The Trostianets Urban Amalgamated Hromada in Slobozhanshchyna was created in 2017. Availability of robust financial base provided Trostianets with powerful resources for strategic development after Hromada unifying. The Hromada implements quality projects that go beyond its territory. The Hromada took over the regional hospital and conducts major renovation of in-patient department; the Hromada organizes music festivals and historic reconstructions hosting tourists from all over Ukraine. A biathlon training facility for international competitions is on the waiting list for reconstruction.
The Trostianets Urban Amalgamated Hromada consists of the town Trostianets and four villages. The population of the Hromada is almost 22 thousand people. The budget quadrupled in two years to the amount of 200 million UAH. Budget share on development is also increasing and is used by the Hromada on parks, hospitals, schools, and sports facilities. The head of the Hromada Yurii Bova says that according to the long-term plan another 11 village councils are planning to join the Hromada.
— It’s a fair chance of success for small villages to join rayon (region) centers and to solve issues jointly. We have repaired roads in the village Kamyanka, purchased buses and launched the transport connection. This year we got state funds to repair roads in other villages. The municipal enterprise collects garbage, we conduct repair works of the community center, library and playground. We also layout a park just like the one in Trostianets because people say: We want a park just like yours since we are one Hromada now.
Trostianets proceeds working within the strategy framework created back in 2007. This year they plan to approve a development strategy for the Amalgamated Hromada that will define the direction of development for the villages of the Hromada:
— The following city priorities remain unchanged: workplaces, infrastructure development and tourism. In Hromada development strategy we put on our radar benefits of the rural areas and focus our attention on their strong sides, development of their historic or architectural landmarks, preferable enterprises and creation of workplaces.
In fall 2018 a project “Trostianets Urban Hromada ID” got implemented. It enables welfare beneficiaries to travel free on public transport. The buses got equipped with scanners for this type of cards. The cardholders can get services out of turn in the local library and get discounts in one of the town pharmacy chains. One of the objectives of ID cards implementation is accountability and optimization of budget funds expenses allocated for social programs.
The community services can learn promptly about breakdowns in the town and are able to respond to them as soon as possible due to a platform ”Open City. With its help the inhabitants can pin a spot on the map where a problem has occurred (a light bulb burned out, a fallen tree, an open manhole, etc.), and the city crew would have to fix it within three days. The head of the Hromada Yurii Bova says that one can track the status of any issue online in real-time:
Throughout 2018 we had about 300 tickets. For instance, we have someone who created about 20-30 tickets for one year. This person walks the streets of the town and pays attention to details like a lopsided curbstone and creates a ticket. It gives them a sense of done duty. Some people would walk past such issues and will not pinpoint them on the map. It depends on people’s background and understanding that this town is your home.
The system “Open City” is a platform created for the whole of Ukraine. The Hromada pays 35 thousand UAH annually to the Association of open cities that provides support to numerous electronic services. The head of the Hromada Yurii Bova says that apart from this platform, the Hromada offers other digital services: live streaming of the city council sessions, electronic data processing, etc.
Over 10 years the Trostianets community has been working on modernizing city infrastructure and introducing energy-efficient technologies. All apartment houses switched to individual heating facilities by 2008. All roofing panels were fixed. The stairway utility connections got repaired and equipped with smart lighting systems with motion sensors. The street lighting systems use more efficient sodium-vapour lamps. All water intake structures got equipped with pumps and automatic systems of water supply. Today water from a well gets directly into the system bypassing water towers that are usually heavily littered.
Most of the town yards don’t have garbage containers. The dump trucks arrive on schedule and the residents take the garbage out. They have decided that this system is going to be more effective. According to Yurii Bova, 98% of residents have signed contracts for garbage disposal. Later on, the Hromada organised similar services for rural areas as well.
“Comfortable Yard” is another program on outdoor space beautification that gets implemented in Trostianets. In 2018 a yard on Tatarenko street got accommodated and the Hromada plans to beautify a couple of yards each year. The renovated yard has clear zoning: car parking, recreation area and playground:
— For safety reasons, we have separated transport area from the pedestrian area. The entrance to the yard is under camera surveillance. Earlier we had 3-4 burglaries a year, after camera instalment the burglaries stopped. The architects work on a zoning plan, taking into account the ratio of the number of residents to parking spots and recreation space.
