The Russian attack on Ukraine has seemed to unite Europe, with each nation providing empathy and activism for the crisis of justice. But what about direct action? While the flurry of tweets and TikToks providing information on and condemning the attacks have led many to declaring the invasion “the world’s first TikTok war”, many commentators have noted that the benefits of these acts of social media social justice can be quite obscure. Some have questioned whether this online coverage is “a new form of citizen war journalism or just an invitation to keep clicking”.
Trinity has officially condemned the invasion of Ukraine, stating on its website: “The university is currently offering support to students, staff and other members of the Trinity community impacted by the crisis. A team, led by Vice President for Global Engagement Emma Stokes, has met with Trinity students affected by the conflict and will continue to provide help in the days ahead”, and lighting up College’s front facade in Ukraine’s national colours of blue and gold. College also outlined supports on offer to Ukrainian Trinity students and 18 Trinity students on exchange in Russia, such as support through their college tutors.
While statements of solidarity and local support display a certain stance, it can be contested as to whether this assists the crisis at hand. In an address to the EU Leaders’ Summit, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised many European countries for their full support, he singled out Ireland, simply saying that he felt he “almost” had Ireland’s full support. On Wednesday April 7, Zelenskyy became the first wartime head of state to address Dáil Éireann, noting his gratitude for Irish humanitarian aid and the welcoming of Ukrainian refugees. However, he also noted the need for “specific help”, and the charity Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy (WOŚP) is an example of just how much Ireland can do for the cause.
Originating from Poland, one of the countries Zelensky praised for their full support, the NGO (the name of which means ‘Great Orchestra of Christmas’ in English) was set up in 1993 to raise funds for paediatric and elderly care in Poland. However, the charity immediately began working to support Ukraine from the beginning of the invasion, setting up in Dublin under the charter organisation WOŚP. The charity works from a warehouse space in Dublin 12 that was donated by the Harris Group, collecting donations from Irish people.
Many businesses in the centre of Dublin have set up mini-donation points, from which goods are moved to the warehouse. The donations are then transported to the charity’s depots in places such as Harrachov in Czechia, before being brought to Ukraine through a terminal near Krakow.
In his address to the Dáil, Zelenskyy pointed out that hunger and famine would be Russia’s next “weapon of war” against Ukraine. Items being donated to WOŚP include dry foods, cosmetics and toiletries, first aid supplies, batteries, small lanterns, clothes, and toys.
Speaking with Trinity News, Krzysztof Blaszczyk, part of the production management team for WOŚP, described the processes that are needed for the charity to run: “Logistically, it’s an entire chain of events, from the moment someone brings us [a donation], to the segregation of items, to loading it on a truck to leave Dublin, and then co-ordinating online the arrival of the truck to the terminal near Krakow and then sending it to Ukraine.” He mentioned that Paddy Wagon has provided buses for the charity, and “up until now, we have shipped over 500 palates [of goods], each over 200m long”.
“On March 30, WOŚP organiser Jerzy Owsiak announced that they had raised €48.3 million in 2021.”
They plan on continuing the campaign for as long as necessary, as well as developing alternative ways to directly aid Ukraine: “We will be moving our actions to the internet, starting a gofundme, where we will be raising money, and we will be purchasing products directly, sending it to the terminal and then to Ukraine.”
On March 30, WOŚP organiser Jerzy Owsiak announced that they had raised €48.3 million in 2021. The funds raised will be used to buy ophthalmology equipment for children.
Additionally, WOŚP plan to help refugees from Ukraine in their journey to Ireland: “This transport goes to one of the refugee centres outside of Warsaw, Poland, and on the way back, from the same centre, we will take 240 Ukrainian (mostly women and children) and bring them back to Ireland, provide them with accommodation, food, social help, and help them to assimilate in Ireland”. College has recently announced plans to open over 200 rooms on campus accommodation to refugees over the summer.
“In our first week of action, we received over 800 emails, including volunteers and people looking to donate.”
They acknowledge that transporting refugees is much more difficult than dry foods and donated items, but they have ensured that the correct procedures are in place for everything to run smoothly, making sure that there are planned stops along the 40 hours one-way journey, proper rest for the drivers, as well as frequent meals. Even with all of this taken into account, ultimately, he says: “It’s super challenging but it’s rewarding, we have such great support.”
Blaszczyk credits the success of the campaign to the people who have donated and volunteered their time, of which there have been a tremendous number since the beginning: “In our first week of action, we received over 800 emails, including volunteers and people looking to donate.” He expresses his gratitude for the Irish people who have become involved in the campaign: “[They] have such big hearts.”
On March 11, a reported 365 million euros had already been donated to Ukraine, though it is likely that this figure is higher. By March 7, Ireland had donated approximately 16 million euros to Ukraine through charities such as the Irish Refugee Council, the Irish Emergency Alliance and Misean Cara.
Since April 2016 WOŚP ranks on the top of the list as the most trusted public entity according to Brand Asset Valuator and is the second strongest brand in Poland. WOŚP has been subject to smear campaigns by Poland’s ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) and is often a point of contention between PiS and the opposing Civic Platform group. To follow the WOŚP project further, or potentially get involved, additional information can be found on their Facebook page.