UKRAINE – Almost everyone throughout the civilized world is enraged at Russia’s war against Ukraine that has caused millions to flee and left thousands dead.
Some of the enraged people have taken to booking vacation rentals in Ukraine, not because they plan on traveling there, but rather to donate money towards those who need it during this difficult time.
Yesterday I shared an idea to support Ukraine by booking rooms for rent on AirBNB. 24 hours later, 100's of people are booking AirBnBs in Ukraine as a way to send immediate monetary assistance to people in hard-hit areas. The messages in response from the hosts are so moving pic.twitter.com/ai2Je8VKCt
— IG: @quentin.quarantino (@quentquarantino) March 3, 2022
The donations became well known after a spokesman for Airbnb reported that on March 2nd and 3rd, over 61,000 nights were booked in the war-torn country. Those bookings raised over $2 million for rental owners in the country.
One of the kindhearted people who booked a vacation rental in Ukraine, Missi Smith, spoke to News Channel 21 about why she made the decision:
“It feels like a world away, but yet you’re all still in the same world. You know, we’re all human, we’re all crying for the Ukrainian people. There’s just many things that were really tugging at me.”
After Smith made her booking, she received a response from the rental owner who thanked her for the donation and emotional support from thousands of miles away. They wrote:
“Hi Miss! Thank you very much for your support! I am now with family and friends in my house near Kyiv, there is an attack on Kyiv, the Russian army surrounds the city, we are at the forefront, artillery is firing. Russian aviation flies and bombs our military.
NEW: Airbnb says 61,000 nights booked in 48 hours in Ukraine this week as people across the world make bookings they don't intend to use as a way to raise money for Ukrainians
On March 2/3:
– 34,000 nights booked by US users
– 3,000 from Canadians
– 8,000 from UK
— Ashleigh Stewart (@Ash_Stewart_) March 6, 2022
“We had no had electricity for eight days, but we still have gasoline for the generator. We hope everything goes well.
In Kyiv, everything is calm now, there is no panic. But the sirens went off and many people are hiding in basements. We believe in our victory and that everything will be fine.
Thanks again for your support and come see me when this nightmare ends for free!”
Smith, along with millions of others, hopes that the rental owner is right, that Ukraine will be able to repeal the Russians from their country, and that everything will be alright. In the meantime, Smith urges others to donate either through the Airbnb rentals or through some other means.
Airbnb noted the number of bookings they are receiving for the besieged country by writing:
“We are so humbled by the inspiring generosity of our community during this moment of crisis. Airbnb is temporarily waiving guest and host fees on bookings in Ukraine at this time.
We also encourage anyone interested in getting involved with Airbnb.org to go to Airbnb.org/help—ukraine, and support Airbnb.org’s initiative to provide housing to refugees fleeing Ukraine, by becoming a host or donating.
To date, we have seen an overwhelming response to this effort, with more than a million visitors to this page.”
Rob Maheen, another person who rented an Airbnb in the Ukraine area spoke about his experience to the Wall Street Journal. He said:
“Like a lot of other people, I’ve been feeling the stress of this. All of the sadness that is going on over there.”
Thousands of Airbnb users have booked vacation rentals in war-battered Ukraine, not to visit but to provide aid to local hosts struggling to survive the Russian invasion https://t.co/v0pBP7ky8G
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) March 9, 2022
Maheen then shared a response that he received from the host after he informed them that he had no intention of staying there, rather was simply making a donation. The response read:
“The fighting spirit of Ukraine cannot be stopped. It will only die with the last Ukrainian.”
One individual, Hector, who served two tours in Iraq as a U.S. Marine and has since gotten out, received a pension, and started a civilian job, has boarded a plane for one more deployment – this time as a volunteer in Ukraine.
Hector, who thought he was done with military service, checked in several bags filled with rifle scopes, helmets, and body armor that was donated by other veterans. The former Marine, who lives in Tampa Bay, Florida, said:
“Sanctions can help, but sanctions can’t help right now and people need help right now. I can help right now.”
Hector is one of many U.S. veterans who are now preparing to join the fight in Ukraine.
Soon after Russia attacked Ukraine, the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that he was creating an “international legion” and asked volunteers from around the world to help defend his nation against Russia.
Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, echoed the call for help, tweeting:
“Together we defeated Hitler, and we will defeat Putin, too.”
“A lot of veterans, we have a calling to serve, and we trained our whole career for this kind of war. Sitting by and doing nothing? I had to do that when Afghanistan fell apart and it weighed heavily on me. I had to act.”
David Ribardo, a former Army officer who now owns a property management business in Allentown, Pennsylvania, said in a statement:
“It’s a conflict that has a clear good and bad side, and maybe that stands apart from other recent conflicts. A lot of us are watching what is happening and just want to grab a rifle and go over there.”
While doing this, he identified veterans and other volunteers with useful skills and connected them to donors who purchased gear and airline tickets. He said:
“It was very quickly overwhelming. Almost too many people wanted to help.”
He said that he worked to sift those with valuable combat or medical skills from people he described as “combat tourists, who don’t have the correct experience and would not be an asset.” He added that his group had to comb out a number of extremists as well as.
A number of mainstream media outlets, including Military Times and Time, have published step-by-step guides on joining the military in Ukraine. The Ukrainian government reportedly instructed interested volunteers to contact its consulates.
On Thursday, March 3rd, Zelenskyy said in a video on Telegram that 16,000 volunteers had joined the international brigade. However, it is unclear what the true number is and the Times was unable to identify any veterans actively fighting in Ukraine.
Volunteers risk not only their own lives, but also drawing the United States into a direct conflict with Russia. Daniel Gale, who lost a leg in Iraq before going on to teach leadership for several years at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and retiring as a lieutenant colonel, said:
“War is an unpredictable animal and once you let it out, no one — no one — knows what will happen.”
“I just feel heartsick. War is terrible and the innocent always suffer most.”
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