Please Donate, Please Help

I received this by email today from Ukrainian Freedom Fund.

Dear UFF Supporters,
Many of you have sent notes wishing safety for the fiancée of our communications director’s, Victoria Nazarenko; he has been on the front with the infantry. Victoria has been too strong to tell the open community, but Eugene was wounded 3 weeks ago. He should recover, but still has a large shell splinter which had chemicals infecting him.

Twelve others in his unit were killed that same day.

This is what a cease-fire means to the Russians.

Putin remains aggressive in the Baltics and his robust intelligence (and media) forces are undoubtedly manipulating ISIS, Middle East and Ebola events to take western attention away from Ukraine: don’t let the absence of western media coverage in Donbas fool anyone into complacency. He requires a war to justify his faltering economy: he failed in reforms – and now needs a scapegoat to retain power. We expect him to continue attacking – perhaps with occasional pause – but always in search of a new enemy.

Meanwhile, Victoria is working harder than ever. A Ukrainian Patriot with a mission.

Our soldiers will remain in combat through the winter: Reports indicate Russia has moved over 300 armored vehicles into Ukraine in the last 1-2 weeks and replaced rag-tag mercenaries with professional soldiers. While Ministries say they are providing clothing and equipment, the equipment is old or substandard – and the government still has a long way to go in eradicating corruption. One volunteer, Lada Roslyncky, recently went to the front delivering material and filmed this video one mile from Donetsk airport.

UFF is also working with volunteers to get medical attention to the wounded. We are collecting packages of warm clothes from North America – and if the clothing donations aren’t adequate for soldiers, we are giving them to refugees (over 300,000 now) in the East. And we are coordinating with various commands on other equipment needs.

We are also recently working with other NGOs – both newly formed in Ukraine and older established ones in North America – to help coordinate efforts, ensure greater efficiency in helping the Army and volunteer battalions and to communicate to the rest of the world that Russia remains on the offensive, threatening Ukraine and the West. We will make more announcements about this as we get further along.

Thank you for all your support.

Andrew Bain
UFF co-Founder


Please donate today. U.S. citizens can make tax-deductible donations via UFF’s partner U.S.-Ukraine Foundation. Just write on the check, or in the note section of the online form, “For UFF”.

Thank you.

Don’t know how to feel

Igor’s nephew, our nephew, got his military notice today. What does that mean, you ask? We’re not sure ourselves. And we’re not sure how to feel about it.

I’m in Tbilisi, for a conference I’ve been planning for almost 2 years. Up until the minute I got on the plane yesterday, I wasn’t sure I would actually come. I told my colleagues 3-4 weeks ago, when Igor told me he was going to try to enlist, that I would not leave the country if he went into the army. For good or for bad, they didn’t take him (yet), but I still would not commit to this trip, telling my colleagues we are living day-to-day, and as long as the Russian war on Ukraine is unpredictable, my life is unpredictable.

Right or wrong, I did get on that plane yesterday. I know people are depending on me for this conference, and the sort-of lull in the fighting in Ukraine made me semi-comfortable leaving for a few days (with the knowledge and caveat that I can be back in Kyiv in a few hours, if I want/need to be). So I’m here. And I do love Tbilisi, and Georgia, and my fabulous colleagues here. And they, more than anyone else in the world, understand all to well what we are going through in Ukraine. So there is some therapy in the understanding and sympathy.

And tonight I called Igor, who told me Denis (pronounced like the American name Denise, but it is the equivalent of the name Dennis) got his military notice today. But we’re not sure Denis even knows yet, as he moved to Kyiv 3 weeks ago to live with us, while he does his master’s degree in Kyiv. He’s also looking for a job, and much to our surprise and immense pride, he’s pounding the pavement and has had lots of interviews.

