Oleksandr Toporivsky: Village head fights for better future for his western Ukraine town of 4,800 people

KyivPost 1
Popular on social media

Name: Oleksandr Toporivsky

Age: 27

Education: Kyiv Academy of International Economics and International Relations

Profession: elected local official

Did you know? Toporivsky is among the youngest heads of village councils in Ukraine.

Oleksandr Toporivsky brought his own desk and a chair when he was elected head of the village of Blahodatne in western Ukraine’s Volyn Oblast in 2015. “Only the telephone worked there,” he said. Since then, all of the village’s problems have become his own, but he’s positive he can solve them. Blahodatne (formerly known as Zhovtneve), home to 4,800 people, could never boast good infrastructure or an abundance of jobs. Located some 500 kilometers west of Kyiv, close to the Polish border, it rarely attracted investment and many people had to go to neighboring countries to find a job.

Toporivsky is trying to change that. Having worked as a lawmaker for the village council before the elections, he said he was ready for all the tasks the village head might face, but admits there’s still “too much” paperwork, which is time-consuming.

He’s always in search of grants, and thanks to those the community raised money to fix three roads, install street lights and build two outdoor, custom-made gyms in Blahodatne.

“Before I was elected, I saw bad roads or things like that as part of everyday life. Now every pothole on the road or illegally dumped garbage is my problem,” Toporivsky explains. But change, he believes, starts from within. Now he’s teaching his fellow villagers to clear up garbage.

“It’s not always easy to persuade people that we need to do it,” the village head says. However, during one of their clean-ups they collected 10 truckloads of garbage.

In the village, they’ve organized a number of volunteer clean-ups at the local cemetery and the lake. Toporivsky says it’s easy to inspire people once you show them what to do — so he’s always out there working with the villagers.

“There’s no need to wait for the help from the region — we have to rely on ourselves. That’s what I call the Baron Munchausen method,” he says. Toporivsky constantly thinks how to save money and so is trying to drop wasteful Soviet practices, like painting tree trunks, power poles, and lampposts white.

“I’m learning from other mayors’ experiences and am trying to adopt the best practices,” Toporivsky said. They have also launched a village council website, where they list all budget expenses, council decrees, and future projects.

Toporivsky is always ready to talk — either in person, or via Skype or his Facebook page. “Still, a lot of people believe that their domestic problems should be solved by the village head,” he says.

Found a spelling error? Let us know – highlight it and press Ctrl + Enter.