hope of finding a flat to rent in the western city of Lviv.
"The main obstacle I've encountered during my search is my Donetsk registration," she says. "I meet with the landlord, we agree on the rent, then he looks into my passport and says 'Sorry, this is a matter of principle."
Irina Yaremko, a real estate agent in Lviv, says owners letting their flats through her agency now request that potential tenants from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions be immediately rejected.
Part of the problem is a growing perception that many eastern Ukrainians are taking advantage of the relief network set in place for IDPs to resettle in more prosperous Western cities.
Solvency Concerns
With the protracted conflict showing no sign of abating, there are also concerns among flat owners about the solvency of tenants from strife-torn regions.
"People from Donetsk don't always have a job," says lawyer Ivan Kudoyar. "They have savings to last them a few months, but after six months money usually runs out and they may not be able to pay rent."
For IDPs with little or no financial resources, the chances of finding private accommodation are close to nil. 
Hrigoriy, a pensioner from the Donetsk region, has been living in a ramshackle Kyiv building turned into a makeshift dormitory for the displaced.
Kyiv authorities have yet to process his pension, meaning he currently relies on the Red Cross for subsistence. 
As winter approaches, Hrihoriy is filled with anxiety about the future.
"Cold weather will come, and if no one helps us with the heating we will have to leave," he says. "This place has heating, but who is going to pay for it?"
While being grateful for the continued support extended by many Western Ukrainians, IDPs are also stung by the hostility they now face in their adoptive cities.
"The situation was escalating and we understood our lives were at risk," Yulia recalls of her departure from Horlivka. "I didn't want my children to hear the shelling and the gunfire, I didn't want them to see these armed people in balaclavas. I was trying to protect them, that's why we left so quickly."
Oleksiy, who left his native Donetsk for the safety of Kyiv, calls on Western Ukrainians not to conflate IDPs with separatist sympathizers.
"People have been led to think that people from Donetsk are bad, that they are all separatists," he says. "But those who came to Kyiv are Ukrainians, they came to Ukraine, they chose Ukraine."
Vitaliy Syzov reported from Kyiv, Halyna Tereshchuk reported from Lviv, and Claire Bigg reported and wrote from Prague.

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