Aid funds and fundraisers for weapons

Thus, Jonas Öhman, a Swedish-born filmmaker, translator, journalist, and teacher of Swedish, founded the Blue/Yellow NGO in 2014, which was actually right after the war started, together with his Lithuanian friends and partners. The main goal of the foundation’s activities is defined as “providing Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers with non-lethal supplies to help them battle Russian aggression.” In addition, Jonas and his colleagues have been supporting the civilian population of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts all these years. And now they are constantly sending a lot of necessary supplies to the hottest spots.

The 1K Aid Fund, launched by stand-up comedian and businessman Oleg Šurajev after the start of the full-scale invasion, has three main areas of activity: 1) assistance to the territorial defense forces (protective equipment, tactical medical equipment, drones, thermal imagers, special optical devices, etc.); 2) assistance to refugees from Ukraine in Lithuania (on the HelpUA.Lt website developed by the fund, you can find information on literally everything from the documents you need to have or produce to the telephone numbers of round-the-clock hotlines and opportunities to get a job, education, accommodation, medical and psychological assistance); 3) fighting Russian propaganda and disinformation. And the fourth point, according to the volunteers participating in the fund, will be to help rebuild the country after the victory.

Also, the volunteer coordination center Strong Together, created at the initiative of the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union Pelėdos, helps Ukrainians settle in Lithuania. In February of this year, all three of these initiatives teamed up with LRT and Laisves TV to launch a major fundraising campaign called RADAROM (Let’s Radar!). The goal of the campaign was to accumulate 14,000,000 euros in a month and then use the money to buy and transfer to Ukraine tactical radars (hence the name) that monitor the airspace around strategic facilities. It was a way to commemorate the anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War — the campaign was successfully closed on February 24, 2023.


It would also be appropriate to mention several important fundraisers initiated by writer, journalist, and TV host Andrius Tapinas. In May 2022, Lithuanians managed to raise funds for two reconnaissance drones to adjust fire, and later for a bayraktar (although in the end, the Turkish company Baykar, which manufactures them, inspired by this community of Lithuanian people, gave Ukraine a bayraktar for free, and Lithuanians bought ammunition for it with the funds raised). Also worthy of mention are three maritime drones with interesting “peaceful” names PEACE Dets, PEACE Da, and PEACE Duke that Lithuanians purchased for the Ukrainian fleet of maritime drones, which President Zelensky announced on Nov. 5, 2022. This was also the initiative of Mr. Tapinas, who this year on April 6, his 46th birthday, asked his compatriots for another gift that was not for himself €46,000 to buy prosthetics for one of Ukraine’s heroes under a special program in the United States.

We should also mention the activities of the NGO Asociacija “Lygiai” (“Equally”), which is primarily aimed at helping Ukrainian women affected by the war, including those who are in the temporarily occupied territories or have suffered sexual violence.

All of this demonstrates an excellent understanding that in order to preserve and protect what our Western partners so often talk about Ukrainian culture and as many lives as possible we must first support and strengthen the Ukrainian armed forces. But it also shows another important nuance: support not from a position of sympathy, but from a desire to feel, recognize and provide exactly the help where it is needed most. To show solidarity in the most appropriate way. Here are some more examples.


Cultural and artistic initiatives

On February 24, 2022, the first live book fair after the quarantine began in Vilnius, and everyone was looking forward to it. However, after the morning news from Ukraine, the pre-announced theme “Image as Text” took a back seat, and in the evening, poems by Ukrainian poets that had been translated into Lithuanian were performed on the main poetry stage of the festival. Representing the voices of those who, at some point, had no place for poetry, was (and still is) part of the missionary work of poets and translators such as Vytas Dekšnys, Marius Burokas, Antanas A. Jonynas, Beatričė Beliavciv, and others. Meanwhile, on the same evening, people also gathered on the streets of large and small towns with Ukrainian and Lithuanian symbols, anti-Putin posters, and various lanterns in their hands. This action was called “Freedom Shines” Lithuanians wanted to show at least that: look, Ukrainians, all of us who are here, we are with you in heart and prayer, you are not alone.

On February 23, 2023, Ukrainian writers and publishers were guests of the Vilnius Book Fair. You could hear Ukrainian poetry from the stage, read as well by its authors. Oksana Zabuzhko, Andriy Lyubka, Haska Shyyan, Romana Romanyshyn, and Andriy Lesiv presented translations of their books. Bohdana Brylynska, head of the Lviv UNESCO City of Literature office, had a joint discussion with Ruta Eliosaitie-Kaikare, who heads a similar office in Vilnius, and representatives of the City of Literature in Gothenburg about the ability to plan in times of war. Visiting the Ukrainian stand, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda once again emphasized that his country would not get tired of helping, would not get tired of showing that Ukrainians are not alone in their resistance to the occupiers, because “you are fighting for our freedom and yours.” And this phrase is actually heard in Lithuania often and from numerous voices. And the slogan of this year’s fair, by the way, was “700 Lines of Freedom” in honor of the 700th anniversary of Vilnius and in honor of Ukraine.

Another interesting thing about names. In March 2022, the unnamed street where the Russian Embassy in Lithuania was located was renamed by Vilnius City Hall into Heroes of Ukraine Street so that “everyone who writes a letter there would remember the victims of Russian aggression and the heroes of Ukraine,” Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimasius wrote on his Facebook page at the time of the event. And in April, the pond near the Russian embassy was painted red to make it very clear that Russia is committing bloody war crimes against the people of Ukraine, and they cannot remain unnoticed those who commit them must be punished. Lithuanian Olympian Rūta Meilutytė swam across the pond, showing that the struggle against the invader is ongoing and will continue, no matter how painful and difficult it may be. The performance was called “Swimming Through” and was conceived and realized by journalist and photographer Bertha Tilmanaitė and artist Neringa Rekashiūtė. You can watch a short video about it here.

