...do not give up and do not despair, do what you think is the right thing to do. Russia will definitely be free.
Dmitry is from Tyumen, he lives in Prague, Czech Republic for almost 12 years. Since the start of Russia's full-scale war with Ukraine, he has continuously helped Ukrainian refugees.
Tell us about your volunteer work: what projects and initiatives have you participated in, and what did you work on there?
I'd say I did a little bit of everything. I took every opportunity to help people and influence the situation in order to bring the war to an end: I attended protests against the invasion of Ukraine at the Russian embassy, participated in various humanitarian aid collections for people from Ukraine (money, medical supplies, portable gas stoves, diesel generators, equipment, and other things), worked as an interpreter at the reception center in Prague, and tried to spread information about the war among Russians. However, these are all rather occasional actions.
What inspired you to get involved in those projects?
I was overwhelmed with emotions and wanted to do something to resist the bloodthirstiness from the Russian side.
Have your expectations been met?
At first, it seemed to me that people in Russia lived in ignorance and that if you talked to them, and showed them the destroyed houses, and the crimes of the Russian army, then a major number of people would start protesting, and everything would be over. I was very naive. I couldn't even convince my own relatives in Russia.
Who do you look up to?
There are many people who try to help. However, some individuals are incredibly dedicated. They have given up everything to help the war victims. Georgi Nurmanov, for example, formed the volunteer community “Russians for Ukraine” in Przemysl. His aim is to help refugees and those who are still in Ukraine. Even after a year of hard work, he continues to do everything he can.
Were you in charge of any projects or campaigns? If so, how did you come up with the idea for it?
On the anniversary of the war, we organized a picket at the Russian embassy in Prague to remember the victims of Russian aggression. We put up the stands with the most tragic moments of the war near the embassy walls. I wanted to hold the action there to demonstrate that we are not silent and that we oppose the horror caused by Putin's dictatorship.
What challenges did you face? How did you deal with them?
All technological issues can be resolved. As I stated before, the biggest concern for me is people who have been poisoned by Russian propaganda. Even for those closest to me, I have yet to find an antidote.
What's your most memorable moment?
A Ukrainian refugee in Prague said that he had stopped speaking Russian and despised everything associated with Russia once the war began in 2014 and that he certainly did not expect the Russians to help him in Prague. He said that we managed to “melt that ice”.
What benefits does volunteering give you personally? Why do you consider it important?
I wanted to do something to wash away the guilt and shame that Putin's regime had brought upon us. Volunteering helps you to focus on the things you can change rather than drowning in frustration and depression.
Volunteering requires a lot of effort and mental strength. How do you deal with emotional burnout? Where do you find the drive to keep going?
I can't say I've had much success with it. Often I just felt bursts of energy in response to the crimes of Putin's regime. Also, talking to war-affected people and seeing their struggles, I wanted to help them, and that gave me strength.
What advice would you give to new volunteers or those who want to start but are still uncertain?
I don't think anyone is struggling with indecision. Many potential volunteers have their personal issues and simply do not have the time to do everything. But, if someone truly has a psychological barrier, I would point out this observation: there are almost no evil people among those who help others, thus it is a nice and welcoming environment. If you are frustrated by your inability to make a difference, volunteering can provide you with many “little victories” that we all desperately need right now.
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Our stand on the Russian invasion to Ukraine
Russia started the war against Ukraine. This war is happening from 2014. It has only intensified on February 24th 2022. Milions of Ukrainians are suffering. The perpetrators of this must be brought to justice for their crimes.
Russian regime tries to silence its liberal voices. Russian people against the war exist - and the Russian regime tries its best to silence them. We want to prevent that and make their voices heard.
Connection is crucial. The Russian liberal initiatives are hard to read for European public at times. The legal, social and historical context of Russia is not always clear. We want to share information, build bridges and connect the liberal Russia with The West.
We believe in dialogue, not isolation. The oppositional powers in Russia will not be able to change anything without the support of the democratic world. We also believe that the dialogue should go both ways.
The choice is yours. We understand the anger for the Russian crimes. It is up to you whether you want to listen to the Russian people standing against this.