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Welsh miners repay decades-old solidarity: Aid convoy heads to Kyiv

In 1984, Ukrainian miner Vasyl Yavorsky selflessly donated his wages to support striking Welsh miners, never anticipating that the kindness would be reciprocated decades later. Today, a convoy of Welsh miners has embarked on a journey from south Wales to Kyiv, laden with essential medicine and supplies, aiming to repay the generosity extended to them during their own tumultuous times.

The convoy is a lifeline for Ukrainian miners entrenched on the front lines, grappling with the aftermath of the Russian invasion two years prior. Vasyl Yavorsky, reflecting on the reciprocal aid, expressed, “They did not forget about us, just like we didn’t in 1984.”

During the 1980s miners’ strike, Welsh communities affected by the industrial upheaval received crucial support from various corners, including the former Soviet Union. Vasyl fondly recalls the solidarity among mining brethren, where everyone contributed to a donation box, exemplifying the global support that sustained them.

Now, four decades later, the roles are reversed, as English and Welsh counterparts rally to assist Ukrainian soldiers confronting the harsh realities of war. This enduring bond, spanning from a strike to a war, is cemented in shared experiences toiling underground.

Wayne Thomas, the orchestrator of this benevolent journey and head of the National Union of Mineworkers in south Wales, vividly remembers the support from Ukrainian miners during the strikes. He states, “I am now very proud to have the opportunity to show how grateful I am for the support we received then from Ukrainian miners.”

Accompanying Thomas on this impactful trip are Carwyn Donovan, a fellow former miner, and Mick Antoniw, a Welsh-Ukrainian Member of the Senedd who tragically lost relatives in the ongoing war. Antoniw emphasizes the importance of this gesture, serving as a commemoration of the aid received during the strikes and highlighting Ukraine’s pivotal role in defending democracy against Russian aggression.

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In 1984, miners from across the globe, including Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union, flocked to Britain in solidarity with the strike. Sian James, former Swansea East MP, vividly recalls hosting a group from the Soviet Union and sharing the wonders of a local shop in Ystradgynlais, Powys.

Mykhailo Volynets is president of the independent Union of Ukrainian miners

Mykhailo Volynets, now-president of KVPU, the independent Union of Ukrainian miners, was profoundly influenced by his interactions with British miners during their visit in the mid-1980s. He credits their brave fight for shaping his outlook on life, eventually leading over a million miners on strike in the USSR in 1989, a pivotal moment preceding the Soviet Union’s dissolution.

As the Welsh convoy arrives in Kyiv, Mr. Volynets expresses gratitude, acknowledging the risks they undertook to stand with Ukraine. This enduring connection, forged in shared struggles and triumphs, transcends borders and stands as a testament to the unyielding spirit of miners across generations.