From Peace Corps Wiki

Revision as of 16:02, 26 January 2008 by Odessaukrain (Talk | contribs)
Jump to: navigation, search

See also the official Peace Corps Welcome Book for Ukraine.

Ukraine, is a country in eastern Europe, and the second largest country in Europe after Russia. The capital and largest city is Kyiv. Much of Ukraine is a fertile plain suited for agriculture. Ukraine is rich in natural resources, and has a developed economy with significant agricultural and industrial sectors. The country has a democratic form of government headed by a president.




History of the Peace Corps in Ukraine

The opening of Peace Corps programs in the Newly Independent States corresponded with the beginning of the end of decades of mistrust and hostility between the United States and the former communist governments in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. In the decade that Peace Corps Volunteers have worked in Ukraine, they and their Ukrainian counterparts have faced and overcome a wide range of challenges. Suspicions harbored for years are difficult to overcome. Ambiguity and economic instability have been the norm in Ukraine during the difficult transition to integration with the West. Working and living in a country that is simultaneously deconstructing and reconstructing can often be confusing and frustrating. The Peace Corps has always prided itself on its ability to provide flexible and adaptable Volunteers, and the program in Ukraine truly tests this ability.

The formal agreement establishing Peace Corps/Ukraine was signed in May 1992 in Washington, D.C., by former Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk and former U.S. President George Bush. Since the first group of Volunteers arrived in Ukraine in 1992, more than 1,000 Volunteers have worked in three project areas: business development, teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), and environmental protection. Currently, more than 300 Volunteers work in more than 100 cities and towns throughout the country’s 24 provinces and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Ukraine

The first group of volunteers arrived in Kyiv, "City of Lights", on November 15, 1992. The group consisted of 53 Business Development trainees. After a rigorous training, 48 volunteers entered service in January, 1993. Antics ensured.

The community economic development project, launched in 2006, addresses two realities within the context of development in Ukraine. First, Ukraine currently possesses incomplete institutional structures, such as widespread private ownership or a sound banking system, to support the process of economic transition. Second, there is no collective memory of a free-market system and civil society within the society. The community economic development project seeks to establish cooperation and partnerships among three sectors of society: business, government, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to strengthen their common development work. This includes facilitation and transfer of free-market professional skills as well as citizenship skills at multiple levels. Volunteers provide assistance to institutions, including schools and universities; to NGOs; and to government structures at regional and municipal levels. Volunteers in this project have primary assignments as educators or facilitators. Many of the Volunteers working with NGOs work at a grassroot level building stronger participation and initiative among local people to address common community needs. Approximately one quarter of community economic development Volunteers are placed in educational institutions; they are not placed with private businesses, but some may be placed at business centers that provide consulting and training to a variety of people wanting to start or expand small businesses. Volunteers placed at governmental institutions work on initiating new projects that target community growth on a local level in the areas of social and economic development.

Ukraine has a long history of valuing education for its citizens, and the study of languages has been an integral component of the national curriculum. Throughout the history of conquests and various rulers, the citizens of Ukraine fought to maintain the right to study, learn, and publish in Ukrainian. In 1920, however, Russian was declared the official language, and all study, official documents, and most published materials were in Russian. Following independence in 1991, Ukrainian was declared the official language with the mandate that educational institutions switch to Ukrainian curricula and instruction. At a time when all components of the educational system are attempting to implement a Ukrainian medium of instruction, there is a growing demand from parents and students for increased instruction in English. These two developments place enormous strain upon an already stretched system.

In response to these initiatives, the Peace Corps launched a TEFL project in Ukraine in September 1993. The project was developed in response to the needs identified in the state’s national program and through a baseline survey of Ukrainian students, teachers, and ministry officials. Volunteers in the TEFL project work to expand and improve the quality of English instruction in schools and at teacher-training institutions, and to assist in developing new English teaching materials for primary and secondary schools.

Like conditions in Ukraine, Peace Corps programs here continue to evolve. Volunteers in all projects have defined their roles as agents of change, contributing in a variety of ways to the development of Ukraine into a modern European state. As this occurs, new opportunities for Peace Corps programming emerge.

A youth development project was created in 2005 at the request of the Ukrainian government to address the growing gap between the development levels of young people in most urban centers and those in rural and otherwise disadvantaged areas. As many urban Ukrainians are quickly gaining the skills they need to succeed in the new post-Soviet social and economic framework that increasingly characterizes independent Ukraine, children in villages and other economically depressed parts of the country risk falling behind in acquiring the skills and knowledge that they will need to succeed. Youth development Volunteers work with secondary schools, orphanages, and NGOs in small- and medium-sized towns to develop and administer youth programs on healthy lifestyles, civics, information technology (IT), environmental awareness, career building, and sports.



Ukrainians value and celebrate their country’s long and colorful history. Over the centuries, successive civilizations have left their mark on Ukraine—the Scythian, Greek, Scandinavian, Slavic, and Turkic peoples have all had an influence on the culture. Ukraine gained its political independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The history of the establishment of the Slavic state is rooted in a legend of three brothers and a sister who founded a city along the Dnipro River at the end of the fifth century. Named after one of the brothers, the city Kyiv became the center of the city-state of Kyivan-Rus’. Kyiv flourished as a center of trade and culture a thousand years ago and is the wellspring of the eastern Slavic states that exist today.

The strength of Kyivan-Rus’ was undermined by infighting between the city-state’s princes, by the sacking of Constantinople by crusaders, and by changes in regional trading patterns. In 1240 the Mongols, led by the grandson of Genghis Khan, attacked Kyiv and subsequently controlled the region for nearly two centuries.

In the wake of Mongol domination, Ukraine was invaded and ruled by Poland, Lithuania, Russia, and others. Cossack armies were formed in response, each led by a hetman (military leader). One of the most famous hetmans in Ukraine’s history was Bohdan Khmelnytsky, who inspired an uprising that led to the liberation of Ukraine from Poland in 1648. But he was considered a traitor by some after he signed the Treaty of Pereyaslav in 1654, which joined Ukraine and Russia and led to Ukraine’s subjugation by the Russian empire and ultimately the Soviet Union.

Joseph Stalin, in an effort to weaken Ukraine further, induced a famine in 1932-33 by forcibly collecting grain and deliberately starving to death as many as 10 million Ukrainians. In September 1941, Ukraine became one of the theaters of World War II when Nazi forces entered Kyiv. In November 1943, Soviet forces recaptured the city, retaining subsequent control of the Ukraine republic for almost 50 years.

The world’s attention turned to Ukraine in the wake of the Chernobyl nuclear accident in April 1986. This incident, coupled with changes in the political philosophy of Soviet leaders, spurred Ukraine to proclaim its sovereignty in July 1990. Ukrainians formally realized their dream of independence following the failed coup of August 1991 in Moscow. In a national referendum held on December 1, 1991, Ukrainians endorsed independence and chose Leonid Kravchuk as the country’s first democratically elected president.


Ukraine is governed by a constitution adopted in 1996. Under this constitution, executive power is vested in the president and the prime minister, while legislative power is the prerogative of the Verkhovna Rada (Supreme Council).

The president is elected by direct, popular vote for a five-year term. In line with the constitutional reform that came into effect in 2006, the president maintains powers as commander in chief and has an advisory role to the government—similar to many European countries. Before this reform took effect, the prime minister and the cabinet were nominated by the president and approved by the Parliament. After the reform the Parliament had exclusive power in appointing the prime minister and most members of the Cabinet of Ministers. The Verkhovna Rada is a unicameral body of 450 members. The seats are allocated on a proportional basis to those parties that gain 3 percent or more of the national electoral vote. Suffrage is granted to all citizens 18 years and older.

Ukraine is divided into 24 oblasts (provinces), one autonomous republic (Crimea) and two cities with special administrative status (Kyiv and Sevastopol). The oblasts, in turn, are divided into 479 raions (divisions) and 415 cities. The Autonomous Republic of Crimea is governed by a prime minister who heads a Cabinet of Ministers with considerable autonomy in its internal affairs.