Denis is from small town Ukraine, and moving to Kyiv is a big, and overwhelming, deal for him, and for his parents. For my Ohio folks, it’s like a Centerville kid moving to Columbus. Theoretically (geographically) not so far away, but nonetheless lightyears apart. He’s a simple kid, 22 going on 16. Sweet, eager, naive and wholly inexperienced. His first week in Kyiv, I was convinced he was bored and lonely. Denis went home to Korosten for the weekend, and I told Igor I felt bad Denis had had such a boring and lonely week – he spent every evening with us, never went out with people his own age. Igor’s perspective was the complete opposite – Denis had had an incredibly exciting week full of new adventures. He went out to dinner with us and a group of friends to a pretty posh restaurant. He tried Kentucky bourbon for the first time (thank you Jayne!). He was critically, essentially helpful when our kitchen & bathroom sinks backed up one morning – he helped me deal with the vomiting sinks and managed the conversations with various plumbers that I could not negotiate with my limited plumbing-related vocabulary. And he got job interviews, on his own, after just a few days, in a very tough job market. He’s a small town boy, learning to live in the big city. To his credit, he came back for week 2. And for week 3.

And now, he’s been called up to report to the army enlistment office. Denis’ dad, Igor’s brother-in-law Vova, called Igor today about it. When Igor told me, my first questions were “How is Denis?” and “How is Oksana?” (his mother, Igor’s sister). Igor’s answer to both questions was “I don’t know.” He doesn’t know if Vova has told anyone else in the family yet (the letter was sent to Denis’ home of record, his parents address). All Igor could tell me was that Vova was upset, as any parent would be. And Igor was upset, and I was… worried, concerned for how Denis would take the news, and of course terrified for his life in this utterly absurd and lopsided war.

I had just been at dinner with a colleague, talking about the “situation” in Ukraine. I talked about my own personal dilemma – I was both horrified and tremendously proud that my husband went to the military office to enlist. My worst nightmare is to lose him, yet if it has to be, I couldn’t be prouder that he would do it defending his country (hell, all of Europe!) against this pure evil invader. And we talked about the people from Donbas, the horrors so many have fled, and the thin sliver of a silver lining that they get a chance to start a new life, away from the economic disaster that has been eastern Ukraine for decades. But why should Korosten boys die to save the Donbas territory? But who will fight to preserve Ukraine’s territorial integrity?

And so our own personal dilemma. I want to kick and scream and cling with all my might to keep my husband in my arms. But how can he look himself in the mirror in the years to come if he doesn’t fight to save his country? And how can I ask him not to fight? And none of us wants to see young, beautiful, innocent Denis sent to the front. But what future is there for him if boys like him don’t go to protect it? How can we want someone else to protect our future, our country, our freedom, if we ourselves are not willing to fight, and send our most dear and beloved to fight?

I had lunch Wednesday with a friend who told me about meeting with another friend the previous day – the mother of a soldier killed at the front. She had to try to find her son in bags of body parts, bodies blown to bits by the Russian bombings during the so-called ceasefire. And I see regularly the soldiers who’ve lost arms and legs and huge chucks of their skulls in this fucking war. I think often of the millions of mothers and wives before me who sent their darling, beloved sons and husbands to battle. So many stupid wars, yet so many critically essential battles to save humanity…

We are scared about what will happen to Denis. But we are also terrified by what will happen if Putin is not stopped. Do we pull strings so he’s not shipped out, or do we sacrifice our own flesh and blood, as thousands of other families are already doing?

I hate this so much. Everyone asks me “How is it in Kyiv? What are the people like now?” My answer every time is “Kyiv is wonderful, as it was for years before and has been since February. But the people are angry, furious, frustrated.” And so am I.

A little context

It’s the time of year when my bosses in Washington DC review annual plans and budget requests for the upcoming fiscal year (which starts October 1 in my working world). It’s never a very fun process, as we each try to lobby for our regions to get a reasonable share of the ever decreasing budget pie. This year there are some new people in the Washington office, and it’s always more time consuming the first year with a new boss. Lots of questions, lots of detail needed, lots of explanations, and of course lots of jockeying to make a good impression on the new boss. I guess I wasn’t as suck-up-y as my colleagues, or something. She actually chastised me mid-way through an hour+ phone call, said it was frustrating that I was not reviewing the budgets critically and recommending cuts. I was flustered, said I didn’t know she had expected me to do that, usually my role has been to lobby for the countries in my portfolio. She told me my other colleagues were more “cooperative”.

