As Ukraine this year commemorates the somber ten-year anniversary of the start of the war on its territory, the impact of the conflict remains undeniably deeply ingrained in the fabric and soul of the country. With more than 170,000 buildings already damaged or destroyed after 21 months of warfare, the need for large-scale reconstruction is more urgent than ever. That is why Pakhuis de Zwijger will initiate a dialogue between Dutch and Ukrainian guests on February 19, aimed at exploring the path to reconstruction and improvement of living conditions in Ukraine.

There are different perspectives on the reconstruction of Ukraine. According to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and committee chairman Ursula von der Leyen, the strategy for rebuilding Ukraine will be in line with the Marshall Plan, which was used to rebuild Europe after World War II. On the other hand, economics professor Sweder van Wijnbergen from the University of Amsterdam argues that a better and more recent comparison is the reconstruction of Bosnia after the Yugoslav wars. He further emphasises that to rebuild a country you need to know what is broken, and that you can only take stock when the war is as good as over.

In any case, the reconstruction of Ukraine requires a multi-layered approach, involving both a short-term and a long-term vision. Furthermore, infrastructural problems, such as water problems, already existed in various cities in Ukraine before the war. At the end of November 2023, representatives of the Ukrainian cities of Mariupol, Odesa and Mykolaiv paid a working visit to Rotterdam. Given Rotterdam’s experience in reconstruction and the leading Dutch expertise in the field of water management, Ukrainian reconstruction opens the door to not only restoring, but also substantially improving the existing infrastructure, making it more resilient to future challenges and more sustainable than formerly.

Another crucial factor in Ukraine’s reconstruction is cooperation between international partners, local stakeholders and non-profit organisations. For example, the Hope4Ukriane foundation is committed to the reconstruction of destroyed houses through collection campaigns, transports and volunteers. But international aid and investment will also be vital to bear the enormous financial burden associated with the reconstruction, which the World Bank estimates at around €350 billion.

However, the reconstruction of Ukraine is not limited to physical construction. It also involves healing the social fabrics torn by war. Empatia, partly set up by Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland, offers the necessary psychological help. By deploying Ukrainian psychologists in the Netherlands, Ukrainian refugees feel better understood and supported, as these professionals not only speak the language, but are also familiar with the cultural context and the specific traumas that the conflict entails. This promotes a sense of community and understanding for the Ukrainian people in the Netherlands, and provides a solid foundation for the emotional recovery that is essential for the overall reconstruction of the country.

How to take the first steps towards the complex reconstruction of Ukraine will be discussed on Monday, February 19th in Pakhuis de Zwijger. During a meeting where Dutch and Ukrainian guests enter into dialogue about how Ukraine can be rebuilt. Register here for free and make your own contribution to this important discussion!