At 603,700 square kilometers (241,480 square miles), Ukraine is one of the largest European countries in land area. While its population of nearly 50 million ranks fifth in size in Europe, Ukraine’s per capita gross domestic product (GDP) places it among the lower- to middle-income countries. Yet the country has a highly trained, professional labor force, fertile agricultural land, and a wealth of raw materials, metals, and natural resources.

Shortly after independence in December 1991, the Ukrainian government liberalized most prices and created a legal framework for privatization. However, reform efforts were soon stalled, which led to eight years of sharp economic decline. As a result, the standard of living for most citizens has decreased by more than 50 percent since the early 1990s.

The economy started growing in 2000. Real GDP growth was a sturdy 9.3 percent in 2003 and a remarkable 12 percent in 2004, despite a loss of momentum in needed economic reforms.

Ukrainian government officials eleminated most tax and customs privileges in 2005, bringing more economic activity out of Ukraine’s large shadow economy. However, more improvements are needed, including fighting corruption, developing capital markets and improving the legal framework for businesses. Reforms in the more politically sensitive areas of structural reform and land privatization are still lagging. GDP growth was only 2.4 percent in 2005.

In 2006 both the U.S. and the European Union (EU) granted Ukraine market-economy status, which has helped to pave the way for its membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO).

People and Culture

The richness of Ukraine’s culture reflects its history as a crossing point and meeting ground for European and Asian cultures and peoples. While 75 percent of the population is Ukrainian, more than 110 other ethnic groups are represented in the country. Among the numerous faiths practiced in Ukraine are Ukrainian Orthodoxy, Ukrainian Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, and Islam.

Ukrainian was declared the official language at independence in 1991, though Russian and Ukrainian are are also official languages in Crimea. While Ukrainian is most often heard in western Ukraine and in smaller towns and villages, Russian is the primary language spoken by many people in large cities particularly in the eastern and southern part of the country.

In recent years, there have been tensions between the Ukrainian- and Russian-speaking segments of the population. Reflecting the diversity of the population, some Ukrainians also speak Romanian, Hungarian, or Polish.

Ukraine has wonderful folk arts, including embroidery, weaving, pottery, pysanky (painted eggs), and woodcarving. Its music has evolved with influences from a variety of cultures. Folk traditions are preserved in ritual songs, dances, and games.


Ukraine is a beautiful country with a rich variety of natural resources, including about 70,000 species of flora and fauna (some of which are endangered). In addition, nearly 8,000 deposits of 94 minerals of commercial value are extracted in Ukraine.

A small part of the country is mountainous, with the highest peaks being Hoverla (2,061 meters) in the Carpathian Mountains and Roman-Kosh (1,542 meters) in the Crimean Mountains. Mixed forests cover the north. The middle of the country consists of a mosaic of forests and steppe, and the south consists of steppe, restricted forests, and wetlands. The north and northwest have an abundant water supply, including the Dnipro, Europe’s third largest river, and smaller rivers. The southern part of the country has fewer water resources. The coasts of the Black and Azov Seas make up a significant portion of Ukraine’s southern border. With the biggest specific watershed in the world, the Black Sea receives some of the pollution generated by more than 1.7 billion people, of whom only 6.5 million live on Ukraine’s coast.

Ukraine has significant environmental problems, especially resulting from the Chornobyl nuclear power plant disaster in 1986 and from industrial pollution.


Following is a list of websites for additional information about the Peace Corps and Ukraine and to connect you to returned Volunteers and other invitees. Please keep in mind that although we try to make sure all these links are active and current, we cannot guarantee it.

A note of caution: As you surf the Internet, be aware that you may find bulletin boards and chat rooms in which people are free to express opinions about the Peace Corps based on their own experience, including comments by those who were unhappy with their choice to serve in the Peace Corps. These opinions are not those of the Peace Corps or the U.S. government, and we hope you will keep in mind that no two people experience their service in the same way.

General Information About Ukraine
On this site, you can learn anything from what time it is in Kyiv to how to convert from the dollar to the hyrvnia. Just click on Ukraine and go from there.
Visit this site for general travel advice about almost any country in the world.
The U.S. State Department’s website issues background notes periodically about countries around the world. Find Ukraine and learn more about its social and political history.
This site includes links to all the official sites for governments worldwide.
This online world atlas includes maps and geographical information, and each country page contains links to other sites, such as the Library of Congress, that contain comprehensive historical, social, and political background.
This United Nations site allows you to search for statistical information for member states of the U.N.
This site provides an additional source of current and historical information about countries around the world.

Connect With Returned Volunteers and Other Invitees
This is the site of the National Peace Corps Association, made up of returned Volunteers. On this site you can find links to all the Web pages of the “friends of” groups for most countries of service, made up of former Volunteers who served in those countries. There are also regional groups that frequently get together for social events and local volunteer activities.
This site is known as the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Web Ring. Browse the Web ring and see what former Volunteers are saying about their service.
This site is hosted by a group of returned Volunteer writers. It is a monthly online publication of essays and Volunteer accounts of their Peace Corps service.
This site was created and is maintained by Volunteers serving in Ukraine. It contains information about Peace Corps projects in Ukraine and other Volunteer activities.
This site was created by Friends of Ukraine - Peace Corps and is maintained by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, current Volunteers, friends, families and some PCUkraine staff. It contains information and links to forums about volunteer activities inside and outside of Ukraine.

Online Articles/Current News Sites About Ukraine
This site offers substantive and timely information about Ukraine and links to complementary services.
The Kyiv Post, an informative source of English-language news on Ukraine, includes comprehensive statistics and weekly wrap-ups of developments in key industries. Subscribers receive a daily e-mail with summaries of what the local press is writing about.
Aimed at business travelers, this site offers interesting and useful information for visitors to Ukraine.

International Development Sites About Ukraine
U.S.-Ukraine Foundation
U.S. Agency for International Development in Ukraine
U.S. Embassy in Kyiv
United Nations in Kyiv
World Bank in Ukraine

Recommended Books

  1. Dolot, Miron. Execution by Hunger: The Hidden Holocaust. New York: W.W. Norton, 1987. A description of the forced collectivization of Russian agriculture in 1929-1931 and the ensuing famine in Ukraine.
  2. Nebesky, Richard. Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. London: Lonely Planet, 1996. An excellent guidebook for travelers on history, culture, security, bureaucracy, transportation, hotels, and restaurants in the cities of Russia and Ukraine.
  3. Reid, Anna. Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2000. Combining historical research with travel and interviews with peasants and politicians, rabbis and racketeers, dissidents and paramilitaries, and survivors of Stalin’s famine and of Nazi labor camps, Reid charts Ukraine’s tragic past and explores its struggle to build a national future.
  4. Wilson, Andrew. The Ukrainians: Unexpected Nation (2nd ed.). New Haven, CO: Yale University Press, 2002. A comprehensive source of information about Ukraine and its people. The author discusses relations between Ukraine and Russia and analyzes the issues of identity, culture, and religion in Ukraine since its independence in 1991.
  5. Gross, Jan T. Revolution from Abroad: The Soviet Conquest of Poland's Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia. Expanded edition. Princeton University Press, 2002. The author describes the terrors of the Soviet occupation of the lands that made up eastern Poland between the two world wars: Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia.

Books About the History of the Peace Corps

  1. Hoffman, Elizabeth Cobbs. All You Need is Love: The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960’s. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.
  2. Rice, Gerald T. The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985.
  3. Stossel, Scott. Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2004.

