Russia Attacks Ukraine Power Grid, Leaves Hospitals Without Electricity, Here Are UNITED24 Aid Efforts

December 30, 2022

Is Russia trying to show the power of the dark side by continuing brutal attacks on Ukraine’s power infrastructure? Well, these tactics have left around 10 million Ukrainians in literal darkness without heat and power in the midst of Winter. And guess what places are particularly important during a war and really need electricity? The answer is medical clinics and hospitals, which kind of need lights and power to operate medical equipment so that they can do all that saving lives stuff. So, by targeting Ukraine’s power grid, is Russia, in effect, attacking Ukraine’s hospitals? How’s that for dark?

This dark, dark situation has prompted actor and director Liev Schreiber, along with Bluecheck Ukraine, the nonprofit organization that Schreiber co-founded in March 2022, to work with UNITED24 to bring more light this problem. This has included launching a fundraising campaign to purchase electric generators for Ukrainian hospitals. As Schreiber explained, “Right now one of the biggest concerns is the ability to continue life saving operations, surgeries, and treatments.”

And you can’t take such a situation lightly, so to speak. Schreiber described situations where, “Surgeons have been operating by candlelight and gaslights and conducting open heart surgery with battery powered lights. It made it clear that a campaign for generators was needed.” Yeah, candlelight may be nice for a romantic dinner but not when a surgeon has to actually see where and what he or she is cutting. The Bluecheck Ukraine campaign has aimed to serve around “360 hospitals in need of approximately 1000 generators, each of which will cost between $8000 and $25,000,” according to Schreiber. That why the campaign, which uses the hashtag #LightUpUkraine, has set at its goal $10 million.

Since July 2022, Schreiber, whose grandparents were born in Ukraine, has served as one of the ambassadors for UNITED24. UNITED24 is an initiative that the President of Ukraine himself, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, established. It’s served as the main conduit for charitable donations for Ukraine with collected funds going directly to accounts at the National Bank of Ukraine where the country’s ministries can then allocate them to where they are most needed. By engaging directly with UNITED24, Schreiber could be sure that the funds wouldn’t be siphoned off by some middle person like what often happens with charities. Donating to some charities can be like trying to pass a pitcher of beer through a fraternity party. Lots of different people may take their cuts of the funds before only some, a portion, or even none of the money makes its to the intended beneficiary.

Schreiber is part of a group of high profile ambassadors for UNITED24. Andriy Shevchenko, a Ukrainian football player and manager, headed this list when he became the first ambassador in May 2022. Next, Ukrainian tennis star Elina Svitolina began serving as an ambassador the following month in June 2022. In July, American rock band Imagine Dragons joined this “Whatever It Takes” situation as ambassadors. That was the same month that Georgian fashion designer Demna Gvasalia saw it fit to join as well. Then came September when singer and actress Barbara Streisand tuned in as a new ambassador. The following month, actor Mark Hamill, who has been used to combating the fictional Dark Side as the Luke Skywalker character in the Star Wars movies, brought his force and proverbial lightsaber by joining as an ambassador. In October, American astronaut Scott Kelly launched his involvement as one. Then in November, American historian Timothy D. Snyder and Ukrainian esports team NAVI tried to make history and joined this very serious game as ambassadors. That’s quite a lineup.

These ambassadors probably haven’t had that much trouble finding sympathy for the Ukrainian people from others around the world. After all, as Schreiber indicated, “There’s no doubt about the truth. The Ukrainian people are the victims of a brutal attack. They are a sovereign nation. Anyone in the world can see that.” Such facts run counter to the disinformation that members and allies of the Russian government have been trying to spread.

Remember when Russia’s President Vladimir Putin claimed that Russia was trying to help Ukrainians by invading their country. Well, Putin hasn’t exactly been “putting” the Ukrainian population first ever since invading the country in late February 2022. Back then Putin called the invasion a “special military operation,” which was kind of like referring to a four-alarm fiery blaze as a marshmallow roast. When Kelly traveled to Ukraine, he saw quite the opposite of Russians trying to help Ukrainians: “mass graves where people had been raped, tortured and murdered. You could see very clearly that the Russians have been trying to just destroy the civilian population,” in Kelly’s words. He continued by saying that, “the Russians are indiscriminately trying to shoot at infrastructure with their rifles with no discipline.”

