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International students send aid to Donbass; oppose Kiev and U.S.-backed war

By staff

After the U.S.-backed fascist coup in Kiev, Ukraine in February 2014, the people of Donbass rebelled for independence from Ukraine. A popular anti-fascist resistance quickly emerged. The breakaway state of Novorossiya, or New Russia, was formed and Kiev sent in troops and tanks to crush the people’s resistance. Civil war gripped the country. Now, almost a year later, while the resistance soldiers on, a humanitarian disaster perpetuated by the Kiev government’s war of aggression has struck the citizens of Donbass. International Students Aid to Donbass, based in Wroclaw, Poland, is one of many aid groups springing up across the world in solidarity with the ongoing resistance and the victimized people of Eastern Ukraine. Fight Back! interviewed one of the founders of International Students Aid to Donbass (ISAD), who wished to remain anonymous.

Fight Back!: Can you explain about the student organization generally?

ISAD student: Sure. The idea for creating a solidarity with Donbass group which could coordinate humanitarian assistance emerged in October when a handful of international students in Wroclaw some of whom had been activists back in their home countries, wanted to find a way to aid the people of Donbass, who are truly in a miserable situation. We felt like we could no longer sit back and watch as innocent people in Novorossiya starved and died of sickness. Some of us were especially passionate about the situation in Ukraine and we racked our brains until we decided that sending such necessities as food, medicine and clothing could be the best way we could help and draw in other students. The idea of a humanitarian aid organization seemed like a perfect way to express our solidarity with the war-struck people of Novorossiya with the limited resources and capacity we had. So, we sat down, discussed our ideas, and International Students Aid to Donbass was born in early November. We contacted Russian NGOs that handle humanitarian assistance and set up a collection point in cooperation with them. However, we’re still our own independent group; we see working with them as one of the greatest opportunities available.

Fight Back!: Are you able to tell a bit about the make-up of International Students Aid to Donbass? Obviously, the name indicates that the membership is multinational.

ISAD student: Being a group primarily composed of international students, our group truly is diverse. We have people from the U.S., Poland, and various European countries. Our group can communicate in more than half a dozen languages. ISAD is also diverse in more ways than just our national make-up. We all come from a broad range of backgrounds and political persuasions. Our group includes communists, Eurasianists and students who simply hate war and the pain it brings anywhere, and want to help alleviate the pain of the men, women and children who are enduring it. Some of us are passionate supporters of Novorossiya and the resistance, while others simply sympathize with the ordinary people who are suffering. As a humanitarian organization, we have no strict political line. The thing that fundamentally unites all of us is the fact that we are saving people’s lives by delivering desperately needed goods to the people that need them most. This simple yet important mission has grown our numbers in the short time that we’ve been active and continues to motivate our work.

Fight Back!: Are there any security issues, seeing as you’re operating in a country which, on a state level, supports the fascist government in Kiev? How does the political situation in Poland affect the work of the organization?

ISAD student: Absolutely. Security is a serious problem that we have to carefully deal with. Our members have faced verbal and physical threats and hostilities from Ukrainian nationalists in Poland. A significant number of Ukrainians now have easy access to visas, even free ones, to come work and study here. Some Ukrainian nationalists come here on visas because they don’t actually want to fight in the war, and find plenty of space here, without consequences or obligations, to howl about how patriotic they are and threaten those who disagree. Because of security issues stemming from such people and the fact that the Polish state supports the Kiev junta, we keep even our social media private and, unfortunately, can’t publicly list our aid point. Speaking of the general political situation in Poland, politicians here love to fan the flames of Russophobia in order to distract people from the real issues they face domestically. Additionally, Poland acts as the war hawk within NATO, so tensions here are always virulently anti-Russia, anti-Donbass, and the propaganda in the media is ridiculously overbearing. Between state-sanctioned Russophobia and aggressive Ukrainian “activists,” we have to consciously, always and everywhere, pay paramount attention to security.

Fight Back!: What exactly does your day-to-day work look like?

ISAD student: Our work is simple. We pool together our money, time and energy and go on weekly shopping trips for food, medicine and clothing which we can ship monthly to Donbass. The important thing to remember is that we are students. We’re operating on student budgets with student schedules, but we do the best we can with our resources. We all sacrifice our own money and time, but we all feel gratified by the humanitarian work we’re doing. We also try to spread awareness of the situation in Ukraine, but the political situation renders that secondary to practical work.

Fight Back!: Do you have any future plans for expanding your work?

ISAD student: In the next few months, our main plan is to find new people to work with. As far as I know, we are one of the only, if not then the only such organization of its kind actively working in Poland, and especially Wroclaw. Before we started, we looked around for other such groups, but found none. In addition to continuing our work with our existing contacts, we’re going to contact other humanitarian organizations, particularly those that specifically deliver assistance to children in Donbass. Of course, our capacity is limited, but finding more students and people in Poland, and indeed the world, who are interested in participating will only increase our determination and ability to carry out our mission to save Donbass people.

Fight Back!: Is there anything you’d like to say to supporters and sympathizers in the West, particularly progressives in the U.S.?

ISAD student: I think the most important thing is that this model of organization is universally applicable. Any number of people anywhere can get together and open an aid point. A little work goes a long way. Even if you only have one or two people and can only get a few food items, some over-the-counter medicine and used clothing, such things mean the world to people in Donbass whose only lifeline is international humanitarian assistance. Especially in the West and in the U.S., where the propaganda is so strong and labels the ordinary people of Donbass “pro-Russian terrorists,” humanitarian aid work is important to exposing the lies, and most people can find it agreeable despite their political convictions. At the end of the day, we’re saving people from a war being senselessly waged against them by some of the most powerful countries of the world in an imperialist geopolitical bid to weaken Russia and snatch Ukraine for the Western camp. The people stuck between the fighting need our help. Support from progressives benefits both the people of Donbass and the struggle against war and propaganda in the heart of the West itself. We encourage anyone interested to get involved and, of course, we’re happy to help with logistics and share our experience.

International Students Aid to Donbass can be contacted at [email protected]

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