Volunteering in Ukraine: A Guide to Staying Safe and Protecting Others
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Practical Information

August 7, 2023

Volunteering in Ukraine: A Guide to Staying Safe and Protecting Others

The Greek philosopher Plato said: “Taking care of the happiness of others, we find our own.” Volunteering in Ukraine is a wonderful and much-needed way of supporting the people of Ukraine on the path to victory. In order to protect civilians, Ukraine has been placed under martial law since Russia’s invasion. Laws vary according to region and situation. It’s important to know what to expect, how to stay safe and how to protect those around you. Here you can read about current laws, safety tips and how to be respectful during your time in Ukraine. If you need urgent help or advice while in Ukraine, the police can be identified by their badges, vests and documents or contacted by phone (Fire protection: 101; Police: 102; Ambulance: 103).

Volunteering in Ukraine: A Guide to Staying Safe and Protecting Others

Check Local Laws

  • As the situation in Ukraine can change quickly, local rules and measures may change at short notice. 
  • Keep yourself informed about local rules regarding curfews, restrictions on public events, telephones, internet and broadcasting and evacuations of certain areas. 
  • During curfews, residents and visitors must stay at home. Bear in mind that times of curfews vary according to city, so check the curfew time in your area and keep track of change in times. You can find more information about actual curfew times in Ukraine here.
  • If you hear a siren during curfew, make your way to the nearest air raid shelter. Recommended app that notify about danger in specific regions are available on Google play and AppStore.
  • Make sure you know where your local air raid shelters are.

Keep Your Documents with You All The Time

  • Carry your passport and ID documents with you at all times, as the police need to carry out regular ID checks. All police officers carry documents that verify their position. 
  • Don’t leave documents in your vehicle or give your documents to strangers.
  • Carry health information, such as your blood type, health problems and medication at all times. 
  • Ensure you have medical insurance that is valid in Ukraine before you travel. 

Expect Transport Delays and Disruption

  • Bear in mind that transport networks are likely to be severely disrupted, so expect increased transport disruption and restrictions.
  • Be patient: the invasion has caused increased border controls and other security measures. 
  • When travelling by taxi, it is best to use official taxis, which have the name and telephone number of the taxi company on the side of the door and on the top of the taxi. You can find more information about travelling in Ukraine here.
Volunteering in Ukraine: A Guide to Staying Safe and Protecting Others

Be Careful with Social Media and Photography

  • To protect national security, it is not currently permitted to take photographs of government or military establishments, or people in military uniform. It’s best to ask before taking a photo or making a video.
  • Russia is mounting an information war on Ukraine, propagating false information. Trust only official sources of information and do not pass on information that has not been officially confirmed. 
  • Don’t spread rumours, particularly if you don’t know the source.
  • Be sensitive with photography: protecting Ukraine’s security and citizens is of primary importance.

Be Streetwise

  • During the war, there have been cases reported of Russian military personnel in Ukraine wearing Ukrainian uniforms. For this reason, do not wear a military uniform, or clothing that may resemble it, such as camouflage-patterned clothing. Likewise, do not carry weapons or anything that resembles a weapon. 
  • Do not pick up abandoned weapons or ammunition. 
  • If you find toys, mobile phone or other things on the street, it is strictly prohibited to pick them up or carry them, as they may be disguised explosive devices. Inform the Police.
  • There are severe penalties for being caught in possession of recreational drugs.

Treat National Symbols with Respect

  • The national symbols of Ukraine are more important than ever before and should be treated with respect. The Ukrainian flag and the Tryzub and the are especially significant.
  • Do not remove a Ukrainian flag or Tryzub,  as this may be cause distress or be interpreted as an act of aggression. 
  • If you wish to hang a Ukrainian flag, seek advice from Ukrainians about the correct way to hang this. Generally, when hung as a banner, the blue band should be on the left. When flown from a vertical flagpole, the blue band must face the mast. 

Keep Your Devices Charged Up

  • Check regularly that your mobile phone, tablet/laptop, power bank and flashlight are charged up. 
  • Download the air raid siren app on your phone. 

Be Respectful in Public

  • The people of Ukraine are currently living in a very unpredictable environment with high levels of stress and anxiety. It is important to show sensitivity to those around you. Try to behave predictably: avoid making sudden movements, loud noise and approaching or touching people you don’t know.
  • Many Ukrainian people have injuries from the past or present conflict and the number of people injured due to Russian aggression is increasing daily. It is important to support Ukraine’s inclusive society by showing respect and care to people with disabilities. You can do this by offering your place on public transport and challenging offensive “jokes” or mockery of injuries. 
  • In Ukrainian culture, it is polite to offer your seat to an elderly person, pregnant woman or a child on public transport and public spaces. Offer your hand to help an elderly person get out of their seat, offer an arm for them to walk, and hold or open doors for them.
  • Due to Russian aggression, speaking Russian or confusing the Ukrainian language with Russian can cause immense distress. Greet people and speak in Ukrainian if you can (you can learn the basics here) and avoid consuming Russian goods, media, or publicly playing music by Russian artists who support the invasion. 

Social Customs in Ukraine

All countries have their unique social customs, traditions and legal systems. We will explore social customs in more detail in another blog. In the meantime, bear these in mind to make the most of your time as a volunteer:

  • It is the custom for men to open doors for women and allow them to enter first as a mark of politeness.                 
  • It is not considered appropriate for strangers to approach or make physical contact with someone else’s child. Avoid patting a child’s head or shoulders if you don’t know them well.
  • Be aware that currently freedom from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not protected by Ukrainian law, and public attitudes may not be the same as your own country.

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