HomeNewsThe people helping Ukraine from the UK – photo essay
The people helping Ukraine from the UK – photo essay
March 29, 2022
This photo project is intended to inspire others to recognise the power they hold and to take action. It includes Marc Wilson, in Bristol, who drove to Paris to fill out visa applications for a family of six, Zac and Isky who baked cookies and sold them to their neighbours, and Genia Mineeva, who is helping to match Ukrainian refugees with hosts here in the UK.
Hannah Walker, 31, a ceramicist who volunteers at the Love Bristol charity, sent four vans full of emergency supplies to Poland to help the people fleeing war in Ukraine.
“We needed a lot of help to get everything prepared in a short space of time. I’ve been helping with the fundraising and the export documents, and supporting the admin team.
“We contacted churches along the border, and asked what they were currently doing, if we were able to do anything. And what kind of supplies would be helpful to bring to them?
“One thing that affects me, is who you’re around, and being inspired to action by someone.
“If you have one or two people who’ve got vision, then it mobilises you to get on with it. We do have agency to get on with things. We don’t have to be paralysed by the scale of problems.”
Marc Wilson, 53, a photographer, lives in Bath, where his family await UK visas for six of their family members fleeing Ukraine.
“When we knew that our family was escaping from Ukraine, I decided the first thing I would do is I would fly to the border to meet them, but things ended up happening quickly and they got across the border themselves, travelling through Hungary, Germany, Switzerland and France, always on the move. I ended up flying to France to be there for them as family and also to help them with visa applications so they can come and be with us here in the UK.
“We took a seven-hour drive to Paris to the visa centre, had to stay overnight because of the daily changing rules of the process, all seven of us in a one-bedroom apartment and then they went to sleep, because they were shattered. I sat down to write the visa applications. It was about two o’clock in the morning. In front of me was the grandmother and one of the girls in one sofa bed and there was a young boy in another sofa bed. This whole family of refugees in front of me, my family. I was very happy doing this for them. Because this is the thing I could do.
“When I came to do the grandmother’s form, it seemed impossible and it was saying ‘cannot apply under this scheme’. And I was trying to work out how to wake the family and explain that their grandmother cannot come to the UK. I felt a real sense of panic. And then we drove another seven hours back down south to wait.
“The UK visa application adds to the emotional and mental pressures, and they just need a bit more help to have that little bit of security, so they can feel grounded.
“I want people to imagine not just what they would do, but what they would like others to do for them, if this was them? Or if this was their children, or their 76-year-old grandmother.”
“I even can’t imagine what my family feel, because they love Ukraine. We could not believe it, that it can happen.
“What they need is a good opportunity to be able to provide for their families. What I heard from my family once they reached France is: ‘I need to start doing something. I need to start working immediately, to secure myself and my family.’ The best thing you could do for a refugee would be to make them feel not a refugee but simply themselves, to able to live, work, go to school. Once in the UK we know they will get these opportunities and I am so grateful for that.
“One of the main issues getting into the UK is the extra stress. The extra burden has been the visa system, they have to go through, and the hoops they have to go through, especially at these worst of times. It’s just adding so much extra, unnecessary pressure to them.
“My dad is still in Ukraine, but it’s not safe. I’m really worried. There is nothing I can do right now, just every day send him some pictures from our daily life, giving him some positive news. Every time I receive a message from him my heart is just so full with happiness and love, that he’s OK today.”
Genia Mineeva, 40, a social enterprise founder who is half Russian, half German, and lives in east London, is trying to match people fleeing the war in Ukraine with host families in the UK.
“I’ve been going to the protests every weekend since the war started. In Trafalgar Square and the last one that was next to Downing Street. I went with my husband and my kids, who are seven and 10. And we all dressed up in yellow, and blue.
“The first reaction is paralysis. It’s so close to home for me. I have family in Russia. Friends in Ukraine. Colleagues, journalists on both sides of the border. So the first reaction is paralysis, like you just, I mean, I watched the news and cried. I was kind of numb like paralysis and powerlessness. That then you have to force yourself. You pull yourself back and think what can I do? And you start trying to help people to get out.
