My speech given on 24th August, 2023 at Jersey Museum to a full auditorium to mark Ukraine’s National Day

Today is a day of great significance, not only for Ukraine but for all those who champion the ideals of freedom and humanity.
As we gather to celebrate Ukraine’s Independence Day, we reflect upon the resilient spirit of a nation that continues to fight for these ideals – ones that we as an Island hold dearly. As Jersey’s Minister for International Development, I am very proud of the role Jersey has played in supporting innocent civilians caught up in the horrors of war. The Island has provided over £3.4 million in humanitarian relief to Ukraine – making it amongst the highest donors per capita in the world.

Jersey’s response has permitted the provision of essential medical care for newborn babies and mothers, supplied generators and oxygen concentrators to health facilities, enabled agencies to provide free physical and mental health services and procured and delivered thousands of trauma kits to frontline medics. These are just a handful of examples.

As we will hear a little later, Jersey has also been at the forefront of supporting critical Explosive Ordnance Disposal training, an issue that sadly predates the Russian invasion and one that will continue long after peace is achieved. As ever, it is civilians that pay the price – since 24 February 2022 alone, landmines and other explosive objects caused 100 child casualties and it is estimated that 30% of Ukraine’s territory is potentially dangerous due to explosive objects.

This vital training, funded by the people of Jersey, equips Ukrainian nationals with the necessary skills to protect lives and livelihoods. It is perhaps even more significant given a large number of the trainees are women – often sidelined in this line of work but now very much at its heart. I very much look forward to hearing about Uliana’s experience and those of her fellow brave Ukrainians.

I would also like to acknowledge Ben Remfrey’s role in establishing a charity – Friends of Ukraine EOD – to deal with the threat posed by the explosive remnants of war. Who would have thought that the charity through which training is coordinated is located in none-other than our sister Island, Guernsey. I am also delighted to announce that a Jersey branch of the charity has recently been approved by the Jersey Charities Commissioner.

Yet, the island’s support goes beyond material contributions. From the first day of the war, Islanders have demonstrated solidarity with Ukrainians; through candlelit vigils, through the twinning of St Helier with Mykolaiv and even a very Jersey touch – a surf competition at the Watersplash! For a year and a half Ukrainian flags have fluttered in every corner of the island. And they continue to do so.

But no matter how closely we follow the war, we can never appreciate what it must feel like – to be at war. We watch the video footage of thousands crossing borders in panic, of apartment blocks in rubble, and bloodied civilians – from the comfort of our homes. Rarely are we able to get personal insight of how war affects individuals, families, nations. It is therefore with a huge sense of gratitude and of immense admiration that I am able to welcome Uliana Yerenko here tonight, to hear first-hand about how the war in Ukraine is unfolding and what she, like many other Ukrainian nationals, are doing to protect their territory and their fellow citizens.

Welcome Uliana and Ben and thank you for making the journey to be here.