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While it’s true the credit union movement has challenges facing us here in the United States in 2022, we always keep a continuing eye out for our international community. In war-torn Ukraine, unfortunately, the brutal Russian invasion has the eastern European nation’s credit union industry reeling. 

During the World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) opening ceremony of the 2022 World Credit Union Conference (WCUC) last week, Ukrainian Deputy Governor of the National Bank (NBU), Sergiy Nikolaychuk offered the audience a less-than-positive view of the damage the invading Russian forces have inflicted upon the nation’s credit union system. 

Addressing the audience virtually from Glasgow, Scotland, Nikolaychuk said, “Today, 20 credit unions are located in territories temporarily occupied [by Russia] since February 24, while 17 credit unions are in combat zones, and another 34 credit unions actually do not perform any activities because most of their staff have evacuated.”

It’s all about timing: Ukraine credit union law in limbo due to invasion

Business-wise, the invasion’s timing couldn’t have been worse for Ukraine’s credit union industry. Deputy Governor Nikolaychuk stated the Russian invasion came just as the Ukrainian parliament was about to pass a new credit union law establishing the updating and strengthening of the nation’s credit union system. 

The draft law would have incorporate the following measures:  

  • Increase the number of financial services credit unions can provide for members 
  • Allow for credit unions to gain higher capitalization while stressing the industry’s overall resilience and strength, reliability and stability, and consistent consumer confidence
  • Improve licensing and corporate governance requirements for credit unions
  • Allow for remote, virtual annual meetings instead of in-person gatherings

The proposed law, in addition to the Deposit Guarantee Fund on behalf of credit union members, remains in limbo due to the war. 

Nikolaychuk asked for the conference’s attendees to donate to the Ukrainian Credit Union Displacement Fund, set up by the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions. 

“To date, over $1.7 million has been raised from over 1,600 donors, comprised of individuals, institutions, national associations and generous entities outside of the credit union industry,” said Mike Reuter, executive director of the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions (WFCU), which serves as WOCCU’s charitable and engagement presence. “To our fund donors and their institutions in the audience and with us at WCUC, thank you. Even amid war, credit unions stand strong, serving as financial first responders to those in need.

A division of the funds raised is being distributed to humanitarian aid to assist displaced Ukrainians and credit union members. The rest of the money raised will be invested in long-term recovery and the stabilization of the Ukrainian credit union system. 

credit union industry
Photo: Eugene Tkechenko | Unsplash

Bravery on the ground amidst war in Ukraine

Memorable speakers gathered on the WCUC 2022 stage on Monday morning last week, particularly during a joint presentation between the WFCU and WOCCU Credit for Agricultural Producers’ (CAP) Project on the bravery displayed by many in Ukraine’s credit union community who are persevering and by serving in spite of Russia’s barbarism and assault on their country. 

“I’ve talked to some farmers who are applying for a loan right now. I’m like, ‘do you dare (take a) risk like that? They say – ‘it’s about food security. It’s not just about food security in Ukraine, it’s about food security all over the world. We have to take the risk.’ And the credit unions take these risks together with their members and their agricultural producers,” said Alisa Stesyshyn, a Ukrainian citizen and consultant for the CAP Project. 

“What feels safe one day might not necessarily be safe the other,” says fellow speaker Ewa Sierzynska, chief of party for the CAP Project. “The shelters we showed in the photos were built in Vinnytsia. Vinnytsia was considered very safe. We staffed many projects originating out of Vinnytsia. It just recently got really badly hit a week ago, so we also have to be really mindful of where we are, where we go, and what decisions we make.” 

In order to remain serving their members, local communities, and worldwide agricultural partners, Ukraine’s credit union community continues, despite an intimidating and uneasy environment, to lend a stabilizing hand to their agricultural community while endeavoring to level out food security around the world. 

The bravery exhibited by Ukraine’s credit union industry in the midst of Russia’s unconscionable attack upon an established sovereign nation cannot be overstated.