Ukraine: consul Milan, ‘the year that divided the world in two’

the aid sent home, the 170,000 refugees who arrived in Italy and the diplomatic balance to maintain: 12 months of war told by the diplomat Andrii Kartysh

Ukrainians who wanted to return to their homeland to fight, a “frightening” number of refugees to be welcomed in Italy, especially in the North, in a constant diplomatic effort to ensure that the government, first Draghi and then Meloni, maintained a clear position of support for theUkrainedespite the stomachaches in the two majorities that followed one another and a public opinion that over time has “tired” of the conflict: Andrii Kartysh, console general ofUkraine in Milan, he tells Adnkronos this year of war, lived at the head of a diplomatic representation which before the conflict was “a fixed point of reference for at least 130,000 Ukrainian citizens in possession of a regular residence permit”. A number “grown disproportionately, after the start of the large-scale invasion of our country by the Russia“.

Thinking back to 12 months ago, when the world awoke to images of tanks marching on Kyiv, despite the signs of an escalation there were, “I was appalled by the absurdity of this gesture”. It is true that “we have all witnessed the gestation process of this monster. And like everyone, we hoped that common sense could prevail”, but “on February 24, 2022 the Russia unilaterally decided it was time to end the most peaceful era in the history of the European continent; decided to open the biggest front in Europe after the end of the Second World War”.

At the Milanese consulate there was no time to lose heart. On the morning of February 24th 2022 the phone kept ringing: the callers were Ukrainian citizens residing in Italy, asking for information on how to return home to fight. And a few days later the reception front of the children opened up refugees: “about 170,000 Ukrainian citizens who, fleeing the war, have arrived in Italy, according to data from the Un Refugee Agency. Most of them have found accommodation in Northern Italy”, reports Kartysh, calling them “figures which, we are aware, they can look frightening”. For this “we are deeply grateful to the Italian authorities who have taken charge of welcoming our fellow citizens”.

At the Consulate General ofUkraine in Milan, after that February 24th, “we completely reformed our internal structure, reassigning roles within our team; we radically transformed our way of working with the public, opting for the ‘no prior appointment, until ‘last visitor’; we have created a kind of first call center and first hub for the collection of humanitarian aid, at the same time coordinating the actions of the volunteers and of the very numerous officially registered Ukrainian associations who immediately took action to provide maximum help, both in Ukraineboth here, in Northern Italy”, says the consul, admitting that it was a “very difficult commitment, both from a physical point of view and from a psychological point of view, considering the fact that we are human and each of us is at the same time also concerned for one’s loved ones and friends”. And this is why “looking back on this year, I feel it is right to mention with admiration the fortitude, the cold mind of my collaborators, officials of the general consulate of Ukraine in Milan “.

A year ago, shocked by the atrocity of the images that came fromUkraine, the Italians launched into a solidarity contest: the consulate was contacted by those who wanted to send humanitarian aid to the country at war, by those who asked to be able to enlist in the Foreign Legion and by those who offered their homes to arriving refugees. “Seeing you, Italians, who did not hesitate to intervene and lend a hand, gives hope and rejoices the heart. For every small action in support of our country, an immense ‘thank you'”, the consul told Adnkronos, observing: “It seems that the February 24th has created a gap between two worlds: the slave world, of brute force, of violence, of terrorism; and the free one, in which reason, conscience and solidarity prevail. It is evident that you wholeheartedly hope that the latter can prevail. I’m not saying this just because I’m Ukrainian; I say this because I sincerely believe that only by standing in solidarity will we be able to tackle those global challenges that deserve our immediate and joint intervention: natural disasters, ecological collapse, food crises, pandemics, incurable diseases”.

Over the months, the initial and spontaneous solidarity shown by the Italians has been decreasing, like the interest in what was happening in the country in war. “I look with understanding at the general sense of weariness associated with the subject of the war againstUkraine. I certainly don’t blame anyone. We too are tired. I dare not imagine what our soldiers, our valiant defenders are feeling”, says Kartysh, addressing only “one kind request” to the Italians: namely that of “not to ask how long this war will last; but rather to ask how to help theUkraine to bring the term of this nonsense closer war wanted by Russia“.

And to the pacifists who demand that Italy stop sending weapons to Kyiv, the console responds, repeatedly reiterating that “peace is the result of a constant effort aimed at protecting universal norms and values ​​and at cooperating with other nations that have the same priorities. That peace can be guaranteed by satisfying the appetite of warmongering regimes is a nonsense. Russia has militarily invaded an independent state, continues to terrorize the civilian population of that state and to commit war crimes that should never happen again on our continent. Russia must be stopped”. Not only with weapons: “Peace – explains Kartysh – can be guaranteed by the creation of a special tribunal that demonstrates the value of international law and restores justice for theUkraineEurope and for the whole world”.

Beyond the critical voices on support for Ukraine, “I want to believe – and the position expressed by the Italian delegation in Kyiv is reassuring in this sense – that the majority of Italians are against war and are ready to work for peace” , says the consul.

The diplomat is not too worried either by the declarations of the president of Forza Italia: “The personal relationship between the autocrat Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi it is far from secret; as the president rightly said Volodymyr Zelensky, Silvio Berlusconi’s house has never been bombed. As outrageous as certain allegations may be, what matters is how much they reflect public opinion and the official position of the government”, observes Kartysh, underlining that “the signals we have received so far are linear and decisive. The visit to Kyiv a few days ago by the President of the Council of Ministers, Giorgia Meloniis proof of the fact that Italy has chosen to side with the free world”.

And finally by the consul general ofUkraine in Milan an appeal comes to the Italian citizens who every day come across refugees who have fled the war: “They may seem shy, reserved to you; at times, on the contrary, too emotional and irascible. It might take someone a little longer to learn your language and your customs. We ask you to be patient with us. When we can communicate more freely, we hope to meet curious and humble minds, to whom we will be happy to tell our troubled story. We hope you can feel our gratitude for every small gesture of help us”. (by Alice Bellincioni)