European Burners Activate to Support Ukraine

The war in Ukraine has many of us in a state of shock, trying to find ways to help while we witness the daily acceleration of a humanitarian crisis. The global Burning Man community has a history of response in support of displaced people around the world. It therefore comes as no surprise that Burners have rolled up their sleeves to apply hard-won skills such as logistics, community organizing, and (yes) spreadsheeting to support Ukrainians in need. 

Burners Without Borders and the Burning Man Regional Network are in conversation with, and are actively supporting Burners in the world who are stepping forward in various ways to support Ukraine.

We had the opportunity to speak with five teams of Burners who are either helping on the ground in Ukraine or Poland, or supporting on-the-ground teams from afar. Despite intense days and nights responding to an ever-evolving situation, they’ve made time to share their stories and projects with you. Read on to learn how you can help.

Ukrainian Burner-driven Mutual Aid Project

Volodymyr Nedogoda helped found and produce Magic Forest, the official Burning Man Regional Event in the Lviv region of Ukraine, where he lives with his partner and one-year-old son. He has been applying his planning and logistical skills to work with contacts in several urban centers of Ukraine to identify high-priority donation needs such as medical supplies, which he sources from countries outside Ukraine. 

“I work with some groups of Burners here in Ukraine to deliver humanitarian aid from Europe,” Volodymyr explained. “Now [that] we have some good routes and connections, how do we deliver things fast? We always need medicine, and lots of other stuff. My friends and donors in Lviv have a huge warehouse for receiving and sorting all kinds of aid that comes from Europe.”

In the midst of war, Volodymyr is experiencing the 10 Principles in action. “The whole Ukraine, it’s like a pure realization of the 10 Principles now… Now it’s like a true thing, you know, in real life. We work like one person, or like one amazing team in the moment.” 

Volodymyr is working with Burners throughout Ukraine including volunteer Regional Contact, Lurii Gavrylyshyn and artists and community organizers in Kiev and Odessa. They have shifted their creative energy from giving art grants and organizing 10 Principled events, to providing direct humanitarian aid.

Volodymyr in front of his community’s Black Rock City 2019 art installation “Cocoonap” (Photo courtesy of Volodymyr Nedogoda)

Volodymyr’s art team has offered up pieces of their next Black Rock City installation to serve as defense infrastructure. “We wanted to bring some art to Burning Man this year, but we decided to disassemble and donate metal from our art for the needs of the army for protection — what people need — because it’s more important now.”

HOW TO DONATE

Ambulances for Ukraine

(Photo courtesy of Ambulances for Ukraine)

Organizers from the T-car Mutant Vehicle and Magic Forest have teamed up with a Dutch nonprofit to upgrade and ship used ambulances to Kyiv, Ukraine. 

Konstantin Antropov, a former Burning Man Regional Contact in Latvia, shared their story: “This year we decided to donate a significant part of our camp and art car budget to support Ukraine. Funds were allocated towards civilian use for ambulances for a children’s hospital in Kyiv.

“We joined efforts with a Dutch nonprofit volunteer group, Zeilen van Vrijheid (Sails of Freedom), that consists mainly of yachtsmen and captains. They do exactly that — buy used ambulance cars, upgrade them with medical equipment and stretchers, and get them to the endpoint in Kyiv.

“As of today, we as a camp collected about EUR 80,000, and purchased and sent two fully-equipped ambulances, driving them all the way from Spain.” 

Both ambulances carry the Burners Without Borders Ukraine logo, and one of them is named “L. Harvey.”

Collaborating with the Dutch nonprofit, Konstantin and his team are fundraising for a long-term project. They’re working to set up a base and garage in Poland that will be staffed by Ukrainian refugees. There they will equip vans and 4×4 vehicles for bringing people injured in war zones to hospitals. 

HOW TO DONATE

CareBridge

Daveed takes a selfie with one of the Ukrainian families he sheltered in Krakow (Photo by Daveed Walzer)

San Francisco-based Burner Daveed Walzer is on the ground in Krakow, Poland working with local and international volunteers. His project’s mission is to shelter Ukrainians when they first cross the border from Ukraine to Poland, then help them relocate elsewhere in Europe.

Daveed’s daughter is half Ukrainian. Unable to stand on the sidelines, Daveed jumped on an airplane and immediately began driving newly-arrived families from the train station to temporary apartments in Krakow.

