I spent my first day at HOPE Ukraine’s office meeting clients who arrived with their loan repayments drenched in sweat. Inevitably, the question to the clients was always “How is it out there?” and the answer was usually “Unbearable.”  Having lived a full week in Zaporozhye, I have now personally enjoyed the +100F (38C) weather and understand their sentiments!  A few other Kiva fellows currently out in the field remarked that they have always associated Ukraine (and Russia) with cold temperatures – the summers do actually get hot here, just maybe not as sizzling as this time around.

Beyond the physical discomfort, the situation is actually getting serious as the heat spell continues in August.  Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich just cut his 45-day vacation short and came back to Kiev to manage emergency response to the outburst of forest fires all over the country. As of August 5th, there have been at least 64 fires reported and the number continues to rise. Though not officially confirmed, there are even fears that fires in the Bryansk region could release into the air radioactive substances associated with the Chernobyl nuclear accident.  As Ukraine has formed special task forces to deal with the current situation, it has even offered to help Russia in regions hit by intense fires. The smoke from wildfires has reached Moscow, covering it in smog for the past week and making it hard to breathe and work in the capital.

Administrative building of Zaporozhye Oblast, Festival Square

Sun setting over Festival Square, still 38C

For now, Zaporozhye is still safe and quiet, though a few fires broke out near Khortytsia Island, a national reserve that is home to many hectares of oaks. In our office, two air conditioners have been struggling to lower the temperature below 86F (30C) this week, so imagine the hardship of small businesses located in outdoor stalls in the city’s numerous markets. Of course, many thanks are due to HOPE Ukraine’s loan officers who continue to travel in this weather and service clients as well as our dedicated Kiva lenders!

Margarita Salasyuk is a Kiva Fellow reporting live from HOPE Ukraine in Zaporozhye, Ukraine. She is a week into her Ukrainian fellowship and is excited to bring you stories from the Eastern block for the next three months.

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