Books on the Volunteer Experience

  1. Dirlam, Sharon. Beyond Siberia: Two Years in a Forgotten Place. Santa Barbara, CA: McSeas Books, 2004.
  2. Casebolt, Marjorie DeMoss. Margarita: A Guatemalan Peace Corps Experience. Gig Harbor, WA: Red Apple Publishing, 2000.
  3. Erdman, Sarah. Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village. New York, NY: Picador, 2003.
  4. Hessler, Peter. River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. New York, NY: Perennial, 2001.
  5. Kennedy, Geraldine (ed.). From the Center of the Earth: Stories out of the Peace Corps. Santa Monica, CA: Clover Park Press, 1991.
  6. Thompsen, Moritz. Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1997 (reprint).
  7. Linden, Anne Bates. Assumptions and Misunderstandings: Memoir of an Unwitting Spy. (Available from




Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service considered normal in the United States. If you expect U.S. standards for mail service, you will be in for some frustration. Mail takes a minimum of two weeks to arrive in Ukraine.

During training, mail for trainees received at the Peace Corps office in Kyiv will be forwarded to the training site once or twice each week. Once you become a Volunteer and move to your permanent site, you will receive mail there, either at a post office box or at your office. Peace Corps/Ukraine uses the Ukrainian postal network to mail routine, nonurgent items, including a weekly packet sent to each Volunteer.

Family and friends should not send you valuable items through the mail, as packages sometimes arrive opened, with items missing, or do not arrive at all. We recommend the use of padded envelopes instead of boxes, as they usually arrive unopened. Airmail is more reliable, but more expensive, than surface mail.

A number of international mail services operate in Ukraine, including UPS and DHL. Volunteers report that the most reliable and inexpensive service is MEEST, whose address in the United States is 609 Commerce Road, Linden, NJ 07036 (phone: 908.474.1100; website:

Your address during training will be:

“Your Name”, PCT

c/o Peace Corps/Ukraine

PO Box 298


Kyiv, Ukraine


Telecommunications in Ukraine lags far behind that in the United States. Phone lines are often busy, and connections can be poor. Many Ukrainians in small towns and villages do not have their own land lines, and it is possible that you will not have one. Not all cities have the capability to process calling card calls, and many Ukrainians, including Volunteers’ host families, may be unaware of how such calls are billed. Although most host families during training will have phones, you may not be able to make long-distance calls. Calls, however, can be made from the town post office for a per-minute charge. It is best to inform family members and friends that you’ll need a few days to become acquainted with the telephone system before getting in touch with them. The Peace Corps will ensure that you have access to a phone once you are at your permanent site, through either your place of employment or a neighbor.

More and more Ukrainians use cellular phones. The Peace Corps staff uses cellphones to supplement land lines and ensure better contact with Volunteers. Peace Corps/Ukraine discourages you from bringing a cellphone because even though a few cellular companies operate in Ukraine, it is highly unlikely that a cellular plan in the United States will cover Ukraine and the surrounding region. It is much cheaper to buy a cellphone here in Ukraine (around $100) and then give the number to your family/friends to call you. All incoming calls are free of charge. About 90 percent of Volunteers in-country have cellphones.

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access

While Peace Corps/Ukraine makes no recommendation regarding whether to bring a personal computer, it could be useful during your service. Computers (as well as printers, paper, and peripheral devices) may not be generally available at your workplace, and many Volunteers find that having their own is helpful. Although some Volunteers have bought laptops in Ukraine, the selection is limited and generally more expensive than in the U.S. If you decide to bring a computer (and perhaps a small printer), make sure you bring the necessary power converter, surge protection, and plug adapter. (Note that the small, inexpensive converters made for things like alarm clocks are not suitable, and are even dangerous, for computer equipment.) The Peace Corps encourages you to insure your computer against theft.

While almost all Volunteers in Ukraine have e-mail addresses, many of them have only limited access to e-mail via an Internet cafe at their site or in a nearby city. In all cases, Volunteers should be prepared for poor phone lines that result in slow connection speeds and unpredictable interruptions.

Housing and Site Location

Although you will find a Western-looking environment in Ukraine, living conditions are not the same as in the United States, and you will have to make some adjustments in your lifestyle. Volunteers in Ukraine live in a wide range of sites, from large, European-style cities (up to 20 percent of the Volunteer population) to small towns or villages with few modern amenities (up to 80 percent of the Volunteer population). Generally, housing is in short supply; space is at a premium and accommodations will be cramped.

For your first three months as a trainee, you will live with a host family. This homestay is a part of pre-service training and will help you to learn about the Ukrainian culture, improve your language skills, and enhance your safety.

Then, for the first three months after swearing in as a Volunteer, you will also live with a host family. This homestay will help you integrate into your community, improve safety while you are learning to live in Ukraine, and provide maximum opportunity for ongoing language learning. At the end of this period, you and your family may decide to continue the living arrangement or you may decide to move into an apartment or dormitory. There are some communities, however, where staying with a host family is the only option for two years of service.

If you choose to move to an apartment or dormitory at that time, you will be provided with most of the furnishings you need, along with a settling-in allowance for additional necessary items. If what you need is not immediately available, your regional manager will work with you and your Ukrainian coordinator to ensure that you can obtain any necessities.

Note that many towns have to ration water and electricity, and hot water may not be available where you live. Ukrainians usually keep buckets of water and candles at the ready. Heat in towns and cities is centrally controlled and is turned on and off according to finances and the calendar, not the weather. Volunteers are issued space heaters when they move to their sites. There are some communities where Volunteers are expected to heat their houses using a wood or coal-burning stove.

Living Allowance and Money Management

As a Volunteer in Ukraine, you will receive three types of allowances. The first, a monthly living allowance, is intended to cover your basic living expenses; that is, food, household supplies, clothing, official travel, recreation and entertainment, transportation, reading material, and other incidentals. This allowance is reviewed at least once a year through a market survey to ensure that it is adequate. At the time of this writing, the living allowance is roughly equivalent to $200, which is transferred directly into each Volunteer’s local bank account at the beginning of each month. You will probably find that you receive more remuneration than your Ukrainian coordinator or supervisor.

The second allowance, a vacation allowance of $24 per month, is added to your living allowance and paid in U.S. dollars. Finally, when you move into your apartment or house following your three-month homestay at site, you will receive a one-time settling-in allowance, paid in local currency, to buy basic household items.

Although most Volunteers find they can live comfortably in Ukraine with these allowances, some bring money from home for out-of-country travel. The Peace Corps strongly discourages you from supplementing your income with money brought from home while you are in Ukraine. The living allowance is adequate and Volunteers are expected to live at the same economic level as their neighbors and colleagues.

Traveler’s checks are virtually unknown in Ukraine, although ATM machines are becoming widespread and are generally safe as long as common sense is used (e.g., avoid using it in crowded areas). Credit cards are becoming more common in cities and large towns. If you bring cash, be advised that bills that have writing on them may not be accepted and older bills will be hard to exchange for local currency outside of Kyiv.

Food and Diet

Your host families will provide you with most meals, so you will have plenty of opportunities to become familiar with eating (and cooking) Ukrainian food. As in many countries, the availability of certain foods is dependent on the season, with a wider range of vegetables and fruits available in the spring and summer. Many Volunteers enjoy learning how to preserve and can food for the winter, as many Ukrainians do. The Ukrainian diet relies heavily on meat, potatoes, beets, onions, and cabbages in the winter.

The traditional diet can be high in fat and cholesterol. Vegetarians may find it challenging to maintain their usual diet because of the lack of fruits and vegetables at certain times of the year. Although your host families may be able to cook vegetarian foods for you, a soup described as “vegetarian” may be made with a meat-based stock. Still, there are many types of Ukrainian salads, consisting of cabbage, beets, carrots, and other seasonal and year-round vegetables. In addition, an increasing number of soy products are being imported from Poland.


Most cities in Ukraine have a comprehensive public transportation system of buses and trolleys. Some cities have trams, and Kyiv and Kharkov have subways. In addition to official and unofficial taxi services, most cities have direct-route taxis that look like vans (known as Marshrutkas). In cities and towns without public transportation, people get around on foot.

An extensive train network connects cities throughout Ukraine, with buses operating between shorter distances.

Many of the trains are overnight trains, so Volunteers can leave their site at night and arrive at their destination in the morning. An alternative that is gaining popularity is a luxury bus network, which also provides overnight service to many cities.

