Anija municipality struggles to provide housing, jobs to Ukraine refugees

Anija municipality near Tallinn is struggling to find accommodation and kindergarten places for Ukrainian refugees.
Anija municipality near Tallinn is struggling to find accommodation and kindergarten places for Ukrainian refugees. Source: ERR

The head of a Harju County municipality which currently has the highest per capita number of people staying who had fled the war in Ukraine, says both residential space and kindergarten spots are running low.

A total of 269 ​​war refugees live in Anija Rural Municipality in Harjyu County, which may not seem like a lot at first glance, but in fact constitutes 4 percent of the municipality's overall population of a little under 5,500.

Riivo Noor, Anija Rural Municpality, told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) that: "There are no places to live, kindergarten places are dispersed, though we have school places. We also have a big problem with regard to jobs; there are not too many of them. Fortunately, there was already a pre-existing Ukrainian community in Anija municipality, and this community helps these newcomers very well." Anija village head Riivo Noor said.

The burden placed on the municipality even as many of the people are only housed in Anja on a temporary basis has led to it appealing to the state for additional funding, which it obtained, but which will soon run out too with no guarantee of more to come.

Noor said: "I don't want to be critical, but our communication with the Social Insurance Board (SKA) has not been the best. To give an example: If refugees granted temporary accommodation come to our area, it would be good if we knew about it, say, a week in advance."

Authorities in Anija have had once incident where they were informed about the arrival of displaced persons only at 9 p.m. the preceding evening.

The mother of one Ukrainian child, told AK That her daughter had: "Been to school in Tallinn for a month, and she really liked it."

This meant she continuing attending the school even as the family were relocated to Anija last month.

"We had no choice, and I didn't want to transfer her to another school. There is a special class for Ukrainian children in that school," the mother, Veera Bagamasova, went on.

As a result the child, Sofia, who is in the first grade, has to make the daily, hour-long trip to school each day, which includes taking a train.

Sofia herself said: "There, the teacher knows Russian and translates. That's how we are also learning Estonian."

Around two-thirds of the refugees are in Anija only temporarily, though the municipality also has no clear overview of which of the registered refugees may have moved to another country altogether, or even returned to Ukraine.

One person, Ludmilla Vesselova, from Dnipropetrovsk region, told AK she had decided to do just that.

She said: "We don't think it's peaceful there in Ukraine, but we've already made the decision to go back home. The children already want to go there, and my daughter's husband stayed there. We want to go back, and we're going to try to do so."

Overall, while the absolute number of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine is largest in the capital, as a proportion of the total, Tallinn only lies in eighth place. Anija is followed by Viru-Nigula in Lääne-Viru County, which Anija displaced after the SKA allocated the few hundred refugees to the Anija municipality's Nelijärve recreation center.

The municipal mayor is also concerned about disruption caused by families having to be relocated, in particular children, if the relocation happens during the school year.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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