Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February. For more than two months since then, every single day has begun with the latest news on Ukraine. Along with sad news, people tune in, hoping to catch some better news, or drawing home and inspiration from stories of heroism and solidarity. Indeed, from the very first day, thousands of Georgians have united in support of Ukraine, and ordinary civilians, volunteers and organisations engage in humanitarian activities every day.
On 18 February, five Ukrainian friends had arrived in Georgia for a short stay. On 24 February, they found themselves trapped in Gudauri, unable to go home. Left in a foreign country, they were scrambling for resources to keep going, while desperately worried about their family and friends in Ukraine and the fate of their country.
Some of the friends eventually went to the Ukrainian border in Poland, but Yuliana and Katerina stayed in Georgia.
That was when they met Rusudan Tskhomelidze, who published a post on social media, offering shelter to Ukrainian citizens for free. The search for lodging marked the beginning of a friendship between the young Ukrainians and Rusudan’s family.
“We feel enormous support from the Georgian people” – Yuliana
A sociologist by profession, Yuliana was born and raised in Kyiv. She has a cat who is with her father in Kyiv, and her mother lives near Irpin. Yuliana is in a state of constant worry, but at least she is happy she can regularly communicate with her family.
“As soon as the war started, I created a family chat and I check it once every few hours, to know what is happening,” says Yuliana.
“The American press constantly writes that the Russian aggressors will run out of strength, equipment, also their morale is weak, and all this gives me hope that everything will end soon. It is hard to be certain about anything, no one knows what Russia will do. I hope that the political and economic pressure will have an effect and yield the desired results.”
The relationship with Rusudan’s family and the support of the Georgian people have been an enormous help to Yuliana in these difficult times.
“The relationship with Rusudan’s family eases our sorrow, they try to support us as much as they can. In addition to us not having to think about financial issues, they support us mentally as well. We’ve become friends with Rusudan’s family and this helps us. Generally, we feel great support from the Georgian people.
“Good news from Ukraine help me to deal with these days, there are bad news in between too, but I try to feel a little relief from the good news. I have video calls with my friends and family, I see my cats, I check social media and see that life goes on in Ukraine, they have switched to a new routine – all this reduces the worry in a way,” says Yulyana.
“There should be no war in any country” – Katerina
Before the war, Katerina had helped refugees from Belarus, Russia and Uzbekistan – she provided legal assistance, and facilitated their access to social services in Ukraine. Now she has ended up as a refugee herself.
“We did not leave because of war, but we became refugees because we cannot go back to Ukraine. I helped refugees before the war, I was a volunteer and tried to change people’s lives for the better. Now that Ukrainians are leaving the country and Europe has given them the same opportunity, that makes me happy,” says Katerina.
Katerina’s everyday life is dominated by thinking about Ukraine. Her family and relatives are in Ukraine and she constantly follows their news, she is also worried about her cat that she adopted from the street in January and that now has been evacuated.
“My day starts with the news, and now the situation is such that if there are no news, that is good. The place where my relatives live is often bombarded, many people have died. My mother is also not far away from that place. The village she lives in was occupied, but due to the risks I will not name the region.
“The news may even be good, but if nothing new is happening, it is even better. I think about war, I think how we are going to continue life after it ends, I also hope that the war will soon be over in favour of Ukraine, but I also wonder about the price we have to pay for that. I wonder how will we build our country again? Which is a good question but painful at the same time, because some of the cities that they can’t take, they are demolishing and annihilating. We still do not know how many peaceful civilians they have killed. I’m afraid to learn that number, because although they are saying an approximate number, there is a doubt that they may have killed far more. And generally, it does not matter, because not a single person should have died,” says Katerina.
“War should not happen in any country. I do not think only about Ukraine – I constantly think about Chechnya, Serbia, Georgia, Syria, other countries, continents, which is horrifying. I constantly have these thoughts in my mind, which is a bad way of dealing with stress, but there is nothing I can do, I try to distract myself, but I keep coming back to these thoughts again and again,” says Katerina.
“We try to lighten each other’s hard days” – Rusudan
Rusudan, who is hosting Yuliana and Katerina in Georgia, tells us about the friendship that began in the time of war. She says that although they only met recently, they have become friends and try to ease the hard days for each other. Rusudan’s family and her guests try to overcome difficulties and plan to travel to a victorious Ukraine once the war is over.
Rusudan says that the support from Georgia, including the rallies, are important for the Ukrainians, because they see that many people stand by them.
