Trigger warning: This article talks about war, war crimes, and violence. Please exercise caution when reading- if you wish to skip these parts, then begin reading at ‘Stay creative with what you can offer’.
Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine has now been going on for 86 days (as of the 20th of May), and every day we find out more about the war crimes and atrocities committed both on and off the battlefield. The stories of what civilian women and children have experienced in Bucha, or the pictures of a group of 10 people executed while queuing in front of a store to buy bread, will probably never leave my head. Even though coping with this daily dose of cruelty is already hard, what makes it even harder are the feelings of complete helplessness and guilt. My friends and family back at home in Poland are helping and volunteering: at train stations, refugee welcome centres, helplines, hospitals, orphanages, and most people I know have arranged accommodation for at least one refugee from Ukraine. Not being able to provide hands on help pushed me to explore other ways that we, the Glasgow community, can get involved and help without leaving the country or even your flat.
Stay creative with what you can offer
Help is needed everywhere, on Ukrainian battlefields, in refugee centres, train stations and hospitals. It is also seeked by many: soldiers and civilians in Ukraine, refugees who fled to neighbouring countries and Ukrainian companies and organisations that are trying to survive these difficult times. You can help these groups in many different ways.
The first and most obvious one is donating goods and money to reliable organisations. The university’s donation hub will remain open until 20th of May, and you can bring anything from bottled water to first aid kits and mobile phone chargers (clothing donations are not accepted at the moment). For other collection points, you can also have a look at the Facebook group “Scotland for Ukraine”, where you can post about anything that you might be able to offer- things like free English classes, baby-sitting, or even providing help with CVs and cover letters, for people who will be trying to find their first job in the UK.
In terms of donating money, you can also do it in different ways. Firstly, you can send your donations to the big, well-established organisations such as British Red Cross, British-Ukrainian Aid, Unicef, or Save the Children. For help within the university, you can also donate to the University’s hardship fund, which will be used to support students who require financial support during these tough times. However, if you are more interested in sending money to more local and root-based charities you can look into organisations such as: Ukrainian health organisation Svoyi, which amongst other medical services provides adult oncology; Ukrainian House, which is a Polish charity run by Ukrainians for Ukrainians and are now taking care of coordinating arrivals of refugees to their new homes.
If money is not something you can afford to donate, you can also give the gift of a roof over a refugee’s head. If you have the means to host someone who has fled Ukraine for at least 6 months, you can register with the Homes for Ukraine Scheme and contact SASemail@example.com. Alternatively, if you cannot offer the accommodation yourself, you can donate to Airbnb’s initiative and help them in giving someone a new home.
Apart from the tangible things that you can do, there is one more thing that we all can and should do: read, listen, stay informed, and do not become indifferent to what is happening in Ukraine. This is especially important with Putin’s war in the digital sphere, as well as the battlefield. For more information, here are a few sources where you can get a good summary.
The New York Times has launched a free “Russia-Ukraine War Briefing”, where every evening you can get a summary of the biggest news regarding the invasion. Another good source is the Kyiv Independent: a newspaper formed by former Kyiv Post journalists, it has a great news feed with brief information and updates from the invasion, to keep updated whether you can afford to spare a minute or an hour. For more issue-specific articles and stories, it is good to look at different authors and journalists. Anne Applebaum from The Atlantic has been writing analytical pieces that attempt at explaining the invasion though looking at historical context and long-term factors, while Charlie Sykes hosts a podcast from Monday to Friday, which focuses on how the invasion of Ukraine will impact democracy. The New Yorker has also created a Ukraine page, sharing reports, short stories, and essays, which give you a better understanding of the situation of Ukraine’s past and post-war future. If you are a twitter fan, Jane Lytvynenko originally from Ukraine, now working at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center, has created a list for Ukraine monitoring where she retweets relevant posts. Another profile worth observing is one of Olga Rudenko, the chief editor of Kyiv Independent.
As you can see, there are endless ways to stand with Ukraine without physically leaving your room, or even standing at all, from very small gestures to big, long-term commitments. Above all, make sure that you do not guilt yourself into thinking that you are not doing enough- a mistake I have made myself a few weeks ago. In these tough times, anything you can do to help is better than doing nothing.