Yurii Bova has been the head of Trostianets since 2005. He believes that every inhabitant of the Hromada has to learn to be respectful to the environment of their residence and take responsibility for its development. Nowadays each community competes for investments, workplaces and professionals:
To my mind, Ukraine consists of small towns like this one. A tidy country starts with tidy stairway cases and yards. If we learn not to litter, be polite, pay taxes and demand the authorities to be accountable for taxes expenditures, believe me, Ukraine will turn into a different environment.
The Hromada has an office of economic programs working on grant projects. For the time of its operation, it has received funding for over 20 projects: an inclusive playground, renovation of historic landmarks, creation of the educational center, etc. As stated by Yurii Bova, the Hromada constantly seeks for new solutions and ideas:
If to start off well now, the breakthrough will be visible even a dozen years afterwards. If one is asleep on the switch and misses the opportunity, believe me, they will get stuck in the past for good. I think we have incredible potential. We have talented people. It seems to me that people lack only confidence and faith that we are capable of changes. We can create good quality yard areas and hospitals. We initiated the necessary processes. I believe that the biggest success of Ukraine is the engagement with the next generation. They will differ in a good way if we invest resources in them.
During his leisure time, Yurii Bova travels to other countries learning their beautification experience. He brings the ideas from his trips that he gradually implements in Trostianets:
— In 2017 I was given a tour to hospitals in Poland. I saw a doctor entering the surgical department and not touching a single door handle, everything opens automatically, every single detail is well thought through. I was impressed. I have also noticed a very high-quality level of career and technical education. They understood that you wouldn’t be able to teach a good fabricator or welder if they don’t have enough practice. They disassemble an electric car to the last screw and then put it back together. They have up-to-date testing units, equipment and modern approaches. We carefully examined, took photos and notes of what we saw. Now we work on the concept of trade school system development, the ways to make the classes competitive and the future graduates to have an on-fire speciality in 2-3 years.
In 1974 a chocolate factory “Ukraine” began operating. In 1994 the enterprise became part of the international corporation Kraft Foods (since 2012 the company is part of Mondelēz International). The factory fulfils the full processing cycle of cocoa beans. Besides, since 2005 a coffee packaging facility operates here and since 2011 a cookies production facility as well. The factory employs over 1000 people:
— In the beginning, the factory occupied only 3 hectares. We have persuaded the investors that we could provide 30 hectares, very attractive tax conditions and ultimate cooperation in the solution of any issues. We granted that attaining permits and all paper related procedures would take three days and not a month. We brought here a branch of customs so that all export goods were arranged here. The enterprise got regular investments and over the years the amount of investments equals 200 million USD. The war has somewhat influenced the processes. It is the furthest east factory of the corporation that used to sell a lot of goods to the Russian market. Nowadays, the priorities have changed and we managed to surpass the volume of production from before the war.
The head of the Hromada tells us that the factory has a good level of salaries and social security. People from other towns come to work at the factory. To attract an employer and investor like this, the Hromada has to be transparent and interested in the partnership:
— You have to understand that any business comes to a community to make money and not to be a sponsor. It is constant cooperation and monitoring of investors’ needs. Where do you think we patch the roads first of all after winter? Here, not in the center. Because this is our taxpayer, one of our providers. We took a dormitory from the factory because it was a financial burden for them. Now it is our hotel. If a business would like to do something for the city, they would come and let us know. You can’t demand anything from the investor. On top of that, the representatives of the factory and other enterprises are on the board in the city council. They can have a clear vision of where the city is heading.
At the beginning of 2018, Trostianetska Hromada took over the rayon (district) hospital, that services 40 thousand patients, in addition to other primary care facilities. In half a year the medical ward went through capital repair, right now the department of obstetrics and gynaecology is going through a renovation process. By 2022 the Hromada plans to finish repair works at in-patient department:
— The medical ward was completely stripped off and newly re-equipped. Everything is new: furniture and equipment. The whole floor has WI-FI. The nurse’s area has video surveillance so that she could see what’s going on in the corridor. There are call bells next to all beds. The beds can be adjusted to any needs. Each hospital ward is equipped with a TV, fridge, sink, lavatory and shower. All rooms are standard and there are no VIP ones. We spent about 2 million UAH on repair works in the medical ward and about 1 million on equipment. The funds were exclusively coming from the Hromada budget. But for decentralization, we wouldn’t have been able to implement such a project.
