Over the past weeks, our tightly knitted network of independent reporters and activists wasted no time and resources to enter Ukraine days after the Russian invasion and offer direct help to the most vulnerable while being backed by a series of additional private individuals on the outside that were taking care of communication and logistics support. We are friends, old travel partners and like-minded media buddies believing in quick direct action leaving slow bureaucracy in the hands of bureaucrats.
In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24th , we opted for immediate action and entered via Lviv a few days after the first Russian bombs started to rain on Ukraine. Why we did so? Because we have friends there, intimate relationships, many memories and a bunch of old cultural and art projects we have been working on with Ukrainians in the past.
From the beginning, our support has been exclusively pragmatic and, although many of us are, to some extend, part of the media circus, it was very important not to fall in the trap of sensationalism unlike the borderline disgusting way the mainstream media and Western society generally speaking has been handling this genuine tragedy of a nation. The Ukraine war has triggered an enormous wave of international solidarity, a wave some politicians, celebrities or organisations don’t hesitate to ride for the purposes of polishing up their image. We deeply believe that it does not make you a better a person if you help, it does not make your social media account cooler – it is just a total lack of empathy in the end.
Seeing this and perfectly knowing that the corporate world backed NGO dance was soon to begin, it was clear to us that many vulnerable people would quickly be left aside. The Ukrainian war displaced millions of people but one has to realise that the only ones able to exit the country were kids and women. This poses a series of problems like the fact that families get torn apart because valid men must stay behind. The women and kids often have no resources and perspective. Giving them a shelter is one thing but we immediately set up structures where they could live and rest in peace while instantly starting to rebuild their future. Nobody wants to be a refugee: homes rather than refugee camps and new job perspectives instead of social aid were our credos. As often as we could, we helped to find permanent homes and new jobs for the people we were actively supporting outside Ukraine while we helped empowered them with means of staying in touch with their loved ones and, when it was doable and safe, some were even able to cross the Ukrainian border to stay physically in touch with their loved ones.
On the inside, we decided to focus on the ultra-vulnerable, the already forgotten. Pregnant women, unaccompanied children and old, sick or disabled people unable to flee, human trafficking victims. As the conflict intensifies in certain regions, we recently decided to proceed to emergency evacuations with private vans via the humanitarian corridors put in place. Theses escape routes are far from safe and we have all had our fair share of bad to horrible news. Friends have died and we are all exposed to sick shit on a daily basis. On top of that, the war terror machine prevents everybody from resting and relaxing systematically setting off bomb alarms every single night. Often, the planes just pass by without dropping bombs but the terror effect is real and sleep is lacking.
We entered Ukraine with our own means and we are linked to no particular organisation although we are surrounded by similar enterprises born from the feeling that doing nothing was not acceptable. Check out Marcin's and OperationAid's work in Poland for instance or LUkraine's contrtibution from Luxembourg. We don’t erect tents at the border with a flag bearing a logo while managing budgets on a spreadsheet and generating huge operating and back office costs. In our eyes, this is useful to keep politicians in the game and to prepare help for later stages of the conflict but help is needed everywhere and immediately. We drive our private cars into the mess and stick to weak civilians physically reaching out a hand – actively and directly.
Today, our mission is far from accomplished and we are still driving around Ukraine to evacuate individuals to safer regions. We also travel to buy medicine and do deliveries in remote locations. Some of our personal bank accounts got blocked by our banks because of ‘suspicious’ money withdrawals from inside Ukraine and, although this is in the process of being solved, it adds some unnecessary spice to the already unimaginably difficult undertaking. Among my main action men in Ukraine are David Pichler and Lars Hermes who, beside their humanitarian activities, are providing photos and stories giving the people they meet a voice. For privacy and/or security reasons and in an attempt to keep out of the spotlight in order to keep the main focus on the victims, some discrete heroes prefer not to appear on photos or in articles but there are many helping hands, brains and hearts at work with us in Ukraine.
From the outside, other private individuals keep providing information about safe escape routes, permanent home solution, job opportunities and, crucially, moral and psychological support. They also put likeminded people in touch creating knots between various strings of direct help and surges of brotherly solidarity. Human lives are our priority but we care about life in general. Among the left aside, are countless abandoned, injured or sick animals across the country that are also in need of care and evacuation. On top of their photo story telling, people like fellow photographers Christophe Mendes and Ali Sahib we are in touch with, are also focusing their efforts on these little fury souls.
So far, the supplies pouring in from outside Ukraine are sufficient and what we cannot find inside, we usually are able to get from Poland or Slovakia but business is business, even in times of war, and we spend a lot of our money for the medicine we are buying for our protégés and for the gas we need for deliveries across the country.
We put up a list of the 20 most common medical items we regularly need below:
1. any Benzodiazepine + Amisulpride
2. Augmentin -1000mg
3. Ursohol 500mg (or any of hepatoprotetors)
4. Pradaksa 110mg
5. Concor 2. mg
6. Enap 10mg
7. Indap 2,5mg
8. Rosuvastatin 10 or 20mg
9. Valsacor H 80mg
10. Koriol 12,5mg
11. Cocarboxilaza 50mg in ampul.-30;- кардиологические препараты;
12. Hidazepami 0,05
14. Euthyrox 150
15. L thyroxin 50
16. Enalapril 20
17. Metformin 500
To keep our small solidarity machine rolling, we are accepting direct financial support until we can sort out our problems with our banks and get organised with local authorities and NGOs that will later take over the torch of what we have prepared and kickstarted in our improvised but efficient manner for now.
The money we get is used exclusively for direct action. Nobody of our group of private individuals is getting paid for anything we are doing and every help we get (except for transaction fees of the beautiful financial systems) is fully forwarded to the people in need that we meet on our path in Ukraine.
In later stages, when the urgency of the situation will have become more bearable, we will focus on compiling the media we have produced during this sick endeavour and we wish to come up with a photo exhibition project, a book, a tribute website or something in that vein. This will be another opportunity to give the people from Ukraine and its helpers a voice and to collect additional support funds for the long and complicated reconstruction process of medical, educational and cultural structures to come.
This is a personal appeal to my friends, anyone who enjoys following my blog and to the whole Poker community out there that I am regularly in touch with. We are outrageously lucky to play with money every day and we love to induce value-based reactions among our opponents. Here is an opportunity to induce big time with very little investment and very high potential R.O.I. humanely speaking. If you feel like you can spare come cash, we invite you to get in touch directly via the contact section of my website.
A few players have already reached out with ideas of short-term solidarity Poker challenges which they will donate parts or all their potential profit with. Thank you already in advance!
I am based in Bratislava for the moment where I do some networking. We were able to relocate or assist numerous refugees on their way to or through Slovakia and Poland. We were able to team up with Banco Casino to offer training, permanent jobs and accommodation via the Košice and Bratislava casinos for almost a dozen women from the Kharkiv and Odesa regions. Thank you for your open mind, Jan Packa!
A few fellow players have already reached out with ideas of short-term solidarity Poker challenges which they will donate parts or all their potential profit with. Thank you already in advance!
Plain and simple donations are also accepted. Until now, we have been handling our own personal money exclusively. Since avoiding administration work load, operation costs and bureaucratic slowness is crucial to us, we operate as private individuals but we understand that , for the sake of transparency, some people would feel more comfortable to donate to a legit structure. We are thinking about this issue and we are considering to create an association or a collective around our actions if our projects keep growing in order to be able to provide fully transparent reports of where your money is going to.
For now, we still focus on saving living souls on a daily basis and the best way to keep up with what we are up to, will be via the solidarity section of this blog or any social media source of mine with #allin4ukraine .
Thank you for your attention!