Geography and Climate

Ukraine has a continental climate, with the exception of the southern coast of Crimea, which is in a subtropical zone. Although many people imagine Ukraine as a country of snow and ice, it has four distinct seasons, with summer temperatures averaging in the 70s and 80s.

Winters in Ukraine are long and cold, and as a result of its northern latitude, daylight in the winter is limited. Some Volunteers with a history of seasonal affective disorder or depression have found the limited exposure to sunlight an added challenge of service in Ukraine.

Social Activities

The life of a Volunteer is filled with learning and networking 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Having a cup of tea with a Ukrainian neighbor is as much a part of the Volunteer experience as is teaching a class or seminar. Social activities will vary depending on where you live and might include taking part in local festivals, parties, and dances. In addition, although the Peace Corps encourages Volunteers to remain at their sites as an essential strategy for integrating into their communities, some Volunteers occasionally visit nearby Volunteers on weekends. Most towns and cities have cafes and restaurants for evenings out, and many Volunteers have televisions and VCRs in their apartments.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Ukrainians pay a lot of attention to their appearance, and they will judge your professionalism based on what you wear. Ukrainians in general, but women especially, dress more formally than do Americans on most occasions. The Peace Corps expects you to behave in a way that will foster respect toward you in your community and reflect well on the Peace Corps and on the United States. You will receive an orientation to appropriate behavior and cultural sensitivity during pre-service training. As a Volunteer, you have the status of an invited guest and thus must be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your Ukrainian hosts. You need to be aware that behavior that jeopardizes the Peace Corps’ mission in Ukraine or your personal safety cannot be tolerated and could lead to administrative separation, a decision by the Peace Corps to terminate your service.

Personal Safety

More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Ukraine Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help you reduce your risks and enhance your safety and security. You will learn about these procedures and policies during safety training in Ukraine. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.

Rewards and Frustrations

It may take time for your Ukrainian counterparts to understand your role as a Volunteer and for you to determine your appropriate responsibilities. You may not be stepping into a well-defined situation. You will need to remember that you are part of a long-term development project. A challenge throughout your assignment will be helping your counterparts develop their capacity to continue to perform similar work after your departure.

You will be frustrated at times by not being able to communicate easily in the local language, even after the preparation provided during pre-service training. While your coordinator may have a fairly strong command of English, most of your colleagues will not. Learning Ukrainian or Russian, will make a major difference in your work, in your ability to adapt to living in Ukraine, and in your appreciation of Ukrainian society and culture.

Attitudes about racial differences and public expression of racism are generally different in Ukraine from those typically found in the United States. Incidents involving disrespect for and harassment against minority Volunteers occur and it is important for people to consider this fact and how this might affect them.

To have a successful experience as a Volunteer, you must be motivated, flexible, and willing to work hard. You will need to take the initiative to identify local resources and institutions with which you can cooperate. To be effective in your work, you might need to “unlearn” practices and principles that you have developed on the basis of prior experiences. Despite these challenges—or perhaps because of them—Volunteers in Ukraine find satisfaction in demonstrating to their colleagues that every individual can make a difference in the creation of a civil society. As it has in the past, Ukraine is poised to play a pivotal role in the future of Europe and the world. Volunteers have a unique opportunity to impact the nature of that role.


Overview of Pre-Service Training

The overall goal of pre-service training is to prepare you for safe and successful service in your future assignments and communities. The emphasis during training is on both adapting your existing skills and experience to the Ukrainian environment, as well as on developing new knowledge, skills and attitudes that will enable you to care for your own health and safety, work effectively at your sites and successfully integrate into your new communities. The program has five major components: technical training, language training, cross-cultural training, health training, and safety and security training. The homestay experience (living with a Ukrainian family throughout pre-service training (PST) is one of the most valuable aspects of training.

The training program recognizes that trainees come with a unique set of skills and experiences along with a well-developed sense of curiosity, independence, and the ability to adapt to new situations. Thus training is designed to provide trainees with strategies for taking more responsibility for their own learning.

Peace Corps/Ukraine uses a community-based model of training. Your entire training group will meet in the training hub only for the initial PST orientation (called an Arrival Retreat), for several days in the middle of PST (called PST University), and then at the end of PST (called Swearing-In Retreat). For most of the training period, however, trainees will live in clusters (in towns and villages located within two-to three-hour ride from the Peace Corps Office in Kyiv) with three to four other trainees, a language and cross-cultural facilitator and a technical and cultural facilitator (the latter will be shared by every two clusters). You will study either Ukrainian or Russian depending on your future assignment. In addition, you will be given various assignments in the community that will enable you to develop and apply your skills and experience. About midway through training, you will get your site assignment and have an opportunity to visit your future site and meet with your Ukrainian counterparts.

Our training program is competency based and you will be regularly evaluated on your ability to acquire and demonstrate the capacity building, community entry/integration and personal health and safely competencies needed to become an effective Volunteer and a productive member of your community.

Technical Training

Technical training will prepare you to work in Ukraine by building on the skills you already have and by helping you develop new skills in a manner appropriate to the needs of the country. The Peace Corps staff, Ukrainian experts, and current Volunteers will conduct the training program. Training places great emphasis on learning how to transfer the skills you have to the community in which you will serve as a Volunteer.

Technical training will include sessions on the general economic and political environment in Ukraine, Ukrainian system of education and strategies for working within such a framework. You will review your project’s purpose, goals, and objectives and will receive track-specific on-the-job training through participating in the technical sessions and performing your internship assignments.

Language Training

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will find that language skills are the key to personal and professional satisfaction during your service. These skills are critical to your job performance, they help you integrate into your community, and they can ease your personal adaptation to the new surroundings. Therefore, language training is the heart of the training program, and you must successfully meet minimum language requirements to complete training and become a Volunteer.

Your language training will incorporate a community-based approach. In addition to classroom time, you will be given assignments to complete outside the classroom and with your host family. The goal is to get you to a point of basic social communication skills so that you can practice and develop language skills further once you are at your site. Prior to being sworn-in as a Volunteer, you will work on strategies to continue language studies during your service.

Cross-Cultural Training

As part of your pre-service training, you will live with a Ukrainian host family. This experience is designed to ease your transition to life at your site. Families go through an orientation conducted by Peace Corps staff to explain the purpose of pre-service training and to assist them in helping you adapt to living in Ukraine. Many Volunteers form strong and lasting friendships with their host families.

Cross-cultural and community development training will help you improve your communication skills and understand your role as a facilitator of development. You will be exposed to topics such as gender and development, nonformal and adult education strategies, cultural values, and political structures.

Health Training

During pre-service training you will be given basic medical training and information. You will be expected to practice preventive healthcare and to take responsibility for your own health by adhering to all medical policies. Trainees are required to attend all medical sessions. The topics include preventive health measures and minor and major medical issues that you might encounter while in Ukraine. Nutrition, mental health, safety and security, setting up a safe living compound, and how to avoid HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are also covered.

Safety Training

During the safety training sessions, you will learn how to adopt a lifestyle that reduces your risks at home, at work, and during travel. You will also learn appropriate, effective strategies for coping with unwanted attention and about your individual responsibility for promoting safety throughout your service.

Additional Trainings During Volunteer Service

The Peace Corps has implemented a training system that provides Volunteers with continual opportunities to upgrade their technical and cross-cultural skills. During service, there are at least two training events. The titles and objectives for those events are as follows:

The number, length, and design of these trainings are adapted to country-specific needs and conditions. The key to the training system is that training events are integrated and interrelated, from the pre-departure orientation through the end of your service, and are planned, implemented, and evaluated cooperatively by the training staff, Peace Corps staff, and Volunteers.


The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the importance of health maintenance behaviors. The Peace Corps in Ukraine maintains a clinic with four full-time medical officers, who take care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs. Medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are available in Ukraine at carefully screened local facilities. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to an American-standard medical facility in the region or to the United States.