The Hromada has repaired the X-ray unit, and together with the regional administration, we purchased a new x-ray machine. Before, the hospital used a machine from 1976. Due to charitable contributions, we also purchased a new biochemical blood analyzer for 800 thousand UAH.
— The patient has to cover only the price of the film for the x-ray machine (30 UAH), or the price of the diagnostic reagents (up to 2 UAH). The analyzer operates very quickly automatically and requires a very little blood sample. People from other towns and villages are coming to get these services.
The Trostianets Hromada is planning on thermal modernisation of the five-storeyed medical ward to provide people with comfortable conditions and to save on energy consumption. As stated by Yurii Bova, the Hromada has defined the hospital renovation as the priority in the Hromada development plan:
— We consider the hospital to be a selling point of our Hromada. When there is no hospital, the inhabitants have to go to another town and that causes inconveniences. That’s why we will strive for our hospital to be the best in the region equipment-wise, quality-wise and cost-wise. We are working on providing up-to-date diagnostic assessment and provision of services. The more patients attend the hospital, the higher would be the personnel salary, and it would be rewarding for the medical staff to stay here and provide services.
A big portion of the budget is spent on education. Apart from financing schools and kindergartens, the Hromada sponsors classrooms repairs, new equipment and software:
— The schools that joined the Hromada, were not working on power efficiency and didn’t have multimedia equipment, etc. We had to put money into a lot of renovation works and other necessary things. During 2018 we repaired 13 classrooms mostly due to Hromada funding. We decided to create an equally comfortable environment in all schools: a game area, collaborative student desks, multimedia projectors and boards. Every teacher is provided with a laptop in every classroom, it’s a must.
The head of Trostianets Amalgamated Hromada Yurii Bova says that they manage frugally use government grant for education and to save some money for developmental projects. Software MozaBook that enables demonstration of a very complicated phenomenon and mechanisms in 3D or video format was purchased for teaching sciences. The Hromada implements the usage of digital school diary so that parents could learn about their children’s progress in real-time.
— Step by step the chalkboards have to be gone. I attended school in the morning, they didn’t use it even once. The lamps have to be LED, we replaced the filament ones. We changed the heating elements used at school canteen to heat food quicker and save energy. The boiler facilities that provide heating to schools, are mostly transferred to solid fuel.
In 2018 a renovated public library opened on Trostianets Town Day. The chief librarian Liudmyla Yefremova tells us that the library implemented an e-catalogue and library e-card.
Cloud technologies have reached out province library at last. After modernization, the attendance increased exponentially. It is the younger generation who come to the library because we have a great environment for work, leisure and communication. We have transformed from a book depository into a modern cultural information center.
Apart from a reading hall, the library will get a coworking center, communication areas, multimedia hall-transformer for events, and children’s area. The head of Trostianets Hromada Yurii Bova tells us about the concept of social cafe that is going to work in the library.
— Coffee and tea in the social cafe will have a flat price without any mark-ups. We also want to experiment with optional pay. The kind donations will be used to buy tea, coffee and other things. However, the main goal will be not a profit. Any child will be able to buy a beverage for one UAH, sit at the table, talk to friends and read a book. Not all children have pocket-money, but they all need to socialize. That is our reasoning behind trying to engage children into environments like this. When the state claims that culture centers and clubs have to be united with libraries, we interpret this idea the way we transformed our library.
In summer 2018 an inclusive resource center for children with special needs opened in Trostianets. The specialists of the center provide psychological and pedagogical support as well as encourage their social adjustment.
The Trostianets centerpiece of tourist landmarks is the Golitsyn Palace built in the 17th century. Today the culture complex includes local history museum, art gallery and museum of chocolate. One of the halls is accommodates classical music concerts.
— Various events take place in the palace, but mainly concerts. The acoustics is great here. The confectionery factory presented us with a German brand grand piano Bechstein. Due to the gift, we can invite interesting and outstanding performers from all over the world. From November till April we regularly host concerts in this hall and during warm months we organize open-air festivals. When we just began organizing concerts we had concerns that nobody would attend them. As occurred the hall is packed with audience. People come from Sumy, Okhtyrka, to attend our concerts. We have a very intimate atmosphere.
