Since the first days of the Russian Federation's military aggression against Ukraine, it has been clear that the possibilities of state assistance to Ukrainian refugees in Montenegro are very limited for a number of reasons and that the amount of aid will be less than in other European countries. That is when a group of Russian, Ukrainian, and Montenegrin volunteers appeared who organized the reception and accommodation of Ukrainian refugees in Budva and who are helping with their rehabilitation and adaptation.
Refugees arriving in the country needed basic support, such as housing, groceries, mobile communications, and medication. There was a need to give them temporary shelter and the opportunity to recover, look around, and decide whether to keep moving to Europe or to stay in Montenegro, find work here, rent housing, and get their children enrolled in school and kindergartens.
It quickly became clear that in addition to Ukrainians, Russians and Belarusians were fleeing the war. Some of them were escaping the political persecution that became harsher since the war's onset. Others left their countries because they found it to be impossible to remain in a country that was conducting an unjust war of aggression.
Of course, it is impossible to put people who suffered from bombing, shelling, and violence and who lost their loved ones on par with those who voluntarily left their country for political and moral reasons. However, it is also unthinkable for us to refuse to help those who have abandoned their jobs, homes, and daily lives to get up and leave with no particular destination in mind, knowing that they are seen as representatives of the aggressor country in the eyes of the whole world.
We help everyone who has fled the war unleashed by Russia in Ukraine, regardless of their nationality or citizenship, regardless of whether they are humanitarian or political refugees.
Our long-term strategy is not one-time assistance but rather the creation of a comprehensive system that allows refugees to gradually and fully integrate into society, become familiar with local values, and receive access to education and employment. For us, it is of utmost importance to help those forced to leave their homes to find an opportunity to develop and pursue self-realization.
Pristaniste does not have major donors, so every penny counts. Nearly all the work is being done by volunteers, and those volunteers are not just people who were already living in Montenegro when the war started. A great many volunteers are themselves beneficiaries of Pristaniste's assistance; they have gone through the foundation's programs and are now able to support new refugees themselves. This is an amazing community of people who survived terrible trauma and found the strength to help others. Volunteers are the foundation's primary main value and capital.
This war will end. We firmly believe that Russia will sooner or later admit its guilt before Ukraine, denounce the war crimes it has committed, and pay reparations. After that, the two neighboring peoples will need to heal their wounds, restore broken ties, and reestablish mutual trust. Right now, that seems unattainable, yet every day, we at Pristaniste see examples of how people made enemies by the whim of the Russian authorities and who find themselves now brought physically together, become closer to each other, and join as one.
We believe in the diplomacy of the common man and woman. We believe in providing aid as individuals to other individuals.
As such, Pristaniste's guiding principles are as follows:
- We help all refugees affected by the war in Ukraine, regardless of their nationality, by combining one-time specific assistance with long-term social rehabilitation and integration programs.
- We rely on volunteers as the principle of people who care and who freely and consciously participate in helping others overcome the consequences of the unfolding tragedy.
- We believe in the importance of maintaining personal ties at the individual and family levels, and we hold that these ties will become the foundation for restoring relations between countries in the future.