Health Issues in Ukraine

Health issues vary according to the social, economic, and environmental conditions of each region in Ukraine. Following are some of the health issues that pose challenges for all Ukrainians.

Radiation and nuclear safety. Forty percent of Ukraine’s electricity is provided by nuclear power. The U.S. Department of Energy and the Ukrainian State Nuclear Regulatory Commission collaborate in monitoring and improving safety at all operating facilities in Ukraine. Volunteers are not placed within 30 kilometers of an operating power station. All currently operating stations meet Western safety standards.

The last reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was shut down in December 2000. The effects of the 1986 accident at that plant on areas surrounding Chernobyl continue to be monitored by the international community.

No Volunteers are placed at any site with higher-than-normal levels of radiation. The Ukrainian government monitors fresh foods and meats sold in central markets to ensure that no food that exceeds European norms for radiation is sold in Ukrainian markets.

Industrial pollution. During the Soviet era, the central and eastern regions of Ukraine were highly productive and heavily industrialized, resulting in air pollution and ground and water table contamination. Volunteers are not placed at sites with unacceptable levels of air and ground pollution.

Air pollution. Vehicle exhaust is unregulated, so joggers in larger towns and cities should avoid running during peak traffic hours. While smog in cities may be no worse than in the United States, Volunteers with a history of asthma may find their condition exacerbated. In addition, cigarette smoking is common in Ukraine, and public areas are seldom designated as “no smoking” areas.

Insufficient infrastructure. The economic challenges of becoming an independent country have had a negative impact on the ability of Ukraine’s cities and towns to provide basic services to residents. For example, water supply systems in some cities and towns do not guarantee potable water. In other locations, availability of water is limited to peak use hours. Hot water, which was generated centrally in cities during the Soviet era, is often not available. In cities with heating plants, the availability of heat in winter is determined by each city’s financial resources. If the local government lacks sufficient resources, residents must use space heaters, coal- or wood-burning stoves, or other means to heat their homes. In general, living quarters in the winter are cooler than what Americans are accustomed to.

Helping You Stay Healthy

The Peace Corps will provide you with all the necessary immunizations, medications, and information needed to help you stay healthy. Upon arrival in Ukraine, you will receive a medical handbook and instruction that cover health challenges in Ukraine in more detail. You will also receive a medical kit with supplies to take care of mild illnesses and first-aid needs. The contents of this kit is listed later in this chapter and the medical office will replenish items as needed throughout your service.

During pre-service training, you will have access to basic medical supplies through the medical officers. However, you will be responsible for your own supply of prescription drugs and any other specific medical supplies you require, as the Peace Corps will not order these items during training. Please bring a three-month supply of any prescription drugs you use, since they may not be available here and it may take several months for shipments to arrive.

You will have dental and physical examinations at midservice and at the end of your service. If you develop a serious medical problem during your service, the medical officers in Ukraine will consult with the Office of Medical Services in Washington, D.C. If it is determined that your condition cannot be treated in Ukraine, you may be sent out of the country for further evaluation and care.

Maintaining Your Health

As a Volunteer, you must accept considerable responsibility for your own health. Proper precautions will significantly reduce your risk of serious illness or injury. The adage “An ounce of prevention …” becomes extremely important in areas where diagnostic and treatment facilities are not up to the standards of the United States. The most important of your responsibilities in Ukraine is to take the following preventive measures:

Social isolation and the stress of coping with a new culture can be overwhelming at times, particularly in one’s first months in-country. Ukrainian winters can be quite cold, and short days and long nights prevail from early December to early March. Seasonal changes in the amount of sunlight can affect one’s emotional health. Peace Corps medical officers provide support for mental health issues, and a variety of peer support workshops help defuse the stress associated with adjustment issues. Your proactive commitment to regular exercise, a good diet, and sufficient hydration will also help.

Alcohol consumption is common at social events in Ukraine, and the subtleties of appropriate alcohol use can be difficult to understand. Alcoholism is not commonly recognized as a disease in Ukraine, and support networks for abstinence and treatment are not extensively developed. Volunteers with a history of alcohol abuse may feel challenged by the pervasive use of alcohol in the culture. Nevertheless, those who choose not to drink have found that maintaining that choice does not interfere with developing positive relationships with Ukrainians.

Many illnesses that afflict Volunteers worldwide are entirely preventable if proper food and water precautions are taken. These diseases include food poisoning, parasitic infections, hepatitis A, and dysentery. Proper food preparation and storage decrease the incidence of bacterial and viral gastroenteritis, and avoiding raw milk products decreases the likelihood of contracting bacterial illness associated with unpasteurized milk. The medical officers will discuss specific standards for water and food preparation in Ukraine during pre-service training.

Sanitation facilities in Ukraine run the gamut: Western-style toilets and “Turkish” toilets are present in equal numbers, and in smaller villages and towns outhouses are common. The level of cleanliness in public facilities and on public transportation varies greatly.

Because of the heavy metal content and possible microbial contamination of most of the water supply in Ukraine, Volunteers are discouraged from drinking tap water. Inexpensive bottled water is readily available in kiosks and stores, and the Peace Corps will provide funds for purchasing it.

Abstinence is the only certain choice for preventing infection with HIV and other STDs. You are taking risks if you choose to be sexually active. To lessen risk, use a condom every time you have sex. Whether your partner is a Ukrainian, a fellow Volunteer, or anyone else, do not assume this person is free of HIV/AIDS or other STDs. You will receive more information from the medical officer about this important issue.

Volunteers are expected to adhere to an effective means of birth control to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. Your medical officer can help you decide on the most appropriate method to suit your individual needs. Contraceptive methods are available without charge from the medical office.

It is critical to your health that you promptly report to the medical office or other designated facility for scheduled immunizations, and that you let your medical officer know immediately of significant illnesses and injuries.

Women’s Health Information

Pregnancy is treated in the same manner as other Volunteer health conditions that require medical attention but also have programmatic ramifications. The Peace Corps is responsible for determining the medical risk and the availability of appropriate medical care if the Volunteer remains in-country. Given the circumstances under which Volunteers live and work in Peace Corps countries, it is rare that the Peace Corps’ medical and programmatic standards for continued service during pregnancy can be met.

Feminine hygiene products are available in local markets. If you require a specific product that may not be available in Ukraine, you will have to either bring a supply with you or make arrangements to have the product sent to you.

Your Peace Corps Medical Kit

The Peace Corps medical officer provides Volunteers with a medical kit that contains basic items necessary to prevent and treat illnesses that may occur during service. Kit items can be periodically restocked at the medical office.

Medical Kit Contents

Ace bandages
Adhesive tape
American Red Cross First Aid & Safety Handbook
Antacid tablets (Tums)
Antibiotic ointment (Bacitracin/Neomycin/Polymycin B)
Antiseptic antimicrobial skin cleaner (Hibiclens)
Butterfly closures
Calamine lotion
Cepacol lozenges
Dental floss
Diphenhydramine HCL 25 mg (Benadryl)
Insect repellent stick (Cutter’s)
Iodine tablets (for water purification)
Lip balm (Chapstick)
Oral rehydration salts and Gatorade
Oral thermometer (Fahrenheit)
Pseudoephedrine HCL 30 mg (Sudafed)
Robitussin-DM lozenges (for cough)
Sterile gauze pads
Tetrahydrozaline eyedrops (Visine)
Tinactin (antifungal cream)

Before You Leave: A Medical Checklist

If there has been any change in your health—physical, mental, or dental—since you submitted your examination reports to the Peace Corps, you must immediately notify the Office of Medical Services. Failure to disclose new illnesses, injuries, allergies, or pregnancy can endanger your health and may jeopardize your eligibility to serve.

If your dental exam was done more than a year ago, or if your physical exam is more than two years old, contact the Office of Medical Services to find out whether you need to update your records. If your dentist or Peace Corps dental consultant has recommended that you undergo dental treatment or repair, you must complete that work and make sure your dentist sends requested confirmation reports or X-rays to the Office of Medical Services.