In the summer, for some time at the Vilnius railway station, on the route of the Moscow-Kaliningrad train, there were a dozen giant posters with photos of destroyed buildings, dead or grieving people provided by Ukrainian photographers, which read in Russian: “Today Putin is killing civilians in Ukraine. Do you agree with this?” Mantas Dubauskas, a spokesperson for the Lithuanian Railways, explained that now at least the passengers of this train will not be able to make excuses for never having heard of this war and the large number of victims among Ukrainian civilians.

In August 2022, the Vilnius Institute of Lithuanian Language published the first and currently the only Small Ukrainian-Lithuanian Dictionary, the work on which began in 2016. The compilers of this unique dictionary are Doctor of Philology, Professor Zinaida Pakholok and Doctor of Humanities Aurelia Grytenienė. The dictionary contains about 20,000 headwords of the most common Ukrainian vocabulary. It was supposed to be published in Ukraine at the end of 2021, but the war changed these plans, so our Lithuanian partners decided to take over its publication. The dictionary should not only help Ukrainians living in Lithuania learn the language, but also serve as a bridge to better understanding in a broader sense. In addition, active work has already begun on a Lithuanian-Ukrainian dictionary, which is expected to be published in 2024.

As for other book initiatives, we should definitely mention, for example, Eurika Stogevičienė, owner of the Eureka! Knygynas bookstore in Vilnius and an incredible book lover. She was one of the first to buy Ukrainian books from Ukrainian publishers after the full-scale invasion began in order to: a) support the publishers themselves; b) deliver some of these books to libraries and centers that care for displaced people; c) have these books in her bookstore as a sign of solidarity with Ukrainians, and to have something to offer to those who might be interested in Ukrainian literature in the original.

An interesting project was conceived and implemented by writer Kotrina Zile, doctor of psychology Monika Skerite-Kazlauskaite, children’s illustration specialist Inga Mitunyaviciute, head of the Children’s Land reading promotion program Justinas Vancevicius, and illustrators Greta Elise and Tauno Niulik. They collected children’s stories created by Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian artists, and Volodyslav Zhurba translated them into Ukrainian. This project is called Tiny Books because each illustrated story fits on an A4 sheet of paper. It turned out to be a small but really wonderful set of 10 sheets: 9 stories + instructions for assembling such a mini-book where the whole world fits, funny, perhaps a little unusual, but definitely kind. These tiny books were distributed free of charge in libraries and centers for work with displaced people.


Literary Foundation of the Lithuanian Writers Union

The already mentioned poet and translator Antanas A. Jonynas translated, compiled and published an anthology of contemporary Ukrainian poetry, Atmintis, Ugnis, Deguonis (Memory, Fire, Oxygen), which includes war poems by 16 authors. And the Odile publishing house, which published this book, donates all the proceeds to support Ukrainians. For example, to a collection organized by an initiative group of writers and translators on the basis of the Literary Foundation of the Lithuanian Writers Union. Initially, this fund, which is now headed by translator Irena Aleksaite, was intended to support Lithuanian writers who found themselves in difficult or uncertain life situations, but since October 2022, it has been functioning in a slightly different way. The poet, essayist, and translator Laurinas Katkus, who has been a member of the Lithuanian territorial defense for several years, had intended to visit Ukraine, but when he shared this desire with his fellow writers, including Marius Burokas and Donatas Petrošius, who were also close to the idea, they decided that it was not a good idea to go empty-handed.

Yes, it is necessary and important to see everything with your own eyes, but it is equally important, if possible, to bring real help to those who need it. They talked to the management of the Literary Foundation about this, and they agreed to help by providing their public page for communication and their account for fundraising. That’s how it all started.


Three large collections have already been announced, involving the entire literary, publishing and reading community of Lithuania. Several cars, medical supplies and tactical equipment, night vision equipment, generators, charging stations, stoves, sleeping bags and mats for various units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine were purchased; funds were transferred to support the family of the writer Volodymyr Vakulenko, who was killed by the Russians (by the way, his “Daddy’s Book” will soon be published by Zalias Kalnas); funds were raised for several animal shelters, including the “Chance for Life” in Nikopol run by Olena Omelchenko-Voshun, which is under constant shelling; baby food and hygiene items were bought for the Ihor Tsurkan volunteer center in Kherson and the Children of Nikopol charity foundation headed by Margaryta Horbanenko; furniture and computer equipment were bought for the children’s coworking space of the Dovzhenko Children’s Library in Chernihiv, which was damaged during the shelling on Feb. 27, 2022.


In addition, a huge box of various drawing supplies collected by the staff, parents and students of a specialized Vilnius school for children with special needs went to the children in the de-occupied Kherson region. Librarians and residents of Taurage knitted several giant packages of warm socks of all possible sizes and colors for soldiers and civilians, and sometimes even hid handfuls of candy and notes with the words “Ukraine will win” or “We are always with you” in children’s socks. There was also a giant bucket of baker’s chocolate donated by Oleksa Matveyev, which went to the Bdzhilka volunteer kitchen in a village near Pavlohrad, and in the skillful hands of the workers there turned into a mountain of nutritious energy bars for the soldiers.


There are many stories like these. And when Lithuanians say it’s a pity that we have such a small country, we would help you even more, every time I want to answer: how good it is that each of you has such a big heart, and that it beats in unison with Ukrainian hearts.