Baltic Community

The Baltic Community Group in Derby is launched

Derby is home to many people from the Russian speaking nations of the ex-Soviet Union. Principally they are from the Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, the remainder being from Russia and Kazakhstan. Although they have their own native tongues the binding language is Russian.

The 3 Baltic countries joined the EU in 2004. Since then people have migrated to the UK, and Derby, as part of the freedom of movement provisions within the European Union. It is not known what the size of this community is within Derby but it is thought to be several thousand. It is a diffuse group of people having similar characteristics as other sub-groups within the City. Unfortunately some people have not mastered the English language and so are struggling to sustain a job, and have not truly integrated and benefited from being in the UK.
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Two young men from Latvia, who were friends before they came to the UK, Dmitrijs Sulojevs and Olegs Sotnicenko, who have been living in Derby for several years, decided that something needed to be done.

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They could see that there was not enough cohesion within their own community and that opportunities were not being taken by some to help themselves. Some were feeling disengaged and on the fringes. They are a community that has its own culture and traditions which should be shared and celebrated with the rest of the people within Derby. Also, with being Russian speaking, and having an ex-Soviet legacy then it is important that any educational, language, and political requirements are co-ordinated in a way that helps the group, and that, Derby institutions do not, unwittingly, disenfranchise them on some level. By having a formal group it allows the civil structures in the City to engage with them in a way that can only benefit the people concerned.

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The meeting yesterday was to launch the constitution of the group, seek volunteers for the key roles, and to start discussions about what the group may work on. The declared purposes of the charity are: “ To integrate and engage East European, as well as any other Russian-speaking communities of Derby into active city life, in order to develop a strong and sustainable community”

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There was a modest attendance at the inaugural meeting but enough people came forward to become members of the committee, and there was much lively discussion particularly about the opportunities for Easter.

Robin Turner, Councillor for the Sinfin Ward, spoke at the meeting and gave his support to the aims and objectives of the group. He gave a brief presentation on his life, and his philosophies.

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Olegs and Dmitrijs have a range of established contacts within Derby who will be ready to support them, and I expect that as the group gets into the routine of committee meetings that the popular engagement will grow throughout Derby.

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I was privileged to have attended this session and to be there at the outset. It is always pleasing to see something evolving organically within Derby rather than it being instructed from a government department. This will be one of the main reasons for its success. The leadership and energy already demonstrated by the founders is impressive, and I have no doubt that this will inspire many of the Russian speaking residents of Derby to come forward and get involved, and to take ownership of their future.

I look forward to witnessing and reporting on their progress.

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