Message from Ukraine: Mayor of Kharkiv addresses Oxford City Council meeting

Published: Tuesday, 31st January 2023

The Mayor of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv last night recognised the people of Oxford for their support in a video message from the war-torn city.

Mr Terekhov highlighted the similarities between the two places as university cities and centres of science, culture and art, and looked forward to welcoming the people of Oxford in more peaceful times.

The address comes as Oxford City Council renews its call out for hosts for the Homes for Ukraine scheme. As the war continues, the Council is looking for more hosts to come forward and support Ukrainians who are trying to build new lives in Oxford.

“Dear Lord Mayor, dear members of the Council, dear guests! I am pleased to welcome you on behalf of the citizens of Kharkiv! Thank you for the opportunity to address you at this time, when Ukrainian-British relations are at an all-time high. We honour the people of Great Britain for their solidarity and support of Ukraine in the fight against the Russian aggressor.

"I believe the United Kingdom, and the city of Oxford in particular, understand our circumstances because, more than 70 years ago, Britain, like Ukraine, today suffered from the enemy attack. Kharkiv was one of the first cities to receive the enemy’s treacherous blow. But the city has survived and overcome almost all of the difficulties. Even in the most difficult times Kharkiv’s municipal enterprises, services sector, and local authorities continued to work. For the extraordinary bravery, courage and heroism of its residents, Kharkiv has been awarded the honorary title of “Hero City”.

"Kharkiv and Oxford have a lot in common, for they are centres of education and science, culture and art of their regions. Our cities have long university traditions. Despite the huge losses and damage, we are confident about the future. In building bilateral relations at the level of territorial communities, such as Oxford and Kharkiv, we see an opportunity to involve best practices of world experts in the restoration of Kharkiv.

"Dear ladies and gentlemen! let me once again express my gratitude for your support! I look forward to meeting you in a peaceful, rebuilt Kharkiv! Thank you for your attention.”

Mr Terekhov, Mayor of Kharkiv

 Councillor Ed Turner, Deputy Leader of Oxford City Council and the Cabinet member with responsibility for Oxford's international links, provided a message to Kharkiv in response.

“Thank you for your address, Mr Terekhov, and first of all may I express my solidarity with the people of Kharkiv and all of Ukraine, as victims of Vladimir Putin’s disgraceful war of aggression.

"I have been as humbled and impressed by Ukraine’s resistance as I have been saddened by the appalling nature of Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian territory and Ukrainian civilians. I am glad that many people in Oxford are supporting Ukraine – in the early stages of conflict supplies were gathered, notably by Oxford’s Polish community, and transferred to Ukraine, and of course we have been in contact with our twin city, Wrocław, which has close links to Lviv. I am especially heartened that so many people in our city have opened their homes to people from Ukraine, while others are giving of their time to assist those who are here.

"In Oxford, we are proud of our designation as a city of sanctuary, and see a duty to assist those in need wherever they come from. Oxford values its international links and we are of course open to expanding these. The exact designation of a link is much less important, in my view, than what actually happens in contact between cities, and in particular between people of different cities. We are therefore very open to assisting efforts to bring people from Kharkiv and people from Oxford together, mindful that what is possible now will be different from what is possible in the happier times we hope are ahead. Our officers will be very willing to meet with you, of course via video link, or with people from Kharkiv who are here in the United Kingdom at the moment, in order to discuss this further – and we do of course for members of the public have information available on our web site.

"I was very fortunate to visit Ukraine in 2011 - although sadly not Kharkiv - and remember the richness of the culture I saw, and the warmth of the reception I received. This has compounded my horror and sadness at this war, and I sincerely appreciate your suggestion of a meeting in peaceful, rebuilt Kharkiv. That day cannot come soon enough.”

Councillor Ed Turner, Deputy Leader of Oxford City Council