Volunteers’ war: How Belarusians, Poles, Lithuanians, Israelis help Ukraine

While politicians are playing their diplomatic games ordinary citizens start to act. Not only Ukrainians but also people not affected by the war in Donbas are involved. Volunteer organisations arose in different parts of the world: they send money, equipment and medicines to Ukraine, take care of its wounded soldiers in hospitals abroad. Why are foreigners doing all this?

English subtitles:

Take aim, fire, run. This is not a training ground in Donbas, but the course of military trainers in Lithuania. After raising funds, organisation Blue/Yellow hired instructors to teach the Ukrainians to fight in accordance with NATO standards so that the latter could share the knowledge gained with their military units. Blue/Yellow is an association of Lithuanians, who have taken to heart the Russian tanks in Donbas. The group has been actively helping Ukraine for six months.

JONAS ÖHMAN, Blue/Yellow:

“It did not take us long to realise that we should help, should do something.”

Different people, experts in various fields, provide help – not to Ukraine’s General Staff but directly to Ukrainian soldiers. They buy and deliver camo suits, army boots, helmets, armour vests and even military optics.

JONAS ÖHMAN, Blue/Yellow:

“The Lithuanians know well what Russia is, and what the situation may bring to  Lithuania, to the Baltic countries.”

Belarusians are also aware of the situation, but they are acting more cautiously. Volunteers in Homyel and Minsk raise money and  then buy medicines in Ukraine. And although we fail to hold rallies in support of Ukraine, Belarusians also contribute to field medics’ saving lives of the wounded.

ANDREY STRYZHAK, Belarusian volunteer:

“People donate different sums of money, from Br10,000  to 5 mln. And people are very different too  – both young women on maternity leave and  businessmen driving expensive cars.”

Israel also joined the campaign. Firstly they founded a special Facebook community where Israelis organised rallies in support of Maidan at the Ukrainian and Russian embassies. After the bloodshed on Maidan ‘Israeli Friends of Ukraine’ invited the wounded from Kyiv and provided their medical treatment  in Rehoboth, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem. But soon seriously injured ATO fighters substituted Maidan protesters in Israeli hospitals. Valuable cargoes regularly fly from Israel to Ukraine, too.

VYAVHESLAV FELDMAN, Israeli volunteer:

“We purchase medicines, Israeli bandages, food for Ukrainian orphanages and senior homes.”

The story of two Warsaw-based organisations also goes back into the time of Maidan protests. ‘The Ukrainian World’  –  a union of the Ukrainian diaspora –  and Polish foundation ‘Open Dialogue’ lend joint support to refugees in Poland. They give legal advice, psychological support, help in job search, collect clothes for families which fled Donbas empty-handed.

NATALLIA PANCHENKO, The Ukrainian World:

“Here are children’s clothes that people bring – Ukrainians, Poles, Belarusians who live here.”

The organisation buys medicines, armour vests, Kevlar helmets and even SUVs that will be later turned into real gun trucks in Kyiv. For example, the money for these seven helmets were donated by Warsaw Belarusians. All things collected are directly delivered to the front, to the hands of fighters in order to avoid corrupted rear warehouses.

NATALLIA PANCHENKO, The Ukrainian World:

“Unfortunately,sometimes a man is killed while we are buying an armour vest. We get to know that he does not need it any more as he was shot dead due to the lack of this vest! ”

The Ukrainian state turned out to be totally unprepared  for a war. As a result, volunteer battalions  were the first to repulse the aggressor. Notably, they were equipped for the war not by rear warrant officers, but volunteers, due to donations of ordinary Ukrainians, with the help of the citizens of Belarus, Poland, Lithuania, Germany and even Israel.

Foreigners say they are helping volunteers support Ukraine’s army because they would rather buy helmets for Ukrainians today than put these helmets on themselves, if Russia’s green men come to them.

Yaraslau Stseshyk/MS


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