“Your WhatsApp just goes into the busiest it’s ever been, messages coming from everywhere. You try to do anything and you don’t sleep, you don’t sleep at all. Like for two weeks, I just I had very little sleep. Nothing feels like enough.
“Joining the demonstration was just one of the things that I could do. And it was a way of showing Ukraine that they’re not alone, that there are people everywhere around the world that stand with Ukraine. That care about what’s happening there. And they wouldn’t turn a blind eye on what’s happening. And I think I wanted to really show that that I care. Because I’m half Russian, there’s this shame and guilt.”
“It’s like, what can you do? What can you do outside of donating money and hosting? We’re going to host a family here, from Kyiv. It’s a friend’s brother. We just tried to do everything and showing up, to those demos, it’s just one of those things. You just try to do everything you can.
“For me, it’s because those in Russia who are against the war cannot go and protest. I also feel it’s my responsibility to do it on their behalf. You know, they’re not free to go and protest. They’ll get 15 years in prison for that.
“You see suffering. And you just want to help, I think it’s human nature.”
Andy Chang, 40, an entrepreneur from London, asked his Lithuanian friend to dye his hair in the colours of the Ukrainian flag.
“It was Saturday, just after the war broke out. I was going to a friend’s birthday party and then I was also planning to go to the Trafalgar Square demonstration.
“My friend dyed my hair. She’s Lithuanian and has friends in the region, so it was because of her as well.
“It was just to show solidarity. I think it was just an easy kind of way of showing that I was thinking about it. It’s quite a nice way to show that, I’m thinking about it without having to talk about it a lot.”
Brothers Zac and Isky Lythgoe sold homemade cookies to neighbours in their east London street to raise money for Ukraine.
“I came from home from school, and my mum was like, have they been teaching you about what’s been happening in Ukraine and Russia at school? And I said, no, I don’t know anything about it. And my mum explained the whole situation to me. So yeah, that’s how I started.”
“I was extremely unhappy. Because there was no reason. Like, I just didn’t really understand why it was happening. But like, I just knew that it wasn’t, it wasn’t going to end well.
“It was a Friday evening, and I’d come home from school, and it was all rainy, and dark and wet. We were thinking of ways to try and raise some money. We thought, we have all the ingredients to make something to sell. Let’s make cookies, because they’re really easy to make. And so we just started to bake them. We ended up raising £441 for Ukraine.
“As we got further up the road, we got more confident, just seeing what people were doing and seeing how much people were giving.
“I was feeling like, why aren’t I doing anything? It’s such a big crisis, like I need to do something.”
“So we were just thinking of ways to help Ukraine because we know the wars been happening again. It’s quite sad. So we thought if we made cookies and went along the street selling cookies for Ukraine, we could raise some money.
“Zac was holding the cookies, mum was staying a bit behind us, and I was next to Zac with the pot [for donations]. I did the talking. And the first person bought one. They put in £5.
“After that, we just kept going along the houses, we had to make about four batches of cookies.
“By the end of the day, it was really dark. So we had to make another batch in the morning.
“Anyone of any age could do something. We went to one door and the kids rummaged through the whole house to find all their pocket money. And it was quite a lot. It was like £25.”
Chris Rydlewski, 70, an artist and retired lecturer who lives in Bristol, says: “We’ve donated some money to the Red Cross. We discussed as a family what we could do. Could we house someone? I’ve signed loads of online petitions. What we’ve done feels very little. I do feel there’s I do feel there’s more I could do.
“I just have the feeling, that you have got to do something.
“I think it’s looking at all the little ways, I said to someone, the other day, some religious friends of mine, I said, I really wish I could pray. But I’m not I’m not a believer in God.
“I would suggest to someone else that they teamed up with other people, you know, like a church group or something like that to find other people and have a common aim to help. It’s thinking about how you can link up with other people.
“I think is incredibly heartwarming, the way people have responded, but at the same time, it’s questionable why similar responses weren’t there, when something equally awful happened, like the abandonment of Afghanistan.
“I just don’t feel that our responses have been adequate.
“What has amazed me is the unbelievable steadfastness of the Ukrainian people. There is that fierce resistance.”