If you wish to avoid having duplicate vaccinations, contact your physician’s office, obtain a copy of your immunization record, and bring it to your pre-departure orientation. If you have any immunizations prior to Peace Corps service, the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for the cost. The Peace Corps will provide all the immunizations necessary for your overseas assignment shortly after you arrive in Ukraine. Bring a three-month supply of any prescription or over-thecounter medication you use on a regular basis, including birth

control pills. Although the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for this three-month supply, it will provide refills for all personal medications during your service. While awaiting shipment—which can take several months—you will be dependent on your own medication supply.

The Peace Corps will not pay for herbal or nonprescribed medications, such as St. John’s wort, glucosamine, selenium, or antioxidant supplements. If you need custom orthopedic devices, such as splints, braces, or compression stockings, bring them with you. (Note that attachable shoe crampons can help in negotiating ice- and snow-covered cobbled streets.)

You are encouraged to bring copies of medical prescriptions signed by your physician. This is not a requirement, but they might come in handy if you are questioned in transit about carrying a three-month supply of prescription drugs.

If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs with you—a pair and a spare. If a pair breaks, the Peace Corps will replace it, using the information your doctor in the United States provided on the eyeglasses form during your examination. The Peace Corps discourages you from using contact lenses during your service to reduce your risk of developing a serious infection or other eye disease. Most Peace Corps countries do not have appropriate water and sanitation to support eye care with the use of contact lenses. The Peace Corps will not supply or replace contact lenses or associated solutions unless an ophthalmologist has recommended their use for a specific medical condition and the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services has given approval.

If you are eligible for Medicare, are over 50 years of age, or have a health condition that may restrict your future participation in healthcare plans, you may wish to consult an insurance specialist about unique coverage needs before your departure. The Peace Corps will provide all necessary healthcare from the time you leave for your pre-departure orientation until you complete your service. When you finish, you will be entitled to the post-service healthcare benefits described in the Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook. You may wish to consider keeping an existing health plan in effect during your service if you think age or preexisting conditions might prevent you from reenrolling in your current plan when you return home.

Safety and Security—Our Partnership

Serving as a Volunteer overseas entails certain safety and security risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, a limited understanding of the local language and culture, and the perception of being a wealthy American are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Property thefts and burglaries are not uncommon. Incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although almost all Volunteers complete their two years of service without serious personal safety problems. In addition, more than 84 percent of Volunteers surveyed in the 2004 Peace Corps Volunteer Survey say they would join the Peace Corps again.

The Peace Corps approaches safety and security as a partnership with you. This Welcome Book contains sections on: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle; Peace Corps Training; and Your Health Care and Safety. All of these sections include important safety and security information.

The Peace Corps makes every effort to give Volunteers the tools they need to function in the safest and most secure way possible, because working to maximize the safety and security of Volunteers is our highest priority. Not only do we provide you with training and tools to prepare for the unexpected, but we teach you to identify and manage the risks you may encounter.

Factors that Contribute to Volunteer Risk

There are several factors that can heighten a Volunteer’s risk, many of which are within the Volunteer’s control.

Based on information gathered from incident reports worldwide in 2004, the following factors stand out as risk characteristics for assaults. Assaults consist of personal crimes committed against Volunteers, and do not include property crimes (such as vandalism or theft).

Summary Strategies to Reduce Risk

Before and during service, your training will address these areas of concern so that you can reduce the risks you face.

For example, here are some strategies Volunteers employ:

Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of theft:

Support from Staff

In March 2003, the Peace Corps created the Office of Safety and Security with its mission to “foster improved communication, coordination, oversight, and accountability of all Peace Corps’ safety and security efforts.” The new office is led by an Associate Director for Safety and Security who reports to the Peace Corps Director and includes the following divisions: Volunteer Safety and Overseas Security; Information and Personnel Security; Emergency Preparedness, Plans, Training and Exercise; and Crime Statistics and Analysis.

The major responsibilities of the Volunteer Safety and Overseas Security Division are to coordinate the office’s overseas operations and direct the Peace Corps’ safety and security officers who are located in various regions around the world that have Peace Corps programs. The safety and security officers conduct security assessments; review safety trainings; train trainers and managers; train Volunteer safety wardens, local guards, and staff; develop security incident response procedures; and provide crisis management support.

If a trainee or Volunteer is the victim of a safety incident, Peace Corps staff is prepared to provide support. All Peace Corps posts have procedures in place to respond to incidents of crime committed against Volunteers. The first priority for all posts in the aftermath of an incident is to ensure that the Volunteer is safe and receiving medical treatment as needed.

After assuring the safety of the Volunteer, Peace Corps staff provide support by reassessing the Volunteer’s work site and housing arrangements and making any adjustments, as needed. In some cases, the nature of the incident may necessitate a site or housing transfer. Peace Corps staff will also assist Volunteers with preserving their rights to pursue legal sanctions against the perpetrators of the crime. It is very important that Volunteers report incidents as they occur, not only to protect their peer Volunteers, but also to preserve the future right to prosecute. Should Volunteers decide later in the process that they want to proceed with the prosecution of their assailant, this option may no longer exist if the evidence of the event has not been preserved at the time of the incident.

The country-specific data chart below shows the incidence rates and the average number of incidents of the major types of safety incidents reported by Peace Corps Volunteers/ trainees in Ukraine as compared to all other Europe, Mediterranean, and Asia (EMA) region programs as a whole, from 2000–2004. It is presented to you in a somewhat technical manner for statistical accuracy.

To fully appreciate the collected data below, an explanation of the graph is provided as follows: The incidence rate for each type of crime is the number of crime events relative to the Volunteer/trainee population. It is expressed on the chart as a ratio of crime to Volunteer and trainee years (or V/T years, which is a measure of 12 full months of V/T service) to allow for a statistically valid way to compare crime data across countries. An “incident” is a specific offense, per Peace Corps' classification of offenses, and may involve one or more Volunteer/trainee victims. For example, if two Volunteers are robbed at the same time and place, this is classified as one robbery incident.

The chart is separated into eight crime categories. These include vandalism (malicious defacement or damage of property); theft (taking without force or illegal entry); burglary (forcible entry of a residence); robbery (taking something by force); minor physical assault (attacking without a weapon with minor injuries); minor sexual assault (fondling, groping, etc.); aggravated assault (attacking with a weapon, and/or without a weapon when serious injury results); and rape (sexual intercourse without consent).

When anticipating Peace Corps Volunteer service, you should review all of the safety and security information provided to you, including the strategies to reduce risk. Throughout your training and Volunteer service, you will be expected to successfully complete all training competencies in a variety of areas including safety and security. Once in-country, use the tools and information shared with you to remain as safe and secure as possible.

What If You Become a Victim of a Violent Crime?

Few Peace Corps Volunteers are victims of violent crimes. The Peace Corps will give you information and training in how to be safe. But, just as in the U.S., crime happens, and Volunteers can become victims. When this happens, the investigative team of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is charged with helping pursue prosecution of those who perpetrate a violent crime against a Volunteer. If you become a victim of a violent crime, the decision to prosecute or not to prosecute is entirely yours, and one of the tasks of the OIG is to make sure that you are fully informed of your options and help you through the process and procedures involved in going forward with prosecution should you wish to do so. If you decide to prosecute, we are here to assist you in every way we can.

Crimes that occur overseas, of course, are investigated and prosecuted by local authorities in local courts. Our role is to coordinate the investigation and evidence collection with the regional security officers (RSOs) at the U.S. embassy, local police, and local prosecutors and others to ensure that your rights are protected to the fullest extent possible under the laws of the country. OIG investigative staff has extensive experience in criminal investigation, in working sensitively with victims, and as advocates for victims. We also, may, in certain limited circumstances, arrange for the retention of a local lawyer to assist the local public prosecutor in making the case against the individual who perpetrated the violent crime.

