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TTPod 2.6: "On the Receiving End" - South Africans Supporting the Ukraine Refugee and Relief Efforts in Europe

With Diane Arvanitakis and Jan de Bruin

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Peter Ahmad

19 June 2022


Peter Ahmad


Talking Transformation Podcast

Ukraine, South Africa, Poland, Germany

In this TTPod episode we look across continents and the Ukrainian conflict. The episode tries to consider the challenges and support being rendered via the reflection of two South Africans currently based in Europe. In the last months, the world’s media has focused in on the Ukraine and the untold suffering endured by the communities and cities affected by Russian military activity in the Ukraine. 

For every action, there is a reaction, and one major driver of transformation of communities and cities - in the most negative way imaginable - is via war.  At the time of recording, Reuters news agency estimates that more than 15 million people have been displaced from their homes. More than 2,500 buildings have been destroyed and the costs in pure property dame is estimated to exceed $600billion. 

This episode looks north to two European cities – Munich in Germany and on the eastern border of Poland, Rzeszow that are directly absorbing the impact of the Russian actions in the Ukraine as refugees – predominantly women and children – flee their homes and communities for the safety of the west. I had wanted to understand how these challenges are playing out and reached out to two friends and colleagues who are directly working with the refugees in those cities: Diana Arvanitakis is in Munich and Jan de Bruin in Rzeszow. 

Both are South African’s working abroad and you’ll hear from both how they came to be working in this space and what challenges the displaced communities face.  What I can tell you from the outset is that Diane helped me reassess my own goals and objectives as a planner – learning from her practical means of using urban design to shape transformation initiatives. Her CV is rich with practical and academic experience in some of South Africa’s most innovative spaces. Likewise, Jan has a CV that illustrates a practical and wide-reaching experience of disaster and relief coordination in some of the most challenging environments of the last two decade – South Sudan, Lebanon, Iraq and war-torn Sri Lanka before and after the devasting tsunami – Jan’s experience and commitment to serving the communities most in need are truly inspiring. I wanted to hear from them about their experiences and the realities being faced by the refugees and beyond that how the scale of the out-migration is impacting on the receiving cities. In the trauma and tragedy are strong messages of hope, courage and resilience from all parties involved.  I am deeply indebted to both for the time and willingness to discuss these issues with me and I hope they will highlight the challenges faced by the refugees and the laudable work Diane and Jan are engaged in. 

Find out more about Diane's work and organisation via: https://nfp-muc.org/

Medair NGO's details can be found via medair.org

Recorded June 16th, 2022


Website References


Adequacy of shelter

Built environment

Child welfare

Child welfare services

Cities and towns

Disaster housing

Disaster mitigation




Housing needs






Settlement abandonment

South Africa

Special needs




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