Fuck you, was all I could think. In a rare moment of self-control, I actually kept my thoughts in my head and didn’t say anything out loud. Thank goodness for non-video conference calls, though, as I have no poker face at all. I’m sure I would have received a much more severe chastising had she seen the expression on my face.

The call was at the end of the day my time, and I walked home nearly in tears. She really upset me, and I kept going over and over the conversation in my head. “Doesn’t she know what’s going on here?” I wondered to myself. And then it hit me. Of course not.

I mean, in theory, she knows what’s going on here, but of course it’s not front and center in her life the way it is ours. When I got home, I composed an email, thought about it a bit, and hit send.

I am sorry I caused frustration during our call today. I sometimes forget that just because all we in Ukraine can think about is the war, it’s not consuming your lives, too.

I have to admit, I am physically and emotionally exhausted. Aside from being completely overwhelmed with the [big upcoming work events], 10 months of living with the “situation” in Ukraine is taking its toll on me, as on everyone else here. l try not to check the news all day, but it’s impossible. I try to sleep through the night, but it’s impossible. For a little context of what our lives are like, last week my husband Igor went to his hometown to try to enlist in the army so he could defend his country in this utterly lopsided war with Russia. His vision is bad and they didn’t take him now, but registered him for if (more likely when) there is a general mobilization. Last night, one of our dear friends from Igor’s hometown was in Kyiv and stayed overnight with us. He was called up several months ago to work in the military enlistment office. Over dinner, Vlad told us about enlisting hundreds of guys, and having to ship them out with almost nothing. Their parents and wives and children and cousins bring money to Vlad and ask him to buy a helmet for a son, or a bullet-proof vest for a husband, or send some food to a cousin. Vlad also has to arrange their funerals, as they come back, 2-3 every day, in coffins. If (when) my husband is mobilized, Vlad will have to ship him out too, and it will be me desperately trying to get clothes and equipment and food for his unit, and it will be Vlad organizing his funeral if he comes back in a coffin.

I volunteer with an NGO that is helping injured soldiers. We buy medicines and equipment from abroad that the Ukrainian hospitals don’t have and desperately need, we try to get the worst cases abroad to European, Israeli and American hospitals, in hopes that they’ll have some chance of survival, if not real recovery. We also fundraise and deliver cash to injured soldiers and their families. I’ve lost count how many men I’ve met who are paralyzed or missing an arm or a leg. I’ll never forget the 20 year boy who had both hands blown off.

I took a vacation day last week to travel across Kyiv to a pharmacy warehouse where I could buy pre-natal vitamins and other essential medicines in bulk for a group of pregnant women who fled the havoc in the east this summer and are now living in a church shelter in a village on the other side of Kyiv. When I got there to deliver the vitamins, I found out the shelter’s sewage system had just completely broken, so 170+ refugees from Donbas all have to use one outdoor toilet (really just a pit). The church is trying to decide to use its limited resources to finish the heating system before winter, or fix the sewage system.

I share these examples, not as an excuse, but rather with hope that you will understand why it is difficult for me right now to care if [a partner organization] gets $10,000 or $12,000. Yes, I should have been better prepared and more engaged in the discussion today, and I’m sorry I wasn’t. I will try to do better next time.

Thank you for your understanding.

If you have the inclination and means, every donation, no matter the size, makes a difference.

To help equip soldiers with essential protective gear and non-lethal equipment: Ukrainian Freedom Fund

To help injured soldiers (the fund was started to help those injured during the Maidan revolution, and now we also help injured soldiers): Fund Medical Needs of People Injured on Maidan

To help the Donbas refugees at the church shelter outside Kyiv: Logos

Forego the cup of coffee today and help Ukraine push back hard!

