The bombs falling on Ukraine have sought to sow destruction and division. Instead, they have united most of the world in support of Ukraine.
In Bulgaria, as elsewhere, private individuals, businesses, nonprofits, and government organizations have joined efforts to help Ukrainians displaced by the war.
Within hours of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many of these individuals had similar thoughts on their minds.
“Let’s do something that is tangible rather than just wish for things to be better,” was how Yariv Lerner, CEO of Nu Boyana Film Studios, summed up the thinking that led him and his staff to act in support of fleeing Ukrainians. “This is a humane thing, a real-life situation that we need to respond to. What do these people need? They need transportation, they need accommodation, they need jobs. Let’s offer some jobs in the movies.”
In addition to employment, Nu Boyana is providing pick-up from the border and accommodation.
Yariv Lerner and his associates at Nu Boyana are founding members of United With Ukraine, an initiative of Bulgaria-based American and Bulgarian partners to provide emergency assistance to individuals and families who are newly arrived in Bulgaria as a result of the war in Ukraine. The initiative also includes the American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria (AmCham), the American University in Bulgaria (AUBG), the American College of Sofia (ACS), Muzeiko, BG4UA.com – Bulgaria for Ukraine, and other organizations, with the US Embassy in Sofia and the America for Bulgaria Foundation coordinating the joint efforts.
Daycare for children aged 4–12 years, placement for high school and university students, transportation from the border, orientation and translation, assistance with finding accommodation, and career events are just a few of the services partnering organizations provide. A full list of available assistance as well as partners’ contact information can be found at the United With Ukraine portal.
“The human cost of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is devastating, and I have been truly moved by the way that Bulgarians have opened their homes and their hearts to those displaced by it. Their generosity amazed me, and we were inspired to help as well. The US Embassy is so grateful to have partners like AUBG, ABF, Muzeiko, ACS, and Nu Boyana. The United With Ukraine initiative shows that when the US and Bulgaria work together, we can make a difference,” said US Ambassador Herro Mustafa.
On behalf of the American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria, its executive director, Petar Ivanov, said: “For AmCham, the choice is more than clear. We stand united — countries, businesses, and groups of people — and we help so that together we can withstand this challenge for Bulgaria and for Europe.”
Nadia Rangelova and Zhana Nikolova are cofounders of Za Dobroto Foundation, an organization working for better children’s healthcare in Bulgaria, and two of the thousands of volunteers working in the field to help newly arrived Ukrainian families. In partnership with Children’s Science Center Muzeiko and with support from Teach for Bulgaria, Prestige96, MindFit, and Khan Academy, they provide daycare and family services for displaced Ukrainians in Bulgaria.
“Every day is different for the children [at the Muzeiko center] with all the activities that educators and volunteers have designed for them. The kids’ natural calm and curiosity are slowly returning in place of the stress and sadness they feel for fathers, grandparents, and big brothers who stayed behind in Ukraine,” the women wrote.
It is volunteers like Nadia and Zhana ABF President Nancy Schiller had in mind when she said: “Time and again during crises, I have witnessed the compassion of Bulgarians and their readiness to help. As with the early days of the COVID outbreak, I see what I have always admired about Bulgarians. When assistance is needed, they don’t wait around but take matters into their own hands.
The work of the thousands of volunteers on the ground making newcomers feel welcome and supported has been nothing short of remarkable. It is a privilege to partner with the organizations, companies, and individuals who have put their personal lives and professional projects on hold to help their Ukrainian neighbors in need. This display of humanity, kindness, and generosity is inspiring and humbling.”