“There are a lot of people around me who try to help Ukraine and the Ukrainians as much as they can. They participate in humanitarian aid collection, engage in voluntary activities, some even went to Poland and are helping refugees; going to the rallies is no less important, because at that time Katerina and Yuliana were already with us and I could see how important our support was for them. People’s compassion is strong and we’ve seen many examples of that, which makes me happy.”
Katerina, Yuliana and Rusudan hope to strengthen their friendship further and to visit Georgia and Ukraine in more peaceful circumstances.
As Yuliana tells us, “This friendship will last longer than the war!”
Ana Kuprava – a volunteer helping young Ukrainians
Sixteen-year-old Ana became involved in volunteer work back in 2020, when the pandemic began. This is how she ended up in Helping Hand, a volunteer organisation, whose members count more than 2,000 Georgian youth.
“A lot of my friends had been members of Helping Hand and I also decided to give it a try. Additionally, I wanted to gather my diverse interests together. During voluntary work I have been engaged in numerous activities, whether it was helping the elderly and persons with disabilities, working with autistic persons, etc. This experience helped me to see new opportunities and now I am actively involved in the initiative supporting Ukraine,” says Ana, who decided to help young Ukrainians by collecting humanitarian aid.
“I decided to involve anyone in the initiative, regardless of their profession. I put out information on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, to contact people of different ages. We participated in both collecting aid and sorting the resources.”
People were eager to help Ukrainians, she says.
“It is motivating, when you see that people are trying to support materially, by providing belongings or warm words. We collected warm clothes, hygiene items, grains and food that can be stored for a long time,” says Ana.
As part of this initiative, young volunteers have collected not only humanitarian aid. They wanted to share the positive emotions as well, so they wrote handwritten letters and decorated them beautifully.
“We hope the messages will reach the recipients and in the moment of opening they will feel the warmth and the support from Georgian youth. We’ve also recorded and sent videos. This war is hard for us too. Since the beginning of this initiative I have met many foreign young people, including Ukrainians, and I constantly keep in touch with them, to learn the news, also to tell them about the initiatives that are being implemented in Georgia,” Ana explains.
Asked why she decided to launch the initiative in support of Ukraine, she responds that it is painful for her to think about the fate of young Ukrainians, so she tries to support them:
“I think that war is especially painful for the youth. I keep thinking about those adolescents, who should be going to school, but instead they are fleeing their homes, trying to stay alive. So, that is why we have to engage in volunteer work, help young people from Ukraine, learn how to communicate with people who have been through war, help them in coping with their stress,” says Ana Kuprava.
Apart from volunteerism, Ana is also a Young European Ambassador and through this she has met many active young people from Europe, including Ukraine. The Young European Ambassadors initiative is a platform that aims to facilitate the exchange of shared ideas and information about the European Union. Along with other Georgian Young European Ambassadors, Ana participates in environmental actions, talking to Georgian citizens living in the regions about various initiatives and projects of the European Union. Just recently, they also prepared a video in support of Ukraine, that highlights the solidarity of Georgian youth.
As Ana reports, every person must understand that in today’s world, in the century of globalisation, the entire world is interconnected and other countries’ problems also affect us, so we have to be more active and try to change the world for the better.
Georgia Red Cross Society in daily service of Ukrainians
Ordinary civilians and volunteer organisations are not the only ones involved in the solidarity action: among them are also international organisations, such as the Red Cross. The Georgian representation of the biggest international humanitarian organisation, the International Committee of the Red Cross, started working as soon as Russia invaded Ukraine, to help the civilians affected by war.
The organisation united with various private companies and started raising money through a music marathon and other campaigns. By 22 March, 1,887,322 Gel had been raised to support Ukraine.
Additionally, the Georgia Red Cross Society, which keeps constant contact with its Ukrainian counterparts, has collected humanitarian aid for Ukraine. On 22 March, the first humanitarian cargo was sent to Ukraine, with Georgian volunteers delivering up to 40 tons of aid to Ukrainian cities.
“At the initiative of the Georgia Red Cross Society, a mental health and psychosocial assistance coordination platform was put in motion, bringing together organisations and professional groups that offer free mental health and psychosocial assistance services to the citizens of Ukraine,” says the organisation.
To participate in the ongoing initiatives of the Red Cross to support Ukraine, including making monetary donations, you can visit www.redcross.ge.
These are only few examples. Every day new initiatives appear on social media from Georgia to support Ukraine. Since the first day of war, ordinary civilians, businesses and organisations have been united under one goal – not to leave a single Ukrainian without support.
Author: Giorgi Baskhajauri
Article published in Georgian by On.ge
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