Along with the rest of the world, Mediavine has been watching Russia’s war on Ukraine unfold with horror. Let me state unequivocally, we stand with Ukrainians and anyone else speaking out against this senseless war and unmitigated violence against a free republic.
Since the introduction of our PSAs all the way back in April 2020, Mediavine publishers have looked to Mediavine, and our Shine team, to help find ways for us to come together as a group and help the causes that are important to us as a collective. The war on Ukraine is no different.
Like many of you, we began immediately to discuss what we might be able to do to help. Every effort, small and large, can help at a time like this, in ways we can’t predict.
There are many ways to help, some of which we’re going to cover here today. But most importantly we wanted to share perspectives from two Mediavine publishers for whom this crisis hits especially close to home.
Kate Vaynshteyn is the owner of Babaganosh and Julia Frey is the owner of Vikalinka. Both have close family ties to the area and have kindly offered to share their perspectives on how fellow publishers can most help right now.
As someone who is closer to the conflict right now, would you be willing to share how you are feeling with us?
Kate Vaynshteyn: I’m feeling helpless, devastated, and shocked that this is happening. I feel for the Ukrainian people who had their lives turned upside down overnight. I cry for mothers who are evacuating with their children not knowing where their next meal will come from, where they will sleep or whether the children will ever see their fathers again.
I worry about the elderly who lived through endless evacuations and bombings during WWII and are now too weak to evacuate or even make it down to the building basement when they hear a siren, like my grandma’s oldest friend in Kharkiv. I feel for the Russian people who do not want this war but can’t speak out because of their government. I also feel frustrated that there are people in Russia who do not believe their own family in Ukraine about what is actually happening.
There is not one person in Ukraine or Russia who does not have images of WWII imprinted in their brain because of their parents’ and grandparents’ stories, and to live through something so devastating again is just too sad for words.
Julia Frey: It’s difficult to put into words what it feels like to be involved in a war conflict between two countries you have strong ties to. I was born and raised in Russia, and my mother was born and raised in Ukraine. I spent part of my childhood in Ukraine living with my grandmother and every summer until she passed away. To this day, I have family in both countries. I left Russia nearly 25 years ago and since then have lived in the US, Canada and currently in the UK.
Never in a million years have I imagined experiencing an actual war that affected my relatives in 2022. Wars always felt very distant, something that happens to other people. Now I realise how ethnocentric I was in my thinking!
I, like many Russians and Ukrainians, refused to believe that the Russian army would invade Ukraine. After all, we are two nations, united by centuries of lived history, culture and food. Many of us have families across the border. For many of you, this war started three weeks ago but for those of us of Russian and Ukrainian background, it’s been dragging on for months, and even years.
If shock and disbelief were my initial feelings, what came later is anger and profound sadness. I grieve for the people of Ukraine and the lives that are being senselessly destroyed. I am terrified for the free thinking people of Russia, who one day woke up back in the oppressive regime of terror and intimidations with any attempts to protest being squashed within minutes.
But I am not completely without hope. I am also not entirely helpless. I can do as much as is within my power to raise awareness and funds — and so can you.
Are there any organizations you recommend reaching out to for involvement?
JF: Cook for Ukraine is a movement that started immediately after the war broke out. Initiated by two London based friends, Ukrainian chef and writer Olia Hercules and Russian food writer Alissa Timoshkina. These two friends decided to put their passion for food and both nations into action and raise funds for Unicef, which will go directly to children and families displaced by the current crisis.
Their mission is to raise awareness as well as provide tangible assistance. The hashtag #CookforUkraine is trending on Instagram and people are continuing to get involved. At first the idea was met with some criticism and condescension. What can you really do through cooking, people have asked. As it turns out, quite a bit!
Since the conception of the idea, hundreds of chefs, restaurant owners, food bloggers and home cooks have gotten involved to host their own fundraisers, and so far £205,000/$265,000 has been raised.
And not only that! Keeping the Ukraine situation at the forefront of people’s minds puts pressure on governments to deal with their immigration and refugee policies as well as putting every effort into ending this senseless war.
Another way to help is to donate money to reputable organisations, which deal with crises of such magnitude. Disasters Emergency Committee unites 15 UK charities, who are experts in humanitarian aid and specialists in different areas of disaster response.
The donations you make will go towards providing food, clean water, shelter support, supporting hospitals, training people in life-saving first aid and much more.
It is often an instinct to give clothes, medicine and other items in response to an emergency, but giving money will go much further. The logistics in managing gifts of items — cleaning, transportation and distribution — often means a lot of wasted effort. Giving money will ensure that the right help will be provided when it is needed the most.
We know publishers are supported by their large and loyal audiences. How do you believe publishers can use their platforms to help during this time?
KV: Publishers can help by selecting the “AdTechCares” PSAs in their Mediavine Dashboard. Travel bloggers can write about their experiences visiting Ukraine and encourage their readers to make donations for humanitarian causes. Crafts bloggers can share Ukrainian creators’ Etsy pages with digital downloads. Food bloggers can share Ukrainian recipes on social media.
