The News Agency of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness

Update on the Ukrainian Refugee Crisis

By: for ISKCON News on Sept. 4, 2014

Thermal insulation being unloaded in preparation for building insulation in ISKCON's Magdalinivka refugee center

On August 29th, SKCON News has received the following update from ISKCON Governing Commissioner Niranjana Swami about the situation of the devotee refugees in Ukraine: 

"We have good news and bad news from Ukraine.The good news is that practically all devotees from the Lugansk region have been safely accommodated elsewhere. Devotees are still fleeing the Donetsk region. Just yesterday, August 28th, eight more devotees from Donetsk, including three children, were assisted into safer accommodations. Unfortunately there will likely be more in the very near future leaving Donetsk.

To date, with the help of the funds raised from our Refugee Fund campaign, more than two hundred devotees have been provided relocation assistance, emergency maintenance, and accommodations out of the areas of conflict.

In addition, our Magdalinivka Retreat Center has been upgraded for winter use and is accommodating approximately thirty-five refugees, most of whom are women and children. These women and children have no means of support other than the Refugee Fund and are therefore being maintained indefinitely, mostlikely through the winter and possibly even beyond.

We had previously indicated that we are in the middle of negotiations for a 15 hectare retreat center outside of Kiev, which when renovated, one building could accommodate a minimum of fifty more refugees. The reason for this acquisition is that many refugees are currently being accommodated in facilities which will be inadequate once the colder weather sets in (in Ukraine, that is early October). We've been told that some families are currently living in tents in Crimea. Moreover, many devotees need to find a means of e mployment. The retreat center is close enough to Kiev and also to a devotee business to provide potential employment. 

We expect to finalize negotiations on the retreat center by early next week, September 1st or 2nd. In the event the documents are not fully in order for the acquisition of the retreat center, given the immediate need to prepare a facility for winter, we have an alternate plan to build a building from wood on a much smaller plot of land just next to the retreat center. This building would also be able to accommodate a minimum of fifty refugees. The wood would be provided at minimal cost by a local sawmill owned and managed by a local devotee.

The cost for both options are almost the same, except the retreat center would obviously provide us with a much greater facility for expansion. We therefore hope that, by Krsna's grace, the acquisition of the retreat center can be quickly realized. With the weather expected to change soon, we are running out of time.

Professional calculations for both options have already been made. Either way, we must either begin renovation on the retreat center, or construction on the smaller plot of land, by the end of next week in order to have a building ready by October 7th, which is the deadline we have currently fixed for relocating refugees. Currently the refugee fund is approximately $20,000 short for either option. With more devotees still fleeing daily, that figure is likely to signficantly increase.

Meanwhile, the bad news is that as of today, August 29, 2014, it appears that the conflict could very soon be moving into Mariupol, a seaport of 500,000 and home to a very large devotee community. We must be prepared to assist these devotees should the battlegrounds extend into Mariupol and therefore different options for them are already being considered.

We again extend our heartfelt gratitude to the many devotees from all over the world who have responded to our appeal. Without your help, we would have had very little positive news to report here for you.

For those of you who wish to help us realize our goals for those already displaced and for those who may very well be displaced in the very near future, we beg you to please continue to support us by going to the following website:"

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