International congress of mayors: Mariupol is us
Vadym Boychenko Vadym Boychenko Mariupol mayor

17:02 Dec. 1, 2016

Mariupol is us

Mariupol (Source:

Why it is important to create a longtime strategy in a town and to accustom people to better life, so they would never let the development roll back? Vadym Boychenko, Mariupol mayor, tells a story of a small Ukrainian town

 I love Mariupol. I was born, raised and became successful in my town. I never wanted to leave, albeit there were various propositions and opportunities. I have travelled to different cities for my job. I saw different towns – modern and depressive, vibrant and empty, rich and poor. I like to implement an analysis and logic everywhere. Every process has its own cause-and-effect relationship. Why life is pulsing in Lviv or Kyiv, but deadbeat in Mariupol? I often thought about it, seeing thousands of students in the capital or tourist crowds in Lviv. One day the puzzle was hit me – "they" develop, while we stand still. 

To develop a town, you should encourage youngsters to stay. They have to have a choice, a possibility to choose where to rest, to choose a university and find a job they like and where to lay roots. Young people want a town that is cool. There should be coffee shops, clubs, malls, brands, at least a McDonalds. Yet, our town was not ‘cool' for many years. Where would they go, where could the rest? Only two universities to choose from… Want to be a doctor or a judge? That's not for us, go to another city. The kid travels somewhere to study, feels like things are humming in other cities – and he will not be returning. It means his mind will work to develop another city, not Mariupol. There he will create a family, have children, settle down and build his life.


I do not like this scenario. If we leave everything like it is now, in 20 years only elderly people will remain in Mariupol. That is not a good choice. I want the town to live and breath, not die. That is why I took up the responsibility for Mariupol. The worst thing was to leave everything like it was, so I have decided to change everything: to break stereotypes, system of management, to fill it with people who want to live in a vibrant town and thus do not vanish at their earliest opportunity, but instead change everything here, starting with themselves. Mariupol is us, the people that inhabit it.

With a young and ambitious team, we took part in elections and won. Together we have settled the goals and tasks and now move forward to reach our targets. We went on dozens of business trips; we saw the best practices and chose the best for us.

Read more Transformation of Donbas identities after liberation by Ukrainian army

Why was it important to form a long-term strategy? Because it is impossible to start the process and finish it within a year. My goal is to build a system that would work no matter who runs the town. As a result, people will get used to the good things and would never let it all roll back.

We must level up the "norm" concept. "Norm" is when a children hospital has bright rooms, painted with fairytale characters, walls that distract kids from illness. "Norm" is good furniture, new mattresses, a warm and comfortable place.

Read more Mariupol marks second anniversary of liberation (photos)

Talking about transport, in five years there will be no ramshackle trolleybuses or trams on the streets. Everyone will get used to quality transport and it will too become a new norm. 

The new "norm" roads will not have loose stones filling pot holes, they will be smooth, with intact curb stones, markings, and LED traffic lights. Five years later, the town management will be clear that no one would even think of "deciding" someone uses bribes. Fighting corruption is one of our main tasks. That is why Mariupol is already one of the leaders of state e-purchases through "Prozorro" system. That is why we were one of the first to join projects "Social inspector" and "Open budget".

That is why in less than in a year we have opened the first in Donetsk region Center for delivering administrative services. This has separated the civil servants that deliver services and the citizens. We have launched a program "New town council" where we teach managers to work for their clients.


People could see that we work openly and honestly, Business started to revive. New cafes, fitness centers, children facilities, art- projects emerge in Mariupol.

But what is the most important result – we have managed to create conditions for making a choice for our children. After dozens of negotiations, we could persuade three of the biggest universities of Donetsk region that they could comfortably work in Mariupol.

Now a faculty of Donetsk medical university is dislocated in Mariupol, and Donetsk law institute and state management university are to open next September.

Read more Ukraine student wins silver for her revolutionary invention in the Netherlands

This is a new point for the economic growth of our town. This means a choice of professions and diversification of economics. We have created a healthy competition for the minds of our children. They have a choice now. How would Mariupol benefit from it?

The medical university would create a strong medical cluster. Now we have 32 hospitals and clinics. This year a regional clinical hospital was also created in Mariupol. Yet, we have a problem: 46% of doctors are pensioners. We buy modern equipment and there is no one to work with it. That's why we need young medics, modern, tech-savvy and ambitious. Now they will be raised in our town.

Law institute has its own niche. Despite the fact that many professionals have moved from Donetsk to Mariupol, the staff is filled only at 75%. Again, this problem will be solved within five years. The university will raise new law enforcement officials.

Watch more 'Mariupolis' is not about changing. It is about continuing living'

The University of State Management will help us to solve one more problem: creating a new, open and clear, town council.

From now on our children will be able to decide what they want to be – a steelworker, a doctor, a lawyer, an economist or a manager. We will have competition here and healthy labor market, specialists will be competed on for creating financial motivation and comfort.

But all these are just the first steps, baby steps. We have a lot of work ahead. Yet, even now we are ready to share our experience, our wins and defeats with colleagues and all people interested in local development. On December 5, my team and I will be present at the International congress of mayors in Kyiv. Join us!

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