A Year After the Invasion: The Efforts of the Organisations Working with Ukrainian Citizens Do Not Stop

  •  February 24, 2023

It has been a year since on 24 February 2022 Russia set the beginning of the war against Ukraine. Since then, over 7,600 Ukrainians lost their lives while 12,000 were wounded (data from 12.02.2023, Statista). Over the last year 18,8 million people left Ukraine facing a number of challenges and dangers on their way to seeking safety and peace. Over 8 million of them are still on the territory of Europe while in Bulgaria they are 50,676 (data from 20.02.2023, UNHCR).  

The Russian aggression resulted in a serious refugee and humanitarian crisis, in Bulgaria included, where civil society organisations once again stood on the frontline supporting those in need. They had to quickly redirect a huge part of their efforts from tackling the fading Covid-19 pandemic and their everyday activities to providing urgent assistance to the arriving Ukrainian citizens. Shortly after the invasion, Bulgarian Fund for Women (BFW) opened an Urgent Fund for Women and Children Affected by the War in Ukraine. Thanks to donations by hundreds of individual donors, companies and foundations we managed to support with over BGN 200,000 the frontline work of 20 organisations from 9 villages, towns and cities which supported over 7,000 Ukrainian citizens.  

A year later we look back. We are still deeply saddened by the tragic consequences of the unjustified Russian aggression. But we also feel thankful – to the donors who stood behind our cause, and impressed – by the organisations who mobilised all their resources, worked tirelessly, in deeply unsatisfactory conditions, often compensating the powerlessness of the state, and succeeded in providing much-needed support to Ukrainian citizens in Bulgaria.  

Humanitarian Support  

During the first weeks of the war, a huge part of the efforts of the organisations working at the frontline were directed towards providing humanitarian support – from meeting at the boundary, shelter, food, clothes, information in the Ukrainian language to providing urgent medical consultations and medications to pregnant women and people with medical conditions. It is no coincidence that some organisations supported by the Urgent Fund define their work as “the difference between life and death” for many Ukrainians in a vulnerable situation arriving in Bulgaria.  

The funding’s flexibility allowed the organisations to direct it to those aspects of their work that need support most urgently. Thus, some newer organisations managed to achieve better stability while others employed coordinators or associates (with Ukrainian origins as well) who relieved, at least partly, the huge amount of work and extra hours faced by the organisations and their volunteers – often the biggest moving force and critical factor for their ability to fulfill their initiatives.  

As a new, only 4-month-old, organisation that started from zero in the situation of a crisis, it was very important for us that we received funding from BFW. We found it very difficult to fundraise actively while working seven days a week and helping people in need at the same time.

Open Heart Foundation 

Something more – many organisations managed to expand their community of volunteers and supporters while part of them engaged other donors who identified themselves with the cause and who supported their work with finances and material donations.  

Photo source: Arms Wide Open Foundation
Long-term support 

Even though the first weeks and months of complete unclarity are long gone, the organisataions supported by the Urgent Fund point out that the need for their work does not decrease. Many of them continue to provide psychological, emotional, legal and social support to Ukrainian citizens who arrived and are still arriving in the country. What those who ran away from the war went through hides the risk of unlocking traumatic experiences that take long-term work to overcome. In addition to conducting individual sessions with specialists, the organisations and the Ukrainians discover other working formats such as art therapies, women circles and mutual aid groups. 

One of the factors that organisations point out as defining for the successful integration of Ukrainian citizens in the country is learning Bulgarian. Over the past year, those working at the frontline conducted tens of courses in the Bulgarian language for Ukrainians, helping them to move a step closer to their independence and the feeling that they are once again responsible for their own lives. With adults whose efforts brought them closer to finding a job while with children – to their successful integration among the other children at school. One of the organisations even shares that they conduct courses in the Ukrainian language so that children do not forget their mother tongue.  

Photo source: Startup Factory
Economic independence  

Many organisations directed their efforts to supporting Ukrainian citizens’ integration into the labour market in Bulgaria – a precondition for their empowerment and economic independence. Conducting informative sessions about the Bulgarian labour-legislative laws and their rights, providing advice and directions for career development and job applications, directing people towards legitimate forms of employment, and exposing the dangers related to human trafficking are only part of the initiatives implemented by the organisations.  

As a result, many Ukrainians started work, moving away from the position of dependency caused by the war in their homeland. Some of them even established their own businesses in Bulgaria, for which they received support from the organisations via initiatives such as the creation of webpages and the conduction of courses for the development of digital skills. In addition, the provision of daycare and socializing activities for children (camps, trips) should not be underestimated as well, as it allows their parents to start work.  

“In order to be empowered and not be trapped by non-conscientious employers or traffickers, the women refugees need support and structured information about the labour market in Bulgaria that will help them orientate, find a legal job and protect themselves from exploitation. […] The adequate support which is adapted to their needs is greatly appreciated by women and the results quickly become obvious.”

Dignita Foundation 

We strongly believe that timely support, that is adapted to the needs of the organisations that best know the community they work with, is of key importance for their ability to work for their mission and face new challenges along the way. Thank you for the tireless (often 24/7) efforts that you address Ukrainian citizens’ needs with!  

Photo source: Social Teahouse

The organisations supported by BFW’s Urgent Fund for Women and Children Affected by the War are: 

  • Dignita Foundation   
  • Mission Wings Foundation  
  • Dinamika Centre Association   
  • Right to Childhood Foundation  
  • P.U.L.S. Foundation  
  • Centre for Legal Aid – Voice in Bulgaria Foundation   
  • Council of Women Refugees in Bulgaria   
  • Open Heart Foundation  
  • For the Good Foundation   
  • Bulgarian Helsinki Committee    

  • StrartUp Factory Association 
  • Women Club Rodopchanka – Smolyan   
  • Indi Roma 97 Social Foundation   
  • The Social Teahouse Foundation   
  • SOS Children’s Villages Association   
  • Arms Wide Open Association   
  • MAGNA SILVA Association   
  • Bilitis Resource Centre Foundation   
  • Ukrainian Home – Varna Foundation 
  • Situational Centre Open Doors Foundation 

“The people who supported the cause must know that the Ukrainian people’s gratefulness is huge. They express their thankfulness for the care received on multiple occasions. And children are genuinely flattered even by the smallest gestures.”

Startup Factory 

Thank you to all donors who responded to BFW’s call for support a year ago. If you as well want to support the initiative, donate HERE.  

The Urgent Fund for Women and Children Affected by the War has been supported by a number of companies, private foundations, and women’s funds – Melon, Raw and More, Nuevo LTD, Ald Automotive, Kesher, Mama Cash, Foundation Chanel, Nexo, NAOS, Tina, SAP Labs Bulgaria, GFCF as well as over 80 individual donors.   

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