Water rarely cascades from our showers but this morning as I stood under the steady flow, shampoo in my hair, a thought washed over me. WAPA, the Virgin Island Water and Power Authority of whom I have written before, might fail us on a regular basis but that is due to … what shall I call it, um…. inefficiency not due to a maniac giving orders to lay siege to a city.
Mariupol, once a Cossack encampment but granted city status in 1778, is now the tenth largest city in Ukraine, and an important regional hub for higher education, business and industry – over the years being a trading centre for grain, as well as steel and iron works. The Kalmius River flows through the city, which sits beside the Sea of Azov, which in turn connects to the Black Sea then once through the Sea of Marmara to the rest of the world. A chain of seas. All of which makes Mariupol an important city.
The population of nearly 432,000 has, since being secured by Ukrainian troops in June 2014 after the annexation of Crimea in the February and start of the war in Donbas in the April of the same year, been under attack from Russian forces several times.
Any child born there since 2014 has known nothing but the threat of a hovering Russian president desperate to regain the boundaries of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It is a volatile part of the world that has seen numerous invasions, incursions and ethnic strife since the end of World War II. All terrifying for civilians in the midst of them.
This latest, the result of an aging demagogue desperate to stamp his boots in the history books as the man who redrew the 21st century map of Russia, has united large swathes of the world in a concerted effort to stop the madness. To stop the killing. To stop the horror and destruction.
Oligarchs like Roman Abramovich, infamous for nefarious dealings as a street trader, a doll-manufacturer, a commodities trader, a serial marriage maker, and famed as the owner of Chelsea Football Club, has been sanctioned. Mr Abramovich repudiates having a close relationship to Vladimir Putin despite being the man purported to have put forward Putin’s name to Boris Yeltsin as a worthy successor to the then Russian president. It is also supposed, as reported in US media, that Mr Abramovich is the bag man for President Putin. A ‘put-in-your-cash-here and take-it-out-there’ financial middleman.
Having assets frozen does I’m sure lessen one’s ability to move around the world, but I can’t help thinking men as canny as Mr Abramovich, and the other oligarchs, have many avenues to their riches.
Riches that will not find their way to assisting Ukrainians on the brink of desperation. Although Michael Grove, Secretary of State for, amongst other things, Housing and Communities, has suggested the possibility of the mansions in London owned by the oligarchs be used to home Ukrainian refugees, which add a pleasing synchronicity to the issue. But these businessmen’s riches will not help those children locked in terror, cringing in basements crying out for warmth, food and water.
If you have wondered how to help Ukraine, the following links could be a good place to start.
The Wolsztyn Experience was started by Howard Jones MBE, a friend of a friend. The company runs steam train experience holidays in Poland and he, and his wife, are now working with local authorities to care for Ukrainian women and children who are seeking safe haven in Poland, by funding safe accommodation for an indefinite period. The company is looking to lease a small hotel, plus other local properties to house displaced families arriving with often only the clothes they are wearing.
Another option is through William Harris, a young man I know who lives in Germany. He is the son of one of my oldest Australian friends and through his digital food distribution company has arranged for trucks to deliver necessary supplies to Ukraine. They are not a charity but have been prompted to put their resources, and resourcefulness, to use because it’s personal – a number of their team are Ukrainian. The community support Will’s company has received has been incredible and, in the first week, they sent 300 tonnes of emergency supplies across the border. Currently they are focusing the money they raise on supplying trucks from their own network to other community drives who get donations but don’t know how to freight the goods into Ukraine.
They are also in touch with a group of doctors in Ukraine who have stressed the dire need for medical supplies and so the company’s next step is to send surgical supplies to bombed hospitals in Kyiv and other cities, or wherever they can get them.
This is the Go Fund Me page for donations.
Mariupol is under siege, Kherson, Kharkiv and Kyiv on the brink, with now it would seem Lviv and other cities in western Ukraine are being brought into Russian sights.
As this invasion drags on, it could be easy to start to glaze over at the humanitarian disaster unfolding, to become immune to the horror of war in Europe. To forget how restorative water can be.
I had a shower, and I won’t forget.