Libraries Help Ukrainians Receive Reimbursement for Lost USSR Savings
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the central bank was dissolved and millions of citizens of the former USSR lost their savings. The Ukrainian government has subsequently made several attempts to index and reimburse these savings. In April of this year, “Oshchadbank” launched an online system that allows citizens to register, update their data and book an appointment at the local branch of the bank to receive a reimbursement. Bibliomist libraries are supporting this effort by providing access to the online system via their free internet access and instructing residents how to fill out the necessary forms and register online.
The majority of Ukrainians eligible for the reimbursement are seniors and have never used a computer before and therefore benefit greatly from the qualified guidance of librarians to overcome technical and psychological barriers. For example, the library in Vasylivka village helped 230 local residents, along with the residents of five neighboring villages register to obtain the reimbursement since the program was launched. According to Director of Tulchyn Centralized Library System V. Vigurzhinska, “Considering that the villages are located as far as 30 km away [from the raion center], it is very important to have internet access in remote villages, and it is a great convenience for the residents.”
Druzhkivka city library assisted 143 local residents. Among the beneficiaries was regular library visitor Z. Klimova, 79, who shared: “I have health problems due to my age, so standing in line at the bank and even getting to the bank office is an obstacle…I heard from the librarians that they were providing help in registering to get the money lost in the Soviet era back and found it hard to believe at first – yet the librarians helped me update my information in the system, so now all I have to do is wait for the reimbursement. I am really grateful to the librarians for this assistance.”
Another Druzhkivka library frequenter, L. Balabanova said she used the online system successfully and already received her reimbursement: “I had been calling the hotline for a week, to no avail. Then it took me only three minutes to register online at the library!”
Librarians advertised this service by posting information in the local press, their library website, and public service announcements at the “Oshchadbank” branches. Librarians also noted the power of word-of-mouth advertising, as many patrons have used the service after being encouraged by friends and family members.
To date, about 1,200 Ukrainians have used the online system to arrange their reimbursement in libraries with the guidance of qualified librarians. As more and more libraries are taking on the initiative and proving their relevance as institutions addressing the needs of the communities, we look forward to hearing more stories like the above and encourage organizations partnering with libraries to spread the word about the new service within their communities.