Annually Trostianets hosts plein airs for painters that donate their works to the city. The paintings are exhibited in the gallery in the Golitsyn Palace.
— We have hosted already 10 plein aires. Each painter presents to the city two paintings. The painters from all over Ukraine as well as from Poland and Russia come here. They are professional artists demonstrating speed painting technique. They are brought to a spot and they have to finish their work in half-day while the sun hasn’t turned to the west. We have more than 100 paintings with local landscapes. The works are not for sale. We change the display in the Palace regularly.
Back in the day, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, famous composer, visited the mansion. He created an overture to the symphonic poem The Storm here. Nowadays, there is a memorial room dedicated to the composer. Another memorial room is dedicated to the sugar manufacturer Leopold Koenig, the last owner of the estate who turned the town in an industrial empire.
— The memorial room display shows the 25 years of Leopold Koenig’s work on the transformation of a small village in a big industrial town. His companies exported many goods. He was a great figure. Interestingly he invested money beyond production, financing hospitals, schools, libraries as well as developing the community. Children come to field trips here and the historians tell them about both his creative career and the way to organize industrial clusters in small communities.
The museum of chocolate appeared in the complex in 2012. The museum exhibits showpieces narrating about the history of chocolate and the process of its production. The idea to create the museum belongs to the city council and the confectionary factory provided samples of their goods for the project and some out of use equipment.
— We have a great partnership with the factory. Since there are no tours for tourists at the factory, it made sense to organize something for tourists in another place. We use the brand of our factory and, at the same time, we promote it. There are rooms devoted to different kinds of chocolate and coffee.
Another architectural landmark of Trostianets is Round Yard built in the 18th century. Both the manège and the mansion were repaired in 2007. Round Yard hosts mass events like music festival “Skhid-Rok” (East-Rock), the Tchaikovsky Festival and the historical festival “Old Fortress”.
— It is a unique building structure with a circus manège in its center in Eastern Europe. It is an architectural landmark of national importance. We put all our efforts into its preservation. We received funds from the European Union in its restoration and at this point, we work on the blueprints. This building is on our coat of arms and we believe that it has to be filled with life. Due to acoustics, it has a unique atmosphere. The sound surrounds you. The musicians gladly come to perform here.
Trostianets park named after Tchaikovsky is transforming into the leisure center for the city inhabitants. The park has three functional zones: recreational, sports and zone for children. The leisure area has arbours, the children’s area has an inclusive playground, the sports area has a soccer field, tennis court, basketball and volleyball courts and outdoor fitness equipment.
The sports grounds are accessible at any time. There is video surveillance in the park. You can fish in the pond. We add fish regularly because they eat out water weeds. The park has changed a lot over the last 3-4 years. Earlier we could only plant flowers, clean up and put litter bins. Due to decentralization, we have more funds and finally, we can improve our park. Gradually it turns into a real European place.
Trostianets Hromada strives to transform the town stadium named after Volodymyr Kuts into a modern sports complex. In spring 2019 as part of the reconstruction project, a new soccer field with artificial turf opened next to it.
— We built the field in a month and a half on funds from both the Ministry of Regional Development and the Hromada. But for decentralization, we couldn’t have done it. You should have seen the faces of the children when they had their first training here, their excitement. They get inspired because they train in a good quality environment.
Having received more funds, Trostianets Hromada decided to focus on strategic directions of town development, specifically, to restore the biathlon base. It was located in the arboretum park Neskuchne during the Soviet times. After the Soviet Union collapsed the base was torn down. The Hromada inhabitants have cleared up the area and the youth biathlon competitions take place here:
— Why was Trostianets picked for this base? There is suitable terrain with elevation changes that meet the standards of the biathlon championships. We had a survey about whether we should restore the base because it presupposes serious resources. The majority of the population was positive because they remember the base. Hundreds of people used to work there and it hosted thousands of tourists. We have begun work on project design documents, and have consultations with the Biathlon Union of Ukraine, the Ministry of Youth and sports, and Czech experts that built the biathlon stadium in Nové Město na Moravě. We don’t want to build an 80s-style base, we want a base that in 2035 will be one of the best in the world. We are currently working on this task.The material was created with the support of the Program “Ukraine – Local Empowerment, Accountability and Development” (U-LEAD with Europe) that is financed by European Union and its members: Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Poland and Sweden.