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Letters / Please step up to the plate – open letter to the SIC and to councillors

Please excuse me ‘splatting’ the entire council, but I have an important question for you ALL regarding the situation in Ukraine.

A bit of background for you:

My brother Steve is working with an EU / German agency in Ukraine.  Up to 28 February he was based in Kyiv, coordinating development and aid projects there.

He escaped Kiyv on those long, long, convoys on Day 1 of the war, helping his Ukrainian colleagues evacuate their families.

They hid in a basement in Irpin before the shelling and advancing Russians bombed the sh*t out of that city, escaping from there across country, sleeping wherever they could find shelter and help, arriving in Lviv 8 days later, a small group of four families (and a cat) amongst the hordes of traumatised, exhausted, dirty, hungry refugees:  People who one day were happily going about their daily lives, and the next had lost everything.  We laugh about it, but my brother escaped with his life, his laptop, what he stood up in and 3 pairs of spare underpants which he had stuffed in his pocket:  His luggage space was needed for the small children in the car.  He’s still in Lviv, helping with the aid effort.

He and his colleagues have set up their aid office in Lviv again, prioritising finding medicines and food for poorer families, the orphanages, and meeting children at the railway station, escorting them to the safety of other family members at the Polish border.  He’s not coming home – he’s got too much to do.

I continue to be utterly ashamed to be British: watching the Westminster government’s bureaucratic and disastrous cock-up of any humanitarian response.

On Monday the British Government started it’s Homes for Ukraine scheme and on Tuesday more than 90,000 people have signed up: a wonderful sign that people care.

We wait to be contacted, having been given an anonymous code to keep as evidence that we have offered hospitality, support and whatever kindness we can to help the traumatised dispossessed.

Germany got their act together more than a week ago (have a look: https://zugportal.de/collection-type/collection/5wSFw8k7QDWreSGoE4MLAz), providing clear and helpful information for evacuees, in 4 languages, on what to expect when they get there,  how to get help, food, and how they can travel – many with no money, etc.

So what of Shetland?  

  • We have made our town hall light up with Ukrainian colours.
  • We have sent a message of support and posted it on Twitter.
  • Local people have demonstrated and have been busy raising money, holding concerts, caring – in the wonderful way that Shetlanders do.

And the council?

Is there anything in place to help refugees who might come here?  I don’t know and I can’t find out.

Is there anything on the SIC website relating to Ukraine and its humanitarian crisis?  Not a thing.

  • a statement of support for refugees? No
  • has a small task-force been set up to coordinate help for any that refugees that might want to come?  I don’t know and I can’t find out.
  • Practical information for local families hoping to offer a home to a Ukrainian family? No
  • Will free transport be offered to refugees? No information

Does the council give a damn?  I honestly don’t know – words are cheap.  Deeds are not.

My question is simple: what are YOU, individually, and as our representatives doing to actively get your act together to coordinate help in this crisis?

There are a lot of people locally who would welcome some leadership on this – make PUBLIC if you have plans – as well as if you don’t (Now is the time for honesty)

PLEASE – step up to the plate,  show some leadership, make a public statement on your awful website welcoming people from Ukraine, and tell us all how we, as a community, can work together to help anyone who wishes to seek shelter and friendship in our beautiful islands.

Finally, when my brother describes grown men weeping at Lviv railway station as their wives and children leave their homeland, I know that we MUST all do something.

I weep for them too.

Dr Helen Erwood