Publishers who write about cats, dogs and other pets and animals can encourage their readers to donate to animal rescue organizations who are helping in Ukraine. Home schooling bloggers can write about appropriate ways to talk to children about war at different ages and encourage readers to get involved with causes to support Ukraine with their children.
Together we can reach millions of readers with our messaging.
One of the things getting me through the days is Mr. Rogers’s quote: “Look for the helpers.” We can be the helpers with our platforms.
JF: We as publishers hold great power and influence. It’s important to use it for good in times such as these. It might be intimidating if you don’t know much about the source of this conflict and are worried you might misinform people.
With great power comes great responsibility, as they say. Please verify any information before you share it with thousands of your followers. Only rely on reputable sources for information or refer your followers to sources you are confident about.
And of course, use the skills that you already have to influence, which is cooking and writing! Anyone can organise a supper club, bake sale or a cooking class to raise funds for Ukraine. No matter how big or small of an influencer you are, you can do great things!
How can others help spread the word for support of Ukrainians during this time?
KV: I want to encourage everyone to have conversations about the war in Ukraine with their family and friends. There are people even in the US and the rest of the world who are getting one-sided news and believe that Russia is simply helping the Ukrainian government, or that Ukraine is overrun with Nazis. Having conversations and educating people about what is really happening is important.
JF: Post a recipe from a Ukrainian blogger or cookbook writer with a hashtag #CookforUkraine.
Highlight how donating to charities SAVES lives and gives dignity to those who survive wars and other disasters.
Share the Cook for Ukraine initiative and encourage people to donate.
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
KV: I would encourage people not to alienate Russian people they know and not to boycott Russian-American and Russian-owned businesses around the world — at least not without having a conversation with the people.
My aunt has had a music school in NJ for decades. She was born in the USSR, grew up in Ukraine and went to music school in St. Petersburg, USSR. She is very much against Putin and this war and has been donating to humanitarian organizations and speaking out. But people are pulling their kids out of her music school and making assumptions simply because she speaks Russian and got her music degree in Russia.
Alienating people, especially those who immigrated from the USSR or Russia for a reason, is not going to help the situation.
Even if this war ends quickly, it will take decades to rebuild Ukrainian cities and infrastructure, and for survivors to try to rebuild their lives. I plan on providing as much support as I can to humanitarian efforts both in Ukraine and for refugees for years to come, and I pray that Ukraine can be a beautiful independent country once again.
JF: This situation is incredibly complex. I would like to kindly ask people to refrain from acting irrationally and creating more pain than necessary.
I have heard reports of Russian restaurants being boycotted, kids being bullied in school, Russian people abroad getting death threats. And when I say “Russian,” it could be any Russian-speaking people, even if they’re from Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania or any of the other former parts of the Soviet Union.
It’s important to separate the government from the people. Even in Russia many people are horrified by what is happening in the country. According to the latest news more than 200,000 Russians have fled the country in the first week of the conflict. The number of Russians arrested in protests is greater than the number of Russian soldiers killed in this war. People are being beaten, tortured and jailed. This is the reality of their life and the brutal consequence of their decision to protest. Please understand there is no such thing as peaceful protesting in Russia.
Russian people abroad fled the oppressive government years ago to give their children a chance to live in democratic countries. Many of them are living with the trauma of their parents being persecuted by the Soviets. How is boycotting their restaurants in the US, UK or anywhere else sending a statement to Putin? Not to mention that Russian-speaking doesn’t always mean Russian nationality.
I am writing this just a few days after Facebook/Meta announced their decision to temporarily allow calls to violence against Russians on their platform. My first thought was immediately to tell my kids to never bring up the fact they are half Russian.
Please do not dehumanise all Russians. They are people just like you who want to enjoy their families, go on holidays and live until retirement. They just weren’t as lucky as I was to leave the country, or as you to be born somewhere else.
How To Get Involved Today
Before we dive in, we’d like to thank Kate and Julia for taking the time to share with us, especially now.
As Kate and Julia mentioned, starting today you can opt in to run Support for Ukraine PSAs. Follow our help document on how to do this.
You’ll be looking for the AdTech Cares option. (Searching the page for AdTech makes it easy; we offer a LOT of PSA options!) We’ve partnered with our friends there to offer ad creatives provided by the Ad Council.
The graphic designers here at Mediavine have also made a set, and all of these are included together under the AdTech Cares opt-in.
You can also consider donating to any one of the non-profit organizations they mentioned that are on the ground, doing the work to help Ukrainian refugees.
Other Ways Mediavine Is Working Behind The Scenes
- We’ve blocked bad actor domains known for direct ties to the Kremlin from buying or selling with all of our ad partners wherever possible. We continue to monitor and add to this list as more are identified.
- We matched all donations made to World Central Kitchen during the recent Tastemaker conference, allowing them to raise more than $10K in one day to feed people on the ground in Ukraine and areas where refugees have traveled to.
- We’ll continue to look for opportunities to help. We welcome input from publishers! You can email our Shine team directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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