Update from Busha Toloka

Work is under way on the Green Refuge project – an ambitious bioconstruction initiative in Busha ecovillage which aims to provide warm winter shelter to refugees. In this report, board member and ecovillager Steffen Emrich brings an update from the ground in Ukraine.

GEN EU and GEN Ukraine representatives meet to discuss the project

At this summer’s European Ecovillage Gathering in Denmark, a fundraising project was started for a community strawbale building in the ecovillage of Busha, Vinnytsia Region, Ukraine. The goal was initially to complete the build between August and November to host the current refugees in an ecovillage along the Green Road. This project was named Busha Toloka – in Ukrainian, Toloka means “helping each other to create something together”. In mid-August, four members of GEN Europe – Monique Wijn from GEN-NL; Michael Ruh from Schloss Glarisseg, Steffen Emrich from the GEN Europe board and gASTWERK, and Anne Schwab from GEN Research and Villa Locomuna – decided spontaneously to travel to Ukraine to meet with the GEN Ukraine team in order to see the location and estimate the possibility and progress of this project: building a refugee shelter until the end of the year, which can later be used as a community centre. In Busha, Svetoryara guided us around and Valera, Maksim and Tanja from GEN Ukraine accompanied us on the trip.

It was a very moving trip: the group could see with their own eyes what GEN Ukraine has achieved in the last months on the Green Road Project, especially since there was also the opportunity to visit another community, Zeleni Kruchi, and Anastasyia from GEN Ukraine. It was good to talk on both sites with refugee families, what they went through and what they did the last six months in order to move on with their lives, and what made them help other people that had to leave their homes in centers of military action. It was great to visit Keleni Kruchi’s showcase permaculture garden and to see one of the many greenhouses purchased with donations collected by GEN Europe.

However, the main destination of the trip was Bucha, near the Moldavian border where the group started and ended their trip. Here, more than 200 refugees have been accommodated in recent months, and in many cases, GEN Ukraine was able to help with finding short-term accommodation, but also with initial equipment (e.g. refrigerators, building materials, etc.). A great deal is also done here for children and young people who have been completely torn from their usual contexts and for whom the Busha team offers regular care. We had the chance to speak to many people in the community who have benefited from the work of GEN as well as with the local administration who was supporting and welcoming our (GEN Europe/GEN Ukraine) work.
In the meantime, an NGO has been founded in Busha, which has already been able to buy the land where the building is to be constructed. A provisional building permit is also available, but time was too short to begin main construction before winter and therefore it was decided to collect money for a provisional building structure (insulated geodesic dome/or a yurt) and to use the rest of the donations for direct humanitarian aid such as necessary stoves, money for food, electricity, and so on.

In the long term, this project aims to collect roughly 300.000 €  in order to start a GEN pilot project here: a community house that can be used for refugees as long as needed, but one that also supports the community process in general. This project can be a sign of cooperation and co-creation, especially in a time of destruction. Above all, it is a sign of hope for the people living and fleeing there.

With all your help and jointly financed by GEN Members and friends we hope we can realize this ambitious building next year, which then can be used beyond Busha as a community and seminar house and sets a sign for international solidarity and peaceful coexistence.

To donate to the Busha Toloka project: direct bank transfers are preferable as they avoid the high fees of third party providers.

  • Account holder: GEN-Europe e.V
  • IBAN: DE11 1001 0010 0007 6811 05
  • Postbank Berlin
  • Please refer to: Donation- Busha Toloka

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