“In Krakow there’s no room to really house these people,” Daveed explained. “So it’s about letting them rest, figuring out if they have connections elsewhere in Europe, and moving them further along to make more space.”

“I put the call out for who can drop everything and come down here and help me host families. Right now we have four Burners who flew down from Denmark, the UK and Sweden. Every two days we’re taking in 75 people, helping them get on their feet, and then helping them find where to go… If they can’t afford it, we put tickets in their hands.”

Daveed and his collaborators have rented long distance buses to drive families to Stockholm, Sweden, where the refugees are matched with long term housing. 

Watch Daveed’s recent interview on CNN.

HOW TO DONATE

Timofii and Love Ukraine

Dan, Jon, Timofii and collaborators (Photo courtesy of Love Ukraine)

When the war started, Ukrainian entrepreneur and Burner Timofii Shcherbatykh (aka Tim) transformed his Lviv office into a logistics center for distributing medical and military supplies within Ukraine. 

“The first floor of my office now is a warehouse.” Tim explained. “So it’s 500 square meters of medical supplies, 100 square meters of food, equipment, and so on all around the office… And we have a fleet of 100 couriers who come in around the city. They have permission and they can deliver to the hospitals, to medical facilities, hospital workers, just usual citizens.”

Meanwhile in the UK, entrepreneurs Dan Holloway and Jon Medlock were concerned about Tim and their other friends in Ukraine. Dan and Jon pivoted to support Tim, with whom they have a long time business collaboration, by volunteering their digital marketing skills to build Love Ukraine and drive donations.

“It’s been a strong start, but there’s such a crazy demand for this stuff,” Dan said. “Through donating with us, the money gets to the guys on the floor in Ukraine. They buy their supplies, and they’re delivered usually within 48 hours.”

HOW TO DONATE

Global Disaster Relief Team

Four GDRT doctors at the refugee shelter (Photo courtesy of Global Disaster Relief Team)

Alice Feldman, Alex Gribov and Mishka Nizhnikov are a small but mighty team of Burners and event organizers, the administrative backbone of a new nonprofit that sends doctors and medics to the Poland-Ukraine border.

Global Disaster Relief Team (GDRT) is currently supporting a volunteer team of four doctors who set up a makeshift pharmacy and medical aid station at a refugee shelter in Poland. Following this deployment, GDRT is recruiting four more medical professionals to step in for the next two- to three-week deployment.

Ukrainian refugees at the shelter, located in a mall in a Polish town near the border (Photo courtesy of Global Disaster Relief Team)

“People are very much in shock when they arrive [at the shelter],” Alice shared. “The physical injuries that they’ve gotten on route to the refugee shelter become apparent once they’re starting to come out of shock. The medics there are also giving out pharmaceutical supplies… to do what they can to get that stuff out of boxes and into the hands of people that need them.”

How can Burners help? “Right now we’re in a mess of spreadsheets… a nightmare. And we would like to engage the help of the Burner community with people who are really skilled at managing a lot of data points, to create a system for sorting through that data.”

HOW TO DONATE OR VOLUNTEER

Fill in the volunteer form if you are an EMT, Paramedic, registered nurse, or have other relevant medical skills and are interested in helping out. Similarly, GDRT is on the lookout for US-based virtual volunteers to help out with logistics and communication. 

GDRT is accepting donations through Jookender. 

Burners Without Borders is building a growing list of Burners and adjacent communities who are providing humanitarian support. Here too, you will find several ways you can help. 

(Cover photo courtesy of Ambulances for Ukraine)

About the author: Kirsten Weisenburger

Kirsten Weisenburger (aka Kbot) began her Burning Man journey in 2004 when she touched down in Black Rock City with a handful of disoriented Canadians. Since that early misadventure, she has shared in the wondrous emergence of Montreal’s Regional Burning Man community. A Black Rock Ranger and occasional theme camp organizer, Kirsten spends her summers bounding between Regionals in Eastern Canada and the Northeastern US. Her biggest adventure yet involves joining the Burning Man Project Communications team, where she identifies storytelling opportunities and co-creates the global nonprofit’s communication strategies.

2 Comments on “European Burners Activate to Support Ukraine

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  • Ann Farris says:

    Living on the edge as you Burners are doesn’t surprise me. Your energy, your imagination, your creativity, productivity and your love shine through this report. Thanks for sharing.

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