Dear Friends:
A personal appeal to you, on behalf of an American in Kyiv whose Ukrainian husband is fighting for Ukraine’s freedom and sovereignty. Pretty soon, this will likely be me, asking you to support my Ukrainian husband’s squad. Please follow the link on the page below to donate to the Ukrainian Freedom Fund.

You can give to the fund in general, or specify that it’s for UFF-Viktor or UFF-Kovalenko. If you’re American and want a tax deduction, you can donate through the US-Ukraine Foundation. Just specify the donation as “UFF-Viktor”, “UFF-Kovalenko” or “FOR UFF”. The US-Ukraine Foundation then forwards the donations to Ukrainian Freedom Fund.

Thank you! Slava Ukraini!

From Lilia Horodysky Kovalenko:
URGENT: please help Viktor’s squad. Need to reach nearly $30,000 in a few short weeks, to support my husband’s unit with military supplies in Ukraine to fight against Russian invasion: [for details]

Forego the cup of coffee today and help Ukraine push back hard!

Please “share”! [I think I’m the only American with a husband in the Ukrainian army]

6 months…

Six months ago today, the Revolution of Dignity culminated. By this time of the day, I had stopped counting the ambulances that were bringing the dead and injured to Hospital #17. I stopped at 50, and they kept coming every 2-3 minutes all night. Six months is twice as long as the Maidan revolution, an incredibly corrupt regime was brought down by 3 months of peaceful civil disobedience, with a few infamous days of violence. I don’t know of any other time in history when such a horrible government was brought down (a) so quickly (3 months); (b) by almost entirely peaceful civil disobedience; and (c) with so few casualties (about 100).

Ukrainians are amazing.

Giving the wrong way, revisited

About five years ago, Igor and I got involved in a so-called “humanitarian aid” project. Some very nice and well-meaning folks in the U.S. wanted to help a hospital in a Chornobyl-affected community in Ukraine. They got mixed up with some serious scammers, and it all went downhill from there. Giving the wrong way was my reflection on that experience.

I reflect on it again this week, and draw your attention back to that history, to remind us all why it is important to give cold, hard cash in times of crisis. Times like we are facing now in Ukraine. Please donate to Fund Medical Needs of People on Maidan International today. Thank you.

If you can’t help stop this madness, at least help the injured recover

Today I went to the Main Military Hospital with representatives of Fund Medical Needs of People on Maidan International, to deliver money they collected for injured soldiers. Their important and essential work continues now, as hundreds of wounded young men are brought from the front.

They are all so young, and so brave. We met three young men who are paralyzed. One man who lost both hands. One man with severe head injuries. And many, many more.

Please, please, please contribute to Medical Maidan. I promise you, every single penny goes to people who need it. We give the money only directly to the soldiers, many of whom need expensive surgeries and long-term treatment, $100,000 and more.

My friends in the U.S. and the EU, if you can’t help make this madness stop, please help these brave Ukrainians get the medical care they need.

No shame

These sick scum have no shame.

The terrorists, who for days claimed they did NOT have the MH17 flight data recorders, negotiated yesterday for over 12 hours with the Malaysian delegation, before finally agreeing to turn the boxes over in an obscene and absurd “ceremony”, replete with a “formal” signing of papers, stamps, and a handshake for the cameras.

Kyiv Post report on the event

To add insult to injury, they posted photos on Twitter of the signed and stamped documents.

Do they feel like big boys now?

Reliable news sources

Updated 11 October 2014

I’ve been asked to advise on reliable news sources. I can’t vouch for any of them, they have all reported unconfirmed information, few of them really understand the context of Ukraine and Russia. Too many of them report from Russia on Ukraine. But these are the ones I check daily. I’ll add to the list as I come across other good sources.

The only two English-language media sources that have had journalists on the ground in Ukraine throughout the entire time (during both Maidan revolution and Russia’s war on Ukraine) are Kyiv Post and Vice. Look for Vice’s series Russian Roulette: The Invasion of Ukraine, there are up to 60 reports in the series as of yesterday.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Live Blog: Ukraine in Crisis has become my go-to site. I check it throughout the day, every day.

