Youngest mayor in Ukraine gives village a second life

Artem Kukharenko, Mayor of the village of Podilske, Cherkasy Oblast 

More, New Ukraine, Ukraine

Translated by: Christine Chraibi

Free Wi-fi, repaired roads and fully-staffed educational institutions – such is the village of Podilske, Cherkasy Oblast, presided over by the youngest mayor in Ukraine, Artem Kukharenko.

Young, ambitious and hard-working, 24-year-old Artem Kukharenko ran for office in 2015, when he was still a university student. He was supported by 80% of the villagers. This is what he hoped for back then, in 2015:

I wanted to stay in my village and not have to migrate to the big city in search of a better life, so one of my main goals was and still is to get the young people back. I plan to study other successful villages and take their example. I don’t want my village to become just one big farm; I want it to live, thrive and succeed! I’d like to go out in the evening and see children playing, young kids holding hands and strolling about, people falling in love, getting married and raising families.

If local residents really want to keep their village alive, it will live and prosper! I’ll do everything in my power, and time will tell.”

Artem’s first challenge was the road. Asphalt was too expensive, so he got 30,000 UAH from the district council and sponsors, and filled the potholes with concrete. But, he points out that the villagers earned the lion’s share of the required sum by organizing a charity concert.

Later, Artem installed free Wi-fi in the centre of the village, and plans to open a movie theatre and training gym in the newly-renovated House of Culture. The village council has also changed the windows and doors in the school buildings, and purchased new desks for the classrooms and cribs and toys for the pre-school nursery. In addition, the lighting system in all the village streets has been completely renovated.

800 people live in the village. Most of them work on local farms. Most young people want to stay and live in the village and many have submitted housing applications to the village council. Artem Kukharenko plans to renovate and refurbish the old abandoned dormitory/hostel that will be home to at least 20 young families in Podilske.

This year’s village budget amounts to one million hryvnias (approximately $38,000 US), so local authorities are seeking funding. The first thing that needs to be done is reconstruction of sewage, water and gas supply systems to the renovated premises.

The young mayor also plans to build recreation areas in the village, clean and restore the local lake, connect the village houses to the water supply system, and launch a waste disposal cooperative. The most important thing is to find investors, and thus provide the locals with work.

Translated by: Christine Chraibi

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