Meet the Russians helping Ukrainians stranded in Russia
Many Ukrainians have fled the war to Russia itself, where they need help finding housing, work and schools – or leaving the country
While Russia’s military has decimated Ukrainian towns and cities, killing thousands in its attempt to take control of the country, some residents in the Russian city of St Petersburg are helping refugees fleeing Ukraine.
After making their way under Russian bombs and through the Russian military’s so-called ‘filtration camps’, Ukrainians require assistance in their new temporary, forced shelter in Russia.
Russian volunteers meet the refugees at railway stations, host them in their apartments, help them find medicine and clothes – as well as housing and work. Others take people to the border with a neighbouring EU country, such as Finland or Estonia, and help them (and their pets) get the necessary documents to leave the country. The UN estimates that 1.1 million Ukrainians have gone to Russia.
Russian volunteers, who are not supported by the state, use online chats and groups to coordinate responses to calls for assistance. It is strictly forbidden to discuss politics or news from the front in these groups, or to respond to those who try to start a conversation about the war. A careless word or statement could lead not only to the chats being closed, volunteers believe, but to volunteers themselves being arrested. Many volunteers have ties to protest and opposition circles, where arrests or prison sentences are common.
As well as the threat of police interest, volunteers face criticism from several sides. Russians who have left the country accuse them of ‘collaborating’ with the Kremlin – e.g. by accepting the consequences of the invasion, while Russians who support the war claim volunteers are ‘betraying Russia’s national interests’ by ‘helping the enemy’. Equally, there has been criticism from Ukrainians, who say the volunteers have failed, as a part of Russian society, to stop Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, and that they are now just trying to make amends with ‘handouts’.
Read on: Positive.News
It’s important to remember and honor people that put themselves at risk to do the right thing.
Hermine "Miep" Gies