Lidia Wolanskyj: Canadian-Ukrainian journalist living in Ukraine; frequently reports for the CBC. She provides very good reviews and insights about other articles; I read anything she suggests.

Mychailo Wynnyckyj: Canadian-Ukrainian professor of political science at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. His analyses are thoughtful and insightful, and I also read many of the articles he suggests. EuroMaidan Press sometimes re-posts his essays (for those who don’t do The Facebook).

Ukraine Crisis Media Center: press briefings, multiple languages.

EuroMaidan Press: They translate Ukrainian- and Russian-language articles, press releases, etc. You can subscribe to get articles by email, or follow them on Twitter, Facebook. They also have compiled their own list of Ukrainian and Russian media which cannot be trusted.

The most important section to read on EuroMaidan Press is English translation of <a href=";Dmitry Tymchuk’s Military Blog. You can read about who Dmitry is and why he has become recognized as an important and reliable source in the Global Voices article about him. He’s gotten a few things wrong over the past months, but many more things spot-on.

Global Voices is also an excellent resource. They translate the local blogosphere and social media into English, and provide context and commentary to help the rest of the world understand. Their summaries are outstanding.

BBC does a pretty good job, they had journalists in Ukraine throughout much of the revolution, so have good contacts here. They get a bit lazy in their analysis, sometimes, but are MUCH better than U.S. media at least in acknowledging the situation is much more complex than just “east vs west”, Russian language vs. Ukrainian language, etc.

NPR was the first media outlet to send a journalist across Ukraine way back in December, during the early days of the revolution. Respect. Corey Flintoff has done some great reporting in and on Ukraine, but he’s based in Moscow and they don’t seem to let him come to Ukraine much. He is very knowledgeable on Russia, of course, and I always listen closely to his reports. Wish he could be based in Kyiv.

On Twitter, I follow
@edwardlucas and read much of what he recommends about Ukraine and Russia.
@StateofUkraine, they link to a lot of non-English language sources, but you can use Google translate to read the source articles
@ChristopherJM, and read a lot of what he forwards.
@RFERL Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
@shustry Simon Shuster, he’s well connected with people on the ground
Al Jazeera English, sadly you cannot access their site in the U.S. unless you use a VPN to get a non-U.S. IP. They are much better than Al Jazeera America, try to find a work-around, because it’s worth it.
@mfa_russia Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (in English), sometimes for the amusement of the absurdity of their tweets, always to keep an eye on the spin they are puking out into the world.

What NOT to read
Any Russian media, it is ALL Kremlin-controlled. RT is a Kremlin mouthpiece, and a disgusting one at that. (The Moscow Times (English language) is independent, as far as I can tell, but probably is able to stay that way by avoiding too much politics.)

I have a serious grudge with The New York Times, for YEARS they have reported on the entire region while sitting in Moscow. You just can’t understand Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia or any other country that is not Russia when you are sitting in Russia all the time. Kyiv is a 90-minute flight from Moscow, and yet it took them MONTHS to get a reporter here to actually report on Maidan from Maidan. Of course, that reporting is still questionable since the Moscow-based reporters don’t have local contacts, understand the history and background, etc. They’ve gotten sneakier in the past couple of months and now start claiming a local byline by giving co-credit for their articles to a local reporter. Now you have to go to the very bottom on the article to see who is actually where. I also don’t understand why they insist on still spelling the capital city’s name as Kiev, instead of the proper Kyiv. It’s been an independent country for 23 years, for pete’s sake.

You should stop not worrying about Ukraine

I have spent a lot of time and energy over the past 6-7 months reassuring my family, my friends, my colleagues and even complete strangers that we are safe and fine in Kyiv. Most of the time it’s been completely true, some of the time it’s been a half-truth, a few times I lied. I didn’t want my family and friends to worry, I was concerned about them. I didn’t want my employer to try to evacuate me.

