Diaspora rushes to help the community stranded in Ukraine as Russia invades the country, killing many

Rupanjana Dutta Tuesday 01st March 2022 11:56 EST

With an unfolding humanitarian crisis following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, many people in the UK are looking how to offer assistance. The South Asian diaspora in the UK, organisations and businesses have immediately come forward, as always, sending relief, donations, and mobilising their networks across Europe to assist in the evacuation of the community, stranded in Ukraine. The British Parliament was lit up in the colours of the Ukrainian flag, in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. 

Stories of racial assaults towards South Asian and Black communities trying to cross the Ukrainian border have spread like wildfire, making people more anxious, worrying for those, who have undertaken long and tough journeys towards the Polish border, to escape the violence. 

When the news of Indian student Naveen Shekharappa’s death on Tuesday, a final year medical student from Haveri in the Indian state Karnataka hit the press, MP Tom Tugendhat, UK’s Chair of Foreign Affairs Select Committee in a tweet said, “Russia is murdering Indian students. This is a tragedy. It’s also Putin’s choice. He knows there are many Indians in Ukraine. He’s bombing civilians anyway.” This sparked debate whether Britain is trying to instigate PM Narendra Modi and his government to choose a side after India has successfully kept away. 

Coming forward to help

BBC reported that several UK charities have launched appeals. The British Red Cross has launched a Ukraine Crisis Appeal to support the work to fund food, water, first aid, medicines, warm clothes, and shelter.

Go Dharmic, a charity inspired by Hindu Dharma has been helping people crossing the border into Romania from Ukraine. Hanuman Dass, Founder & Chairman told Asian Voice, “Our volunteers, our head of projects in Romania, Samida and other locals have been working to help the refugees fleeing the crisis at the borders. Over 200,000 people- mostly elderly, women and children have been coming in from zero-degree temperatures with very little to their name. Go Dharmic is also sending relief shipments for broader distribution to the area.

“We pray for peace and safety for the civilians in Ukraine. We pray for those who have lost their lives. 

“Go Dharmic is raising funds for those affected by the crisis and serving aid to those in need on the borders with Romania. 

Visit: https://godharmic.enthuse.com/cf/stand-for-humanity.”

Sal’s Shoes, a children’s charity is sending footwear to many NGOs located on the Ukrainian/Polish Border, to help refugees fleeing Ukraine. They are also preparing to help refugees as they arrive here in the U.K.  The charity would welcome monetary donations to help reach those most in need. You can donate via their website: www.salsshoes.com. Sal’s Shoes has sent almost 3 million pairs of shoes worldwide to reach communities most in need: in over 50 countries including here in the UK. 

The National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) UK with the use of social media groups on WhatsApp and Telegram, has been actively helping to carry evacuation messages across to the officials in India. 

The group told Press Trust of India that 18,000 students remain stranded in the region as their long-distance rescue efforts continue. More than 4,000 students have already reached out to a group of student volunteers in the UK for help. 

Sanam Arora, NISAU UK chair and UK advisor to the Rescuing Every Distressed Indian Overseas (REDIO), launched by Minister of State for External Affairs Meenakshi Lekhi reportedly said, “We have 24/7 helplines where we are non-stop coordinating with impacted students and advising them with the government instructions and advisories. 

“Students are saying that they are unable to reach Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) officials on the ground for coordination; our team is helping by ensuring the right information reaches students in a timely manner.

“Students are now telling us that they are starting to run out of food, so we will be looking at how we can support on-ground efforts in getting food over to them.

“The efforts of our volunteers are helping the MEA coordinate its efforts as otherwise there is no record of which students are where.”

Sanam also shared that Gurudwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha Warsaw was helping out Indian students. 

Cllr Bazil Soloman is encouraging residents to help people through their local Ukraine Support Group. In a crowdfunding effort on the Just Giving page, he said, “We stand united and resolved with the people of Ukraine and Europe. Women, children, the elderly, the sick, vulnerable need our help because they suffer the most during wars. They need our help. We are collecting funds via Justgiving which will go to the British Redcross (food, water, first aid, medicines, warm clothes, shelter); United Help Ukraine (medical supplies); UNICEF Ukraine (supports children & education); CARE International (food, water & psychosocial support). For more visit : 


In their support group on Facebook is the video of Sidhya Govindraj, a Swindon businessman who runs Chennai Dosa, who has donated non-refrigerated and canned foods to the local Polish community centre to help refugees coming from Poland due to the Ukraine crisis. 

Khalsa Aid group CEO Ravinder Singh also wrote on Twitter by sharing a viral video of Sikh community helping in Ukraine: "Guru Ka Langar on a train These guys were fortunate to get on this train which is travelling east of Ukraine to the west (to Polish border ). Hardeep Singh has been providing Langar assistance to many students from different countries. What a guy."

While PM Modi has requested Pujya Brahmanivari Swami of BAPS to help Indian students stuck in Ukraine, Amit Lath, Vice President of Indo-Polish Chamber of Commerce & Industry coordinated with the Embassy of India (Poland) to organise for coach, food and shelter for more than 600 Indian students as we went to press. On their departure, the students took a group photo with Lath, chanting ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and ‘Vande Mataram’

ISKCON Bhaktivedanta Manor's charity wing, The Lotus Trust has launched efforts through its network of temples and affiliate organisations to support humanitarian aid to those impacted by the conflict in Ukraine. 

Bhaktivedanta Manor – Launches campaign to help those in need in Ukraine

Funds have already begun to support food distribution centres on the borders of Ukraine. Devotees of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) based in countries bordering Ukraine are providing free food and other assistance to people crossing the borders. The funds raised are going directly to those affected by the war.

Dr Sanjeev Agarwal, Chair of the Lotus Trust said: “The first stage of our support is to help the refugees coming out of Ukraine. We are partnering up with the ISKCON centres in Hungary and Romania especially to provide hot meals. We are helping them to scale up to at least 10,000 meals a day. "The second stage will be to support people within Ukraine itself, as soon as we are allowed access. Finally, we want to help rehabilitate individuals and families back into their home country.  We are working with a multitude of charities local to the directly affected areas and we are requesting the public to generously donate.”  

The temple president of Bhaktivedanta Manor Her Grace Visakha Dasi said, “Our whole community and beyond has reacted with compassion and generosity to get help to where it is needed most, prayers are being held daily for the conflict to be resolved.” 

To donate or help more information can be found on the Lotus Trust Website: thelotustrust.org 


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