If you do become a victim of a violent crime, first, make sure you are in a safe place and with people you trust and second, contact the country director or the Peace Corps medical officer. Immediate reporting is important to the preservation of evidence and the chances of apprehending the suspect. Country directors and medical officers are required to report all violent crimes to the Inspector General and the RSO. This information is protected from unauthorized further disclosure by the Privacy Act. Reporting the crime also helps prevent your further victimization and protects your fellow Volunteers.

In conjunction with the RSO, the OIG does a preliminary investigation of all violent crimes against Volunteers regardless of whether the crime has been reported to local authorities or of the decision you may ultimately make to prosecute. If you are a victim of a crime, our staff will work with you through final disposition of the case. OIG staff is available 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week. We may be contacted through our 24-hour violent crime hotline via telephone at 202.692.2911, or by e-mail at [email protected]

Security Issues in Ukraine

When it comes to your safety and security in the Peace Corps, you have to be willing to adapt your behavior and lifestyle to minimize the potential for being a target of crime. As with anywhere in the world, crime does exist in Ukraine. You can reduce your risk by avoiding situations that make you feel uncomfortable and by taking precautions. Crime at the village or town level is less frequent than in the large cities; people know each other and generally will not steal from their neighbors. Tourist attractions in large towns, for instance, are favorite work sites for pickpockets. The following are safety concerns in Ukraine that you should be aware of:

Robbery and burglary. Volunteers in Ukraine have been burglarized in the past, so you will need to take the same precautions you would take in the United States to deter such incidents. The Peace Corps will cover the cost of installing new locks, security doors with peepholes, and window security devices if required.

Alcohol. Unfortunately, some Volunteers in Ukraine have been robbed or assaulted while intoxicated. Intoxication decreases awareness and reaction time, leaving the intoxicated individual more vulnerable to predators. In addition, it is not uncommon to encounter intoxicated individuals while traveling on public transportation. During pre-service training, you will practice skills that are useful for identifying and avoiding situations related to alcohol use that can pose a threat to your personal safety.

Scams and fraud. Because of the high incidence of credit card and ATM fraud, the U.S. embassy strongly discourages the use of credit cards and ATMs in Ukraine. Volunteers should exchange money at a bank and not with money exchanges near the bank, on the street, or with strangers. Volunteers have experienced various scams, and you will receive more information about potential scams during training and throughout your service.

Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime

You must be prepared to take on a large degree of responsibility for your own safety. Only you can make yourself less of a target, ensure that your house is secure, and develop relations in your community that will make you an unlikely victim of crime. In coming to Ukraine, do what you would do if you moved to a new city in the United States:

Be cautious, check things out, ask questions, learn about

your neighborhood, know where the more risky locations are, use common sense, and be aware. You can reduce your vulnerability to crime by integrating into your community, learning the local language, acting responsibly, and abiding by Peace Corps policies and procedures. Serving safely and effectively in Ukraine may require that you accept some restrictions on your current lifestyle.

Volunteers attract a lot of attention both in large cities and at their sites, but they are likely to receive more negative attention in highly populated centers than at their sites, where “family,” friends, and colleagues look out for them. While stares are fairly common on the street, this behavior can be reduced if you dress conservatively, avoid eye contact, and do not respond to unwanted attention. In addition, keep your money out of sight by using an undergarment money pouch, the kind that hangs around your neck and stays hidden under your shirt or inside your coat. Do not keep your money in outside pockets of backpacks, in coat pockets, or in fanny packs. And always walk with a companion at night. Female Volunteers should always ask someone they trust to walk them home. Having a male escort does not make you less independent, it makes you safer.

Preparing for the Unexpected: Safety Training and Volunteer Support in Ukraine

The Peace Corps’ approach to safety is a five-pronged plan to help you stay safe during your two-year service and includes the following: information sharing, Volunteer training, site selection criteria, a detailed emergency action plan, and protocols for addressing safety and security incidents. Ukraine’s in-country safety program is outlined below.

The Peace Corps/Ukraine office will keep you informed of any issues that may impact Volunteer safety through information sharing. Regular updates will be offered in the Volunteer newsletter and in memorandums from the country director. In the event of a critical situation or emergency, you will be contacted through the emergency communication network.

Volunteer training will include sessions to prepare you for specific safety and security issues in Ukraine. This training will prepare you to adopt a culturally appropriate lifestyle and exercise judgment that promotes safety and reduces risk in your home, at work, and while traveling. Safety training is offered throughout service and is integrated into the language, cross-cultural, health, and other components of training.

Certain site selection criteria are used to determine safe housing for Volunteers before their arrival. The Peace Corps staff works closely with host communities and counterpart agencies to help prepare them for a Volunteer’s arrival and to establish expectations of their respective roles in supporting the Volunteer. Each site is inspected before the Volunteer’s arrival to ensure placement in appropriate, safe, and secure housing and work sites. Site selection is based in part on any relevant site history; access to medical, banking, postal, and other essential services; availability of communications, transportation, and markets; housing options and living arrangements; and other Volunteer support needs.

You will also learn about Peace Corps/Ukraine’s detailed emergency action plan, which is implemented in the event of civil or political unrest, a natural or technological disaster or terrorism. When you arrive at your site, you will complete and submit an emergency contact and site locator form with your address, contact information, and a map to your house. If there is a security threat, you will gather with other Volunteers in Ukraine at predetermined locations until the situation is resolved or the Peace Corps decides to evacuate.

Finally, in order for the Peace Corps to be fully responsive to the needs of Volunteers, it is imperative that Volunteers immediately report any security incident to the Peace Corps safety and security coordinator. The Peace Corps has established protocols for addressing safety and security incidents in a timely and appropriate manner, and it collects and evaluates safety and security data to track trends and develop strategies to minimize risks to future Volunteers.

Peace Corps, however, believes that there is a discrepancy between the number of reported incidents and the actual numbers of incidents. The discrepancy may be attributed to under-reporting by Volunteers who may not want to report having been under the influence of alcohol when the incident occurred, or having been absent from site without notifying Peace Corps, or simply thinking that the incident was too insignificant to report. Therefore,the Safety & Security Council (SSC) was created so that trainees and Volunteers could speak to their peers regarding these incidents, and, in turn, the incidents would be anonymously reported to SSC so that Peace Corps Staff will have more accurate statistics to report, and can better meet trainees’ and Volunteers’ safety and security needs.


In fulfilling its mandate to share the face of America with host countries, the Peace Corps is making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving in today’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years. Differences in race, ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected and welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as American as the other despite our many differences.

Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In Ukraine, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Ukraine.

Outside of Ukraine’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may also be a misconception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Ukraine are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.

To ease the transition and adapt to life in Ukraine, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental, compromises in how you present yourself as an American and as an individual. For example, female trainees and Volunteers may not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States; political discussions need to be handled with great care; and some of your personal beliefs may best remain undisclosed. You will need to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these types of challenges. The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.

Overview of Diversity in Ukraine

During pre-service training, several sessions will be held to discuss diversity and coping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female Volunteers from a variety of races, ethnic groups, ages, religions, and sexual orientations and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who take pride in supporting one another and demonstrating the richness of American culture.

What Might a Volunteer Face?

The comments in this section, which come from a cross-section of Volunteers who have served in Ukraine, are intended to stimulate thought and discussion. They reflect the fact that each person’s experience of Peace Corps service is unique.

Possible Issues for Female Volunteers

At first, gender roles in Ukraine can be difficult to understand and accept. Ukrainian culture may appear to be discriminatory. Ukrainian women constitute more than 50 percent of the total population, and working women outnumber nonworking women. Although men and women may receive equal pay for equal work, women are underrepresented in positions of power and often are not promoted as readily as men to managerial positions. These gender differences, sometimes overt and sometimes subtle, can present problems for Volunteers in job situations.

Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color

Racial and ethnic minorities in Ukraine—primarily Poles, Hungarians, Crimean Tatars, and Greeks—make up about 5 percent of the total population. They are not always well-organized and are not usually recognized as separate communities. Crimean Tatars are the exception, as they are becoming a more significant facet of the population in Crimea.

