As delivered to Community’s Biennial Delegate Conference in Belfast on May 31st 2022.
Conference, Melynda Standring, speaking on the NEC’s backing of the emergency motion on Ukraine.
We will all, by now, be all too familiar with the grim scenes from the cities, towns, villages and countryside of Ukraine. Previously thriving places where ordinary people lived their everyday lives, now reduced to rubble and turned into battlegrounds.
The children of Ukraine have had their future snatched away from them. One autocrat with no personal integrity has the power to do this, his inability to follow either international law or basic human decency has caused almost seventeen million people out of thirty-nine and a half million to flee their homes, almost seven million have left their homeland, it is likely the other ten million are sleeping on the floor in basements and in other people’s homes in fear of their lives. This is the biggest refugee crisis to hit mainland Europe since the late 1930s.
Conference, this staggering figure, translated into this room, means that almost all of you here would have said goodbye to your relatives, your friends, your colleagues and your neighbours. Almost half of you will not go home tonight, or tomorrow, we do not know how many will never make it home.
If you back this motion we will, as your National Executive, express to Government, in the strongest terms imaginable our opposition to Russia’s war of aggression, and our total solidarity and sympathy with the Ukrainian people.
But we cannot just condemn Putin whilst turning a blind eye to the fallout from his actions.
Conference, we must all do our bit to support the Ukrainian people, both the ones who have left and those who have stayed. What we require is not heroics, but every single one of us stepping up and doing our bit.
On 12th March this year, after a family conversation, we decided that we might be able to offer refuge to a small family from the Ukraine. After a few further lucky conversations with a colleague of a former colleague of my husband’s, and some bureaucracy, on 15th May we welcomed Grandma Tanya, Mother Natasha and Sasha who celebrated his 9th Birthday on day four of safety. The picture you can see is day eleven, a freedom all children should have, the freedom to laugh and run and fly a kite.
It’s an emotional journey, the heartbreak of seeing, every day, the impact this war is having on them. I urge you, please do whatever you can do to help. I am well aware that not everyone can offer accommodation but if everyone does one small thing it will add up to a lot.
I am also pleased that the our union, Community, has been able to make a financial donation to support our trade union sisters and brothers in Ukraine.
We must also all stand together and do our bit to help end this war and support the Ukrainian people who just want to live freely and safely in their own country.
We must open our arms and offer the fullest support to those seeking refuge here fleeing from war. We must also align with other organisations supporting Ukrainian refugees, giving them assistance where needed. (For this reason, there will be the opportunity during Conference to donate, there will also be practical things you can do in your own community.)
As a country, we must also secure a promise from our Government and subsequent Governments to ‘ring fence’ increased funding to our nurseries, schools, colleges and universities, for however long it takes, to support the speedy integration of refugees into our education system. No Ukrainian child or teenager should lose their chance to reach their full potential and also to be part of the solution to ensure this never happens again.
Conference, in supporting this motion, we send our solidarity, our sympathy and our support to the people of Ukraine.
Ukraine, Community is with you. Thank you Conference.