What You Can Do to Help Ukraine

Pro-Ukraine protesters gathered at the Russian embassy on Feb. 25. Photos by Kaiden J. Yu.

“Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary,” American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote. 

As ordinary Ukrainians take up arms to defend their country, that notion couldn’t be more pertinent. 

It has been six days since Russia launched its invasion with 200,000 troops, expecting to roll easily over any resistance. But as this article is published, all of Ukraine’s major cities are still under Ukrainian control, thanks to what a senior Pentagon official calls “creative and effective” resistance. 

Over a half million refugees have fled, hundreds of civilians have died and Russian rockets continue to batter residential neighborhoods—and now, major cities, too.

At a pro-Ukraine demonstration in front of the White House on Feb. 24, protesters sang the Ukrainian national anthem, chanted against Russia’s president and raised signs depicting Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky. 

A sea of yellow and blue filled Lafayette Square Park throughout the afternoon, with some stars and stripes sprinkled in. On the tallest flagpole waved the Ukrainian, American and NATO flags together. 

“Abandoning Ukraine = Abandoning Democracy,” one sign read.

The crowd—made up primarily of families—was at once solemn and hopeful, unsettled and confident. Among the demonstrators, I sensed, above all, an overwhelming pride. 

Pro-Ukraine protesters gathered in Lafayette Square Park on Feb. 28. Photos by Nick Penniman.

Ukraine has been thrust into one of the defining struggles of recent centuries: democracy versus autocracy. Many of the images, moments and messages coming out of the war zone have an uncanny resonance with others, immortalized by history, that epitomize that struggle. 

Civilians stood in front of Russian tanks and formed human barriers trying to prevent their advancement, as did an unknown Chinese civilian in the famous image from the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.

After rejecting a US evacuation offer, President Zelensky stood in the streets of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and said, “I need ammunition, not a ride,” a pronouncement reminiscent of Winston Churchill’s famous World War II declaration, “We shall never surrender.” 

Ukrainians who cannot or will not flee stood in the streets, at the windows of their homes and in bomb shelters singing the national anthem, reminding us, perhaps, of American civil rights protesters singing “We Shall Not Be Moved” in the 1960s. 

However different the subjects of those comparisons seem, the point remains the same. The Ukrainians’ fight against Russia is also the fight against authoritarianism. Their fight for their country is also the fight for democracy. And in that fight, their front line is ours too. 

A new report, released on Feb. 24, from Freedom House finds liberal democracy under siege around the world and the international balance shifting “in favor of tyranny.” 

The world has seen “16 years of democratic decline,” according to the report. And now, “only about 20 percent [of the global population] live in free countries,” down from 50 percent in 2005.

There has been some inspiring resistance. In the past three years, we have seen substantial pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong, Thailand, Eswatini and Myanmar. But the success rate of these movements has not been high. If you’re fighting for democracy today, you’re most likely swimming upstream. 

On Feb. 24, wrestler and actor John Cena tweeted to his 12.7 million followers: “If I could somehow summon the powers of a real life #Peacemaker I think this would be a great time to do so.” Instead of wondering what imaginary powers could be summoned to help Ukrainians, let’s try to help them. Here are 11 ways:

Ukrainian organizations: 

  1. The Ukrainian Red Cross provides first aid to the civilian population of Ukraine in areas with limited access to medical services. Donate here
  2. The Voices of Children Foundation helps children affected by the war, providing psychological and psychosocial support. Donate here
  3. The Kyiv Independent, staffed by the former editorial team of the Kyiv Post, is Ukraine’s English-language media outlet. Last week, the startup had only 20,000 Twitter followers, but they now have over one million. Donate here on GoFundMe or here on Patreon. 
  4. Razom for Ukraine collects medical supplies and money for refugees and soldiers, both civilian and military. Donate here

International organizations: 

  1. United Help Ukraine delivers medical supplies to Ukrainian civilians and injured soldiers and provides other forms of humanitarian aid. It also aims to raise awareness among Americans about the conflict through rallies in DC. Stay up to date on the organization’s progress on its Facebook page, and donate here.
  2. UNICEF USA is a children’s aid agency that works throughout eastern Ukraine to provide water, psychosocial services and other supplies to children affected by war. Donate here.
  3. Global Impact, headquartered in Alexandria, raises money for international charities. It has created a targeted Ukraine Response Fund to address the war. Donations will go to humanitarian aid groups such as Human Rights Watch, Direct Relief and World Food Program USA. Donate here
  4. DC-based Chef José Andrés’ World Center Kitchen has a team on the Ukraine–Poland border providing meals to Ukrainian refugees. Donate here

Petitions:

  1. A petition from the Russian-language Change.org against the war in Ukraine has received over one million signatures. Add your name here

Local protests and marches: 

  1. Showing up at demonstrations in support of Ukraine will raise awareness and generate headlines, creating a ripple effect with the potential to reach those in power. On Feb. 24, hundreds of thousands around the world rallied in support of Ukraine. More events are surely in our future. 

Staying informed:

  1. It’s our responsibility to care. What does it say about us Americans if we grow indifferent to other nations’ struggles for freedom and democracy? That’s the last cause we can turn our backs on.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter!Current GDS high school students and teachers receive the newsletter automatically.