In spite of the racial diversity of the former Soviet Union and Ukraine’s close contacts with former socialist countries in Asia and Africa, most Ukrainians have not had personal interactions with people of other races. They often assume that African-American or Asian-American Volunteers are university students from Africa or Asia rather than Americans. Thus minority Volunteers may be stopped to show their identification papers more frequently than other Volunteers, particularly in larger cities where they are not known. In addition, “skinhead” groups in some larger cities have reportedly targeted individuals of African or Asian heritage in the past.

Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers

Older people in Ukraine are generally respected and seen as sources of wisdom. So older Volunteers often have a greater degree of credibility upon arrival at their sites. The slow pace of change in a developing country, however, may prove challenging for some individuals. In addition, certain conditions in Ukraine—uneven pavement, multistory buildings without elevators, tobacco smoke and other air pollutants, and lack of amenities—combine to make life more demanding than in the United States.

Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers

Homosexuality was decriminalized in Ukraine in 1991. However, this often is not acknowledged, and civil rights related to sexual orientation are limited. The gay communities in Kyiv and other large cities are becoming more open, and in 1999 Nash Mir, the first gay nongovernmental organization, received official state registration. Some gay and lesbian Volunteers in Ukraine have found that being open about their sexual orientation at their sites has had a negative impact on their effectiveness.

Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers

Many Ukrainians have little knowledge or understanding of non-Christian faiths. Religious observances are prevalent in schools and communities, particularly in western Ukraine. There are Polish and Greek Catholic churches and Ukrainian Orthodox churches in most communities. Most big cities have large numbers of Christian missionaries, particularly from evangelical denominations. Volunteers are sometimes mistaken for missionaries, and the Peace Corps is careful to maintain a separation from such groups. If you do not attend church, Ukrainians may demand that you explain why, but it is possible to politely decline when invited to attend someone’s church if you choose not to.

Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities

As a disabled Volunteer in Ukraine, you may face a special set of challenges. In Ukraine, as in other parts of the world, some people hold prejudicial attitudes about individuals with disabilities and may discriminate against them. And there is very little of the infrastructure to accommodate individuals with disabilities that has been developed in the United States.

That being said, as part of the medical clearance process, the Peace Corps Office of Medical Services determined that you were physically and emotionally capable, with or without reasonable accommodation, to perform a full tour of Volunteer service in Ukraine without unreasonable risk of harm to yourself or interruption of your service. The Peace Corps/Ukraine staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations for them in their training, housing, job sites, or in other areas, to enable them to serve safely and effectively.


How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Ukraine?

Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds those limits. The Peace Corps has its own size and weight limits and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limits. The Peace Corps’ allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 100 pounds total with a maximum weight of 50 pounds for any one bag.

Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution.

What is the electric current in Ukraine?

Ukrainian adaptor
Ukrainian outlet

The current is 220 volts, 50 cycles. Plugs and sockets are of the European two-pin type. If you bring 110-volt appliances, be sure to bring the appropriate transformers and adapters, which are not always easily available in Ukraine. Since hair dryers, cassette recorders, irons, clocks, etc. are available here (some of which can be switched between 220 and 110 volts), you may want to leave your American appliances at home. However, the prices of name-brand items are generally higher than in the United States because of customs and import taxes. Electricity is sometimes rationed, so it is a good idea to bring items that can also run on batteries if necessary.

How much money should I bring?

Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. You will be given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover your expenses. Often Volunteers bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.

When can I take vacation and have people visit me?

During the 24-month service, the Volunteer accrues a total of 48 days of vacation time, two days per month of service (excluding training). The Volunteer may use vacation days retroactively (in other words, if a Volunteer wants to take a 14-day vacation, he/she does not need to wait 7 months to accumulate these vacation days). However, leave may not be taken during training, the first three months of service, or the last three months of service, except in conjunction with an authorized emergency leave. Family and friends are welcome to visit you after pre-service training and the first three months of service as long as their stay does not interfere with your work. Extended stays at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travel assistance.

Will my belongings be covered by insurance?

The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects; Volunteers are ultimately responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. However, you can purchase such insurance before you leave. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be provided, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Volunteers should not ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.

Do I need an international driver’s license?

Volunteers in Ukraine do not need to get an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating privately owned motorized vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks and lots of walking.

What should I bring as gifts for Ukrainian friends and my host family?

This is not a requirement. A token of friendship is sufficient. Some gift suggestions include knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; decals and stickers; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; or photos to give away.

Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?

You will be assigned a site during the first half of training and will have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences. However, keep in mind that many factors influence the site assignment process and that the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you would ideally like to be.

How can my family contact me in an emergency?

The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services provides assistance in handling emergencies affecting trainees and Volunteers or their families. Before leaving the United States, instruct your family to notify the Office of Special Services immediately if an emergency arises, such as a serious illness or death of a family member. During normal business hours, the number for the Office of Special Services is 800.424.8580, extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574. For nonemergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580, extension 2420 or 2419.

Can I call home from Ukraine?

Ukraine has good telephone connections with the United States, although service is most consistent from the capital and other large cities. Because international calls are very expensive, most Volunteers call home collect, establish a time to receive a call from home, or use international calling cards. Cards from companies like AT&T, MCI, and Sprint can be used in Ukraine via an international operator. In some of the larger cities, it is possible to buy calling cards to use to call home from Ukraine. Also, some Ukrainian cellular phone companies offer affordable rates to call the United States.

Should I bring a cellular phone with me?

Ukraine has cellular phone service, and Peace Corps staff members are equipped with cellphones for emergencies. Differences in technology make most U.S. cellphones incompatible with Ukrainian systems. However, cellphones are available for purchase virtually everywhere, even in villages. Having a cellphone is both useful for safety reasons (especially when in remote areas) and also to keep in touch with fellow Volunteers, site colleagues, and Peace Corps staff while away from your site.

Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?

Most Volunteers in Ukraine have access to e-mail, though access is not as consistent or fast as in the United States. Depending on where you live and work, you will be able to access e-mail at a local Internet cafe, at your place of work, from home (if you have a computer), or at the nearest regional center. Volunteers generally find the Internet to be the fastest and most affordable way to communicate with friends and family in the United States.

Many Volunteers bring laptop computers, but they are responsible for insuring and maintaining them. The Peace Corps will not replace stolen computers and strongly encourages those who bring them to get personal property insurance.


See also an alternative packing list

This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Ukraine and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have a 100-pound weight limit on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Ukraine.

Luggage should be tough and flexible, like duffel bags and backpacks without external frames. When choosing luggage, remember that you will be hauling it in and out of buses and trains and often lugging it around on foot (there are no porters!).

General Clothing

Bring comfortable, professional-looking clothes that are appropriate for many occasions and can be layered according to the weather. (Note that you are expected to dress professionally during training.) Because you may be wearing the same clothes for two years, quality is more important than quantity. It is culturally acceptable in Ukraine to have a small wardrobe, so do not overpack. In addition, clothes should be wrinkle-fee (polyester-cotton blends are recommended), easy to clean, and dark colored (you are likely to be washing your clothes by hand and cleaning whites is a chore!). It is possible to buy clothes in Ukraine, but selection and sizes are limited in the smaller towns.

One option is to have clothes custom-made, which is not as costly as it is in the United States.

For Men

For Women


Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items

Unless you have to have specific brands, you can get almost everything you need—e.g., shampoo, conditioner, lotion, shaving cream, toothpaste, antiperspirant, hairspray, coloring products, razors—in Ukraine. Things to consider bringing:

You can easily buy most kitchen supplies in Ukraine. There are a few items, however, you might consider bringing:



The following list consists of suggestions for you to consider as you prepare to live outside the United States for two years. Not all items will be relevant to everyone, and the list does not include everything you should make arrangements for.





Personal Papers


Personal Effects

Financial Management

See also

External links

Personal tools
Tell Your Friends
Peace Corps News
Country Information