Over a Barrel

After living in Kyiv for over a month, I no longer take a few things for granted: sunlight on a regular basis; consistent water pressure and enough hot water to take a shower whenever I want, however many times a day I want; heat I can control.

In Ukraine, someone else controls your heat. In part that means they set the thermostat and control how much gas gets to your property. In part that means they force places like The Ark to install washers on the pipes to further reduce the flow of gas…which means even less heat (did I mention the temperature was 16F today?). They don’t charge you for the difference, mind you. The heating bill here is still $8,500, double what it was last year.

And now, as if those things aren’t enough, Russia has turned off the gas to Ukraine. Like there’s NO gas coming from the primary source. None. Well, let me rephrase that. There is gas flowing through the pipelines in Ukraine. And it is coming from Russia. But it’s not stopping in Ukraine. It’s going on to the rest of Europe. And Ukraine has said it will not interrupt the flow of oil to the rest of the EU. However, the EU will not involve itself in the situation between Ukraine and Russia. Why should they when they’re still getting their oil?

The problem concerning oil in Ukraine stems from a debt owed to Russia–that Russia called in on January 1. According to Ukraine, they paid the requisite amount. According to Russia, Ukraine still owes over $6 million dollars in late fees. Hence, the debt is still outstanding…so no oil. On top of that, Russia and Ukraine have not been able to hammer out an agreed upon price for gas in 2009. Current negotiations have the prices a double what they are now. That means that, should those prices hold, The Ark’s heating bill will essentially quadruple from this time last year. You can’t run an organization with those kinds of budgetary needs. Which means that a beacon of hope for children in this country will no longer be in existance.

The situation has a ripple effect that spans far and wide. Ukraine’s economy is in worse shape than Russia’s…the president and prime minister of Ukraine can’t get on the same page about much if anything at all…people are already out of work and struggling to make ends meet…a lack of heat actually means a humanitarian crisis in sub-freezing weather…and no one will stand up in solidarity with a former Soviet nation trying to make it on their own without having to return to communism…to say nothing of the fact that this whole thing could be used by Russia to draw Ukraine back as it moves to recreate a large, powerful Soviet state.

Politics aside, this situation hits so close to home for me. The Ark truly is a beacon of hope in a place where there isn’t much for children who have no family…or no family healthy enough to care for them. It’s not an orphanage. It’s a place of love, advocacy, hope and family. For it to be closed because of unbelievable gas prices and an inability to pay the heat bill would be reprehensible.

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2 thoughts on “Over a Barrel

  1. This is a sad story! I can’t imagine people…whole countries acting like this. Oh wait, I can….

    This is one of those, “I want to do something, but what the hell can I do as an individual?” problems. I hope that this gets worked out fast for all the people that will be affected by this greed and imperialistic power-play. And to think it is over a few measly MILLION $$$… how big is our country’s debt? Yet we seem to still be getting oil!

  2. I’d been hearing about he gas issues over there and thinking that you’d have some insight. It makes so much more sense to me hearing the real stories of what this means for real people.

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