UPDATE: Former Ukrainian street paper The Way Home shares the situation on the ground
As Russia invades Ukraine, it’s anticipated that more than a million people may flee the country to seek refuge in neighbouring nations like Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. Street papers in those places respond to the ongoing conflict, standing in solidarity with the Ukrainian people’s right to democracy and in support of all those who may flee.
By Colleen Tait and Tony Inglis
Street papers stand with the innocent people affected by the unfolding conflict in Ukraine and the aid organisations working urgently to respond to their needs.
In Ukraine, high levels of poverty, unemployment, homelessness and displacement meant people were already struggling to live and access basic needs. We are deeply concerned for these vulnerable communities, the innocent lives under threat and the humanitarian crisis unfolding alongside the conflict.
The Way Home, a charity based in the southern port city of Odesa, Ukraine, which is currently occupied by Russian troops, has reached out to INSP with an update from the conflict zone. The organisation previously published a street paper, also titled The Way Home, however INSP is unaware if the paper is still a going concern. The Way Home otherwise works with vulnerable and marginalised people in the area.
Sergey Kostin, the charity’s director, said: “At the moment we are surviving very hard times, but we do our work steadily. We were asked by public activists to place women with children from combat sites at our shelters. Besides them, our regular clients are the most vulnerable people who, even in peaceful times, live in terrible poverty. At the moment, I don’t even know how they survive. We are collecting money to help them.”
You can assist The Way Home with their work at this time by donating to their fundraising page.
It is estimated that more than a million people could flee Ukraine for neighbouring countries Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.
The street papers in those countries are responding to the ongoing crisis.
“We are horrified and moved by the situation in Ukraine,” said Dagmara Szlandrowicz of Gazeta Uliczna in Poland. “Suddenly, we witnessed the beginning of a new war and the violation of peace or a sense of security. Today we express our solidarity, friendship and fraternity with the people of Ukraine. We will organise possible forms of help and support. We are with you.”
Patrycja Zenker, the Polish street paper’s editor-in-chief, added: “Despite the information that Russia was planning to attack Ukraine, many of us did not believe that it was possible in the modern world. We conjured up reality, believing in historical memory, in diplomacy, in reason. Therefore, the war that began today came as a surprise to us.
“Many Ukrainians live and work in Poland – they did not come to it as war refugees. Most of them came to a pre-arranged job. Today, the situation has changed dramatically – we expect that those people who are already in Poland will be joined by their families, that from the areas attacked by Russia, their inhabitants will get to the west of Ukraine and to the Polish border. We know that many of them do not have passports, so it will not be possible to legally cross the border and stay. We are waiting for the position of the Polish authorities and the relevant regulations.
“Many organizations offer support in the form of translators, places for short-term residence, legal advice, psychological support. We display Ukrainian flags at our headquarters, wear them on our hearts and on our photos on social media profiles. We look for reliable sources of information and share them. That’s all we can do today.”
Dagmar Kocmánková, managing director of Nový Prostor in the Czech Republic, said: “We are very saddened by what is happening in Ukraine and we support the innocent civilian population affected by the war. We are ready to help people who will leave their country and provide them with humanitarian and social assistance in the Czech Republic.”
Sandra Tordová, editor and CEO of Slovakian street paper Nota Bene, said: “Our hearts are with the people of Ukraine, who are experiencing the unimaginable suffering of war, fear for themselves, their loved ones and a feeling of helplessness. In these uncertain times of the pandemic and growing poverty, war is closer than ever before. It is important that we turn our fears and insecurity into solidarity and courage to stand up for the values of humanity. We must approach the people who are experiencing the horrors of war today, who will seek refuge, as we would like them to treat us in a similar situation. We can easily become those who need help as well.”
Now street papers in countries further afield are speaking out in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
Jörn Sturm, managing director of Hamburg, Germany-based street paper Hinz&Kunzt, said: “We are deeply dismayed that one country in Europe is attacking another. War always hits the poorest hardest. Our thoughts are with the Ukrainian homeless in particular.”
Donate to The Way Home to assist their work during the crisis here.
[In line with other news outlets, INSP has chosen to use the Ukrainian derived spellings of cities in the country rather than those derived from Russian. For example, the Ukrainian ‘Odesa’ as opposed to the Russian ‘Odessa’, and ‘Kyiv’ as opposed to ‘Kiev’.]
Courtesy of the International Network of Street Papers