'Ukraine Is Changing', Says World Jewish Relief Chairman, On Eve Of Euro 2012

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Concern is rife over Poland and Ukraine hosting the Euros | PA

There is a "miraculous happening in Ukraine", according to the chairman of the World Jewish Relief, despite the Panorama documentary showing anti-semitism and racially-motivated attacks in the country's football stadia ahead of the European Championship.

The BBC documentary filmed Ukrainian football hooligans airing racist chants and attacking Asian supporters because of their ethnicity, however James Libson, blogging for HuffPost UK Sport, is adamant the country is "changing" in its attitude towards the Jewish community.

"Despite this entrenched poverty, something miraculous is happening in Ukraine," Mr Libson said. "This is a region where any semblance of Jewish life was extinguished first by the Holocaust, then by 50 years of communism. People had buried their family history for generations to protect themselves, and traditions were gradually forgotten.

"But now, the Jewish community is starting to come back to life. Since the fall of communism people have grasped the opportunity to get to know the traditions of their ancestors with both hands.

Mr Libson travelled to Dnepropetrovsk and Krivoy Rog earlier this year to witness the work of World Jewish Relief, where he said he witnessed "a country eager to modernise, yet where not everybody is seeing the benefits".

Concerns over the country hosting Euro 2012 have escalated in light of the Panorama documentary, with former England defender Sol Campbell imploring English supporters to stay at home.

The British government, meanwhile, have specifically told Asian and black supporters travelling to Eastern Europe to take extra caution.

However Mr Libson is optimistic that Ukraine is making strides in combatting prejudice.

"What's clear is that Ukraine is changing. It's taking on the challenges of the future whilst simultaneously rediscovering its past. I have no doubt the region has a bright future ahead of it."

“Despite the progress that has been made, which has seen Jewish and other minority communities coming back to life, the Panorama programme clearly demonstrated that there is still a problem with anti-Semitism and wider racism in some sectors of Polish and Ukrainian society. The Euros give us an opportunity to shine a light on prejudice; to demonstrate to the world that we cannot be complacent in the fight against injustice.”

You can read James Libson's exclusive blog here

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