Schreiber described the strategy of Putin as “attack the civilian infrastructure over time to get people in Ukraine to negotiate.” That’s literally a cold strategy, a very, very cold one. “It can get very, very cold in many parts of Ukraine, below freezing,” according to Schreiber. “When they move into January and February, it becomes shockingly cold.” That can be shocking in a no electricity type of way. As Schreiber mentioned, “The hospitals are all dark. It’s a scary time.”

But all of these #LightUpUkraine efforts by Schreiber, Bluecheck Ukraine, UNITED24, and donors have been trying to bring at least some more warmth to the Ukrainian people. As of December 29, they’ve raised a little over $2.68 million via 6703 donations. That’s over a quarter of the way to the $10 million goal. In a statement, Mariia Karchevych, the Deputy Minister for Digital Development, Digital Transformation and Digitalization of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine thanked Schreiber and the donors: “We are very grateful to Liev Schreiber for his support and for this integral fundraising, as well as to every single donor putting the light back not just into our hospitals, but our hearts.”

Now, securing generators and putting them in place is no small task. It’s not like ordering a Wolverine-like set of meat shredder claws or an umbrella hat on Amazon. You can’t just place the order online and tell some front desk to expect a generator to arrive in a cardboard box with some bubble wrap. Even after the money is available to purchase a given generator, there’s a whole complex procurement process to purchase the generator, followed by everything involved in shipping the generator and setting it up. All of this ain’t easy to do when you have invading soldiers trying to shoot at everything around them.

The Ukrainians may be a little used to things that ain’t easy, though. Both Schreiber and Kelly mentioned the impressive resilience of the Ukrainian people. Remember, Russia invading Ukraine was supposed to be like a professional football team bringing their balls to take on an amateur team that couldn’t even field enough players. Russia had a big time advantage in terms of geographic size, population, and resources. Presumably, Putin originally thought that this invasion and occupancy might take no more than week or two. Well, hold your Putin-riding-shirtless on horses. It’s been 308 days or about 11 Scaramuccis since then, and the Ukrainians have continued to repel this invasion from one of the largest and supposedly most capable militaries in the world. Not only have the Ukrainians been fending off the attacks, they have at many moments been prevailing. Kelly related, “Anything the Russians do to harm the Ukrainians is going to increase their resolve.”

Despite the Ukrainians’ resolve, this Winter will undoubtedly be tough for them. Lack of power certainly ain’t the only challenge that the Ukrainian health care system is facing. Another problem has been the lack of ambulances, you know those things that take people to hospitals when they are having a medical emergency. Clearly, you can’t rely on an Uber app or a hover board to get you to the hospital if you are sick or badly injured in Ukraine. That’s why Kelly has been trying to raise funds for ambulances. According to Kelly’s donation web page, his fundraiser has already raised $446,138 via 2062 donations towards a $650,000 goal.

Kelly was able to see first hand some of the struggles that the health care system has been facing during his visit to Ukraine. Kelly called this visit his “fifth most amazing trip.” That may sound underwhelming until you realize that Kelly has been to space four times, which is kind of unfair to any trips on Earth. Kelly spoke of visiting the main children's hospital in Kiev and seeing that the doctors and other hospital personnel “don't go home. Instead they live in the hospital,” in his words. That obviously is not a great situation.

During his trip, Kelly did have a chance to meet President Zelensky, which Kelly called “an incredible experience. He was charismatic, confident, yet humble. He was convinced that they will prevail.”

Schreiber agreed that the Ukrainian people will eventually prevail. These may be dark days for Ukraine but the Ukrainian people do have a major light to guide their way, according to Schreiber, the light of truth. “Ukraine is going to win because they have truth on their side,” Schreiber asserted. “Lies are difficult to maintain.” That would be encouraging for other parts of the world such as the U.S. because if you haven’t noticed already, lying has become kind of a habit for a quite a few people in the U.S., including various politicians and personalities. Schreiber alluded to this by saying, “One of the most discouraging things that I am seeing in political discourse is misinformation and disinformation. This is a clear tool of anti-democratic regimes.”

All of this political discourse may be discouraging, but there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Ukrainians have already shown that they aren’t in the dark about how to stand up for themselves and their independence against dark forces. This could be inspiring for others around the world . Schreiber’s United24 donations for generators web page has already generated a number of comments praising the Ukrainian people. Ukraine may be wanting for electric power right now. But through their resolve and ability to stave off a much bigger bully, the Ukrainian people have already shown that they have a collective amount of power that many outside the country probably didn’t realize that they have.

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