On 24 October, the Latvian non-governmental organisation esiLV* held an online conference “Resilience of expats and overcoming crises: Lessons from Ukraine,” during which representatives of the most influential pro-Ukrainian non-governmental organisations in the EU talked about their work experience.
Promote Ukraine was represented at this event by Liubov Karpachova who is responsible for helping refugees in the organisation.
During her speech, Karpachova emphasised that one of the main areas of Promote Ukraine’s activities is the protection of human rights. In November, Promote Ukraine plans to hold the Second Human Rights Protection Forum for Europe-based NGOs that work for the benefit of Ukraine or focus on certain issues of support for Ukraine.
“Many of the problems we face are critically important for the whole of Europe. We can cooperate and create a platform to work together. We all strive to achieve better results in our work, win the war against Russia faster, and join the EU as a full-fledged member,” Karpachova said.
In 2022, when Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine took place, the world’s attention was focused on Ukraine. At the same time, according to Karpachova, it was difficult to convey the obvious message to the European community: Russia is the aggressor, and the obligation of the EU and the entire civilised world is to protect Ukraine and provide it with assistance.
That is why Promote Ukraine has always sought to strengthen the voice of Ukraine at the global level. The organisation members keep working to put the Ukrainian issue at the forefront of international discourse through conferences, events, and publications.
“Since the first days of the full-scale invasion, our main focus has been on working with the media and human rights platforms. We made efforts to inform European politicians and Europe about what was actually happening in Ukraine,” the Promote Ukraine representative stressed. “As a result, publications initiated by us appeared in such media outlets as The New York Times, Sydney Herald, RTBF, Politico, Euractiv, EUobserver.”
Promote Ukraine, together with EU organisations and Belgian institutions, organised more than 100 events and meetings with partners aimed at protecting the rights of Ukraine and Ukrainians. Ukraine’s needs were discussed. Among the organisations that trust Promote Ukraine are permanent representations of various countries in the EU, the Federal Parliament of Belgium, and members of the European Parliament.
When the large-scale war began, Promote Ukraine had its history, brand, and infrastructure to ensure communication and support volunteers with all the necessary resources. However, the organisation did not have a permanent location for meetings and work of a large number of people. It was obvious that such a location was necessary for the rapid exchange of information, which was key to responding to Russia’s aggression.
Such a location was given to Promote Ukraine by the European Parliament, which effectively recognised it as an organisation that can represent Ukraine and which gathered around itself a large circle of volunteers and pro-Ukrainian NGOs.
During a solemn ceremony on 17 March 2022, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola handed over the keys to the spacious office, located on the entire floor of one of the European Parliament buildings, to Marta Barandiy, the founder of Promote Ukraine. The office was named the Ukrainian Civil Society Hub.
“This hub has become a central place for Ukrainian NGOs. They hold public events, conferences, exhibitions, creating the necessary socio-cultural component, carrying out communication work, which is now crucial to support Ukraine in the EU,” Karpachova said during her speech.
“In February and March last year, we asked our partners for certain weapons for Ukraine,” the Promote Ukraine representative recalled, “Of course, such requests should be made officially only at the government level. However, we believe that civil society can and should strengthen the government’s message.”
Another area of Promote Ukraine’s activity is aimed at the attention of civil society. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the organisation has held more than 100 demonstrations in support of Ukraine. Some of them gathered more than 10,000 participants on the streets of Brussels.
For months, Promote Ukraine has been regularly boycotting gas stations of the Russian chain Lukoil in Belgium. This is a paradox – Russian fuel is still sold at gas stations across the EU. Every week, the organisation holds rallies near the Russian embassy in the EU. Promote Ukraine holds this rally near the Arts-Loi metro station in Brussels at 08:45 every Monday.
Large projects have become possible, thanks to the involvement of a significant number of volunteers. The full-scale invasion instantly united Ukrainians and all those who stood side-by-side with Ukraine and became a catalyst for civil society. In February of last year, the number of Promote Ukraine volunteers immediately increased by an order of magnitude – more than 100 members immediately joined the organisation and started working as volunteers.
“Having a strong involvement of volunteers, we opened two significant areas of work. The first is humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and the second is support for refugees. We raised more than EUR 350,000 in support of Ukraine approximately during the first 18 months,” Karpachova summed up, “We purchased and sent to Ukraine ambulances, vehicles for evacuating the wounded, generators, personal protective equipment, etc.”
Promote Ukraine continues to collect donations. For example, the organisation is currently planning to open a safe place in Kyiv where people can come in the winter months, where electricity will be available, where they can get warm, get water and tea, and charge mobile phones. Such places are also organised by the government, but the experience of the past year showed that there are never enough of them.
Supporting refugees remains an important activity area of Promote Ukraine. As of now, there are 75,000 refugees from Ukraine in Belgium. It is interesting that last spring, most of the organisation’s volunteers were former immigrants from Ukraine or Belgians with family or professional ties to Ukraine. Now, according to Karpachova, more than half of Promote Ukraine volunteers are people with official refugee status.
“They moved from Ukraine to an unknown country. They did not have any support here, but there was a strong desire to help others. To help refugees, we opened a location in Brussels called Cultural Space. Here, refugees can receive appropriate support, including psychological support, legal assistance, language courses, etc. Thanks to the Cultural Space, Ukrainians have the opportunity to integrate into Belgian society,” Karpachova emphasised.
Speaking of achievements, one cannot ignore the challenges that Promote Ukraine is facing. The main thing is the need to have constant financial support. As a non-profit NGO, Promote Ukraine cannot exist by itself.
Karpachova specified that the donations received by the organisation are fully directed to the needs of Ukraine, primarily, to help the army, refugees, and those affected by the war.
“We try to find grants and funding, but this is where the problem lies,” she explained during the speech, “Often, in order to receive a grant, you need to apply several months before the planned event.”
But what planning can be done in the current situation? A significant number of Promote Ukraine projects are reactive: the organisation does not plan events but reacts to the current, most urgent, challenges which are often almost impossible to predict and, accordingly, it is not possible to receive funding “on reserve.”
The second challenge is the need to maintain the focus of European society on the Ukrainian issue. “Last year, we were, so to speak, quite ‘lucky’ because all attention was focused on Ukraine. Accordingly, we had a lot of support from the EU. But now the attention to the Ukrainian issue is waning. Attention can be maintained more often only if it is covered by the media,” Karpachova summed, “However, now the attention of the mass media and European society is largely focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while the issue of the war in Ukraine is increasingly fading into the background.”
The third challenge is to ensure that Promote Ukraine has enough volunteers for the great work the organisation does.
Karpachova ended her speech by thanking everyone, who stands with Ukraine today, for their support: “I know that we still have much work to do, but I am sure that we will achieve our goal with your help!”
*esiLV – association uniting Latvian entrepreneurs and industry professionals for exchange of experience and business partnership.
Full speech https://youtu.be/SWmFa497vNo
Promote Ukraine team