I’m posting this on behalf of my friend Michail (@opiumhum) who is supporting two very important initiatives in Ukraine:
Our Humanity is Not Transactional: The Crisis Black People Face Fleeing Ukraine
by Black Women for Black Lives
Web3 for Africans in Ukraine
by African NFT Community, Cyberbaat, COLDS Collective, Ghana NFT club, Nigeria NFT Community, Kenya NFT club & Botho NFT Community
Despite the immediate and swift response throughout Europe to the war in Ukraine and the huge efforts by civil society in the bordering countries to support people fleeing the violence and aggression of the Russian army, it became very clear in the early stages of the conflict that much of this support was not reaching, or taking into consideration, the huge amount of foreign students affected by the war, in particular 10,000s Black students from various African countries.
Ukraine has long been a destination for students and immigrants from around the world. According to government data from 2020, 80,000 international students were in the country, with the largest groups from India, Morocco, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Nigeria, with many students from Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe as well.
Immediate response by volunteers
As the news of the war and the people affected by it started to spread through news and social media, groups of volunteers started to gather online to support Black students trapped in the war in Ukraine. Many of these volunteers were based in the home countries of the students but were joined by many Afro-diasporic volunteers from the UK, the USA, and Germany.
Organizing in Telegram and Whatsapp groups they gathered nearly 8,000 of the affected students, providing them with guidance, logistical support, and gathering the stories of the racist treatment they experienced in Ukraine, at the border, or even once they arrived in Europe. The groups are organized in informal coalitions, Black Foreigners in Ukraine, Black Women For Black Lives and Diaspora Relief are three of the main ones, even though many of the volunteers operate individually.
These efforts are not supported by any NGOs, they are without any structural or institutional backing and completely independent - most volunteers have never known each other before, despite coordinating relief efforts for over a week. 1,000 Black students have been helped that way.
These groups have also been able to raise modest amounts of funds that were directly distributed to the students to either buy supplies, tickets out of Ukraine or to pay for housing and food in Europe. Even though these fundraising efforts have been impressive for such a short period of time, none of the groups managed to raise more than €100k, while the immediate financial need is multiple times that. They have done this through various efforts, Gofundme campaigns, cash app, and cryptocurrency donations.
Cryptocurrencies played a particularly important role in providing assistance to the trapped students: many of them had no access to Ukrainian banks (i.e. because they had recently arrived) or sending money to their accounts would have taken days. Ethereum in particular became a direct way to send immediate financial help to the students, via exchanges like Binance or Coinbase they were able to immediately turn the cryptocurrencies into funds to support and rescue themselves.
One particularly efficient way to raise cryptocurrencies is to plug the fundraising efforts into the emerging world of NFTs and the adjacent technologies - in particular via a platform called Mirror. Part publishing platform, part fundraising tool, it allowed the volunteer groups to create a crypto-native on-ramp to donate Ethereum in an easy and relatively frictionless way. Two of these campaigns stand out in this regard:
“Our Humanity is Not Transactional: The Crisis Black People Face Fleeing Ukraine” by Black Women for Black Lives
"Web3 for Africans in Ukraine” by African NFT Community, Cyberbaat, COLDS Collective, Ghana NFT club, Nigeria NFT Community, Kenya NFT club & Botho NFT Community
“Web3 for Africans in Ukraine” received on their initiative a direct donation of 20 ETH from another crypto-native organization that raised funds for Ukraine via NFTs called RELI3F: https://twitter.com/reli3fxyz
An independent campaign named “UkraineDAO” raised over six million dollars worth of Ethereum to support Ukraine, but they have yet to respond to calls from the groups supporting Black students to distribute some of their money to their efforts as well: https://twitter.com/Ukraine_DAO
Parallel to all of the above efforts, a contact was established with a team of former special operations forces, law enforcement, executives, finance, medical, communications, security, logistics, and intelligence personnel from the United States and Europe who have operational experience in Ukraine as well as combat experience in several recent wars and conflict zones.
They have formed a volunteer rescue organization who in recent history have successfully worked together to extract and repatriate tens of thousands of U.S. persons and allies from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and other hot spots, with their capabilities to acquire the personnel and resources necessary to carry out rescue and logistical support operations in collapsing war zones
The team is currently operational with an HQ in Poland on the border and has begun planning to conduct the mission from a Ukrainian forward operating base. The goal is to extract and provide safe passage for internally displaced persons and foreign citizens at risk, including but not limited to, the 3,000+ African students who remain trapped in various parts of Ukraine and require extraction and safe passage.
They have already executed the necessary operation planning and put together logistics and personal planning for the following tasks:
- Conduct route reconnaissance and surveillance
- Conduct sensitive cross border logistics movements
- Conduct vehicular recovery of trapped or stranded persons
- Provide medical care and transportation
- Provide encrypted communications
- Documentation facilitation
- 24/7 Operations Center
- Provide translation support services – English, Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, and Romanian
The immediate capital expense budget to establish the forward base is $2,231,230.00, the monthly operating budget is $3,169,720.00. This would allow for an extraction of up to 330 IDP per day across various cities in Ukraine. The rescue mission was named “Operation Opalion” with input from the volunteers themselves.