I’ve lived in Kyiv going on 9 years. I am convinced it is one of the safest big cities in the world. For all but a couple months during the revolution, I have never been afraid walking late at night alone. I often have told people the worst that happens in Kyiv, a city of 4+ million, is pick-pocketing (and the maniac drivers, but you can avoid them by not driving, as public transportation is fantastic).

I won’t lie anymore. I won’t tell you what you want to hear so that you won’t worry about me, because that means you also won’t worry about Ukraine, and you don’t realize you should be worried about yourself.

The most honest thing I have posted this year was on March 1.

Since then I have spent an enormous amount of time and energy convincing you (and I suppose myself, as well) that it was not true. But it is. Putin has been at war with Ukraine since March 1.

No, it’s not the kind of war we are “used to”. It’s not a 20th century war. This is what war in the 21st century is. “De-stabilization”, “Military uniforms without insignia”, “separatists” and “insurgents”. Please tell me why Russian citizens with Russian passports are Ukrainian “separatists”?!

Interview with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoff Pyatt:
Ostrovsky: “The Russian government claims it doesn’t control or support the rebel movement in eastern Ukraine and doesn’t have any ties to it, and this is a civil war scenario that’s happening in Ukraine. What is the information that the American government has. Are these Russian troops in eastern Ukraine? Are these Russian weapons being supplied with the knowledge of the Russian government?”
Pyatt: “These are certainly Russian weapons, and there’s no way that tanks and heavy artillery are moving across the border without the acquiescence and knowledge of Russian authorities. The question of who these fighters are, a lot of them, of course, are Russian citizens… It’s very clear a lot of the leadership of these organizations are Russian citizens, they make no secret of that.”

I will no longer tell you what I think you want to hear, I will no longer try to make you feel better so you don’t worry about me. You need to worry about yourself. Putin is at war with Ukraine, and we have been trying to defend ourselves, all on our own. You probably don’t even know about three Ukrainian planes the Russian terrorists shot down in recent weeks. Do you know about the 500 Ukrainians, soldiers and civilians, who have been killed by the Russian terrorists? Do you know about the thousands of Ukrainians injured and displaced by the Russian terrorists?

For three years I have walked to work through the grounds of the Main Military Hospital. It’s a large and lovely territory, 3-4 city blocks long, with a chestnut tree-lined central alley, flanked by various medical offices and patient wards. There are gazebos and benches and magnolia trees and lilac bushes. I’ve gotten used to seeing the occasional elderly veteran sitting on a bench, or a young soldier recovering from appendicitis. I’d almost forgotten it was a military hospital, and have often thought how lucky I am to walk to and from work through such a lovely park. It’s one of my favorite times of my daily routine, it’s been one of my favorite places in Kyiv.

Until recently. Now the benches are occupied by wounded young men, sometimes with their young girlfriends or wives trying to look brave and strong. Wednesday, walking home from work, I saw a young man, 20?, with both hands blown off. No hands. Every day the past two weeks the security at the hospital has been increasing. First, instead of just the old guy pushing the button to raise the electronic arm-thingy and let cars through, there was one young man in full combat gear with an automatic rifle. Then two. Then some sandbag barricades went up. This morning, the gate at the pedestrian gate entrance was closed, reinforced by sandbags, and the vehicle entrance near our apartment was guarded by 4 armed soldiers, ready to seek cover behind a sandbag wall.

It took us time to understand what was happening here. It took us time to understand that the attacks were not isolated or for specific territorial gains. We knew we were at war, but now we understand it.

And it’s time you did, too. I am very, very sad by the 298 deaths on MH17 yesterday. But if the terrorists had actually hit their intended target, another Ukrainian plane to add to the three they’ve brought down in recent weeks, you probably would have heard nothing about it. I mourn deeply for the 298 souls lost yesterday, as well as the 500 Ukrainians who have been lost to this madness. The death toll in Putin’s war on Ukraine is now at least 800.

It’s time you, too, realized what is happening here. It’s time to stop not worrying about Ukraine. Because when you don’t worry about Ukraine, you don’t worry about Russia. And Russia is dangerous.