Amid student fundraising efforts, former Finance Minister discusses Ukraine’s future

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Esma Okutan, Contributing Photographer

Although less than two years have passed since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the war between the two nations started almost 10 years ago, according to former Ukrainian finance minister Natalie Jaresko.

Jaresko visited the Jackson School of Global Affairs on Friday to give a speech about Ukraine’s economic recovery from the war. The talk took place in Horchow Hall and was organized by the Ukraine House at Yale.

“This is almost 600 days now since the full-scale invasion in February 2022,” Jaresko said during her speech. “But I think I need to underline, especially for those from eastern Ukraine, that the war has been going on since February of 2014.”

“Psychological trauma”: Jaresko discusses ongoing struggles in Ukraine

The event was the first event organized by the Ukraine House for the 2023-2024 school year and was a “great success,” according to Daria Valska ’26, who helped organize the event as president of the Ukraine House.

In the talk, Jaresko said that Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea marked the true beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, although many people think of Russia’s 2022 invasion as the start of the war because of the immense loss of human life and damage to Ukrainian property.

She said that after the start of the 2022 invasion, Russia’s military aggression has continued with thousands of missile and air attacks against Ukraine. 

The day before Jaresko’s speech, a Russian airstrike killed 51 people at a funeral in Ukraine. 

“It is a psychological trauma,” she said. “It is a country facing genocide and a constant war with no real end. None of us can predict when it will end. It is a challenge beyond challenges.”

She explained that the country has also suffered great economic losses. Since 2022, Ukraine has seen a 30-percent reduction in its gross domestic product. 

Explaining these economic losses, Jaresko referred to a March 2023 World Bank report, which estimated the economic cost of reconstruction in Ukraine at $411 billion. However, she said that the number is probably much higher now.

“The mental health and psychology of the nation has been affected by this absolute constant stress, loss of family, loss of friends, having to leave their homes with a plastic bag of goods, being separated from their family across borders,” she said.

During the talk, she said that millions of Ukrainians are fleeing the country due to the stresses of war.

Ukraine House’s fundraising efforts

Valska said that the student organization is leading a fundraising campaign to support air defense systems against Russian airstrikes.

This week, Valska said, they have been fundraising on social media and on campus for an organization called Come Back Alive, which has been on the ground in Ukraine since 2014 supporting the military and working to protect civilian life. 

Yurii Stasiuk ’26, the Ukraine House vice president responsible for fundraising and a staff reporter at the News, added that the money collected from the fundraiser will be used to support high-tech, specialized communication equipment that will allow Ukrainian air defense units to exchange information faster. 

He explained that the speed of information exchange is critical to Ukraine’s defense, as Russia’s rockets and drones can take less than five minutes to strike. 

“Air defense is extremely important because [it] helps most of the country maintain some normal life, have a normal economy, and have children go into schools,” Stasiuk told the News. “We have received a lot of air defense systems from the United States and other Western allies, which is great, but there’s always more we can do.”

Oleksa Martiniouk ’19, a project lead at the nonprofit organization Razom for Ukraine, also attended Jaresko’s speech. When he was an undergraduate at Yale, he founded the Ukrainian student organization that was the predecessor of the Ukraine House.

He told the News that it was “incredible” to see the organization “revived with such force” in its planning of the event and in its fundraising. He also said that he appreciated Jaresko’s talk for raising awareness about the conflict in Ukraine.

According to Daria Figlus ’26, Jaresko’s daughter and co-director of events for the Ukraine House, the student organization has worked with Jackson on similar events in the past, and this talk was advertised through the Yale College Council and other student groups on campus.

During the event, Jaresko said that despite the situation in Ukraine, the country’s future is bright, with hope of economic stability and growth. Supported by international efforts — like the Ukraine Houses’s fundraising — the country, she said, is in a position to begin recovery procedures even during the conflict. 

According to Jaresko, such reconstruction efforts can be divided into three elements: urgent recovery efforts, subsidies provided for the costs of the conflict and economic sustainability efforts. She said that urgent recovery efforts include investing in infrastructure to winterize Ukraine, as Russia has previously attacked electricity and heating infrastructure during the winter months. 

In addition to subsidies to cover urgent and non-urgent costs of the conflict, Jaresko pointed out that economic sustainability is a significant aspect of Ukraine’s recovery efforts.

Instead of rebuilding old Soviet infrastructure, she said that Ukraine has a new vision for its future – one that is modern, green, democratic, inclusive and economically integrated into the European Union.

She said that such reconstruction efforts are “decentralized” and “open.” For example, Ukraine has developed a “project marketplace” called Dream that allows anyone with ideas for Ukraine’s reconstruction to upload their projects so that donors, non-governmental organizations and commercial entities can select projects to support.

Jaresko also emphasized the accelerated digitalization of the country amid the war and how it is an important step into Ukraine’s technological future.

“They haven’t fought this war in order to go back to what was,” Jaresko said. “They’ve done this for a society that they want to build better, not just architecturally better, not just climate-wise better, not just pollution-wise, better, but from a democracy standpoint, from a rule of law standpoint, from an opportunity for young people, and for everyone, standpoint.”

Ukraine is the second-largest European country by land area, after Russia.


ESMA OKUTAN


Esma Okutan is the graduate schools reporter for the News. Originally from Istanbul, Turkey, she is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards studying economics.

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