Since Russia launched its invasion of neighboring Ukraine three weeks ago, millions of Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homeland. Those who have stayed to fight have faced pummeling Russian military forces, resulting in over a thousand civilian injuries and over 500 deaths.
Still, amidst the tragedy unfolding, much of the world is standing in support of Ukraine and has found creative ways to show that support.
According to CNN, Airbnb locations in Ukraine have been flooded with bookings from across the globe from people who have no plan to actually stay in those Airbnbs. Instead, the creative social media campaign is a way of funneling money to Ukrainians who need assistance in buying everything from food and medicine to ammunition.
“On March 2 and March 3, guests from around the world booked more than 61,000 nights in Ukraine, according to an Airbnb spokesperson. More than half of those nights were booked by Americans, the spokesperson said.”
One of those lodgings is the Campus Community A-Hotel in Kyiv. Paul Sutton from Leeds, in the United Kingdom, is one of the people who has booked a room and helped the A-Hotel raise enough donations to provide 15,000 meals a day for military personnel, as well as hospitals, orphanages, and nursing homes in the capital city.
Sutton told the BBC that while he’s never intended to visit Ukraine, he would like to make the journey one day when it’s safe.
“It’s absolutely the intention that once this is all over, even if it’s to go help rebuild, we want to go across and meet these wonderful friends without faces that we made and celebrate.”
“It shows big support for our country, for our people, and for what is going on,” said the hotel’s manager Artur Gabovich.
It’s a similar story at other lodgings and Airbnbs throughout the country. Bookings into Airbnbs in Ukraine started picking up in early March with people selecting to book up the rooms with a near-check-in date to help the hosts receive their funds faster.
Anne Margaret Daniel of New York City booked a two-night stay at an apartment in Old Kyiv, with a special message for her host in the booking: “I hope that you, and your lovely apartment, are safe and that this horrible war is over … and Ukraine is safe,” it said. “I will come and see you one day, please count on it, and will stay with you when we visit. God bless you and God be with you, your city, your country.”
It wasn’t long before Daniel got a reply from the host, Olga Zviryanskaya: “We will be glad to see you in the peaceful city of Kyiv and hug.”
Zviryanskaya and her three children fled the capital to escape Russian soldiers and are allowing those who weren’t able to leave Kyiv, or chose to stay behind, to use her apartment. “It’s very scary in Kyiv. Every word of support is valuable, not necessarily money.”
There’s no telling how many people like Daniel and Sutton are booking up rooms in Ukraine, but Kermit Cole is one of them. The Santa Fe, New Mexico resident has Ukranian heritage and has booked Airbnb rooms in the village of Kovel, where his grandfather hails from.
After messaging Airbnb hosts in the area, he connected with Galena Sonarsen. “Galena, with her son, started telling me what they were doing and they had such a spirit to it,” Cole told KRQE News.
Cole learned that the family was hiding from air raids up to nine times a day. He helped out with a donation of $3,000, but says it’s about more than a monetary donation. Cole regularly speaks with them on Zoom when it’s safe to show support for the family.
“They are just so defiant,” he said. “I asked them the question on whether it was safe to name them or name the town and they just said they are not afraid of anything, ‘we want the world to know.’”
Airbnb is currently waiving both host and guest fees and offering temporary housing in neighboring countries to up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees.
From making donations to joining in protest to simply staying informed, there are dozens of ways you can show your support for the people of Ukraine. To learn more visit Global Citizen.
Photos via Wikimedia Commons, Airbnb, Piqsels.