Ukrainians in the Netherlands increasingly concerned amidst first attacks 

By Paula Gibson Pujol and Maya Auer

24th of February 2022. After months of Russian troops building up along the border with Ukraine, the first missiles have been fired today in multiple Ukrainian cities. Ukrainians around the world have organized protests as a call to action to stop the Russian invasion and draw attention to a long-lasting conflict that simmered down, but never ended. 

“The European Union have seen it coming, and only now they wake up?”, says Marta Barandiy, founding chair of Promote Ukraine, a non governmental organisation based in Brussels, where protests take place today in front of Russia’s embassy.

The Netherlands, as well, have seen a number of protests in the past weeks, with multiple protests taking place today in The Hague, Amsterdam and Groningen. Currently, an estimated number of 10.000 Ukrainians live in the Netherlands, according to the Ukrainian Embassy in The Hague. 

Rostyslav Korin, a Ukrainian software developer, is one of them. He moved from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv to the Netherlands half a year ago, in hopes to avoid the “Russian aggression,” as he calls it. ”Kharkiv is located just a few kilometers away from the Russian border, and night to day they can attack the city” he told 9to5.

Korin’s hometown was one of the first to be striked, and is now one of the more than half a dozen cities to have been attacked by the Russian military forces. 

Today, Ukrainian students organized a peaceful protest on Grote Markt, the main plaza in the city of Groningen. 

Artwork by Alexandra Georgieva

Anastasiya Pronchennko, a bachelor student at the University of Groningen expresses her frustration to 9to5:  “I think it’s important to establish that it’s been eight years. I really don’t understand why the media portrays us as victims and panickers and stuff when really it’s just about raising awareness now, since the world didn’t hear us eight years ago. So yeah, I am worried, I am stressed, but… it shouldn’t come out of a person’s mouth, but you get used to it, sadly. “

In the middle of the interview her father calls her and she rushes to pick up. Later she tells 9to5 that she has been up since 5am in the morning. Pronchennko’s parents are safe, but the rest of her family is in Eastern Ukraine. “It’s scary.”

Many Ukranians in the Netherlands share Pronchennko’s exhaustion. Korin took part on the 2014 revolution. ”I went to the military service and I was there for a year,” he says. He, as many others, lost loved ones eight years ago. 

How does the conflict affect Ukrainian students in the Netherlands ?

Regine Van Groningen, Senior policy advisor for International Cooperation at the University of Groningen says today’s news have currently not affected cooperation with Eastern European Universities. “Our relationship with the institutions is without any political interference.“

For students currently worried about not being able to focus and study sufficiently in light of today’s news, Van Groningen stressed that they will still be entitled to their scholarships. But that might not be the most pressing issue: “We had one student who expressed that she felt a bit cut off in a way, because, well, she can’t even go back home now that flights have been cancelled.”

Protestors at Grote Markt in Groningen today

9to5 obtained a press statement from Yuliia Malyonovska, second secretary at the embassy of Ukraine in The Hague this afternoon. She expressed her appreciation for the Dutch media and their support of Ukraine, stressing the validity of inputs from sovereign states and individuals.

But is the input offered by the Netherlands enough? Mayonovska also shared a statement of ambassador Maksym Kononenko regarding the current situation in Ukraine who said: “Suppose the world community would hesitate in the face of absolute evil. In that case, the security architecture we built after World War II would cease to exist. Glory to Ukraine!”

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