Ukrainian Volunteers: how has 24.02 Challenged Ukraine’s Civil Society

February 24, 2023
Ukraine’s strong culture of volunteering has made itself felt since the initial outbreak of war in 2014.

And it has proven tremendously influential during Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Just as impressive as Ukraine's will to defend its freedom is the vast network of Ukrainians who have provided critical support to the Armed Forces effectively through numerous aid headquarters, foundations, and platforms. Ukraine was ranked 10th in the World Giving Index with a 49% average score for donating, volunteering, and helping strangers in 2021. According to the conducted survey, 57% of Ukrainians from central and western Ukraine were involved in volunteering or charity in mid-2022. In the first days of the invasion, more than 1,700 organizations providing humanitarian aid were created. UkraineWorld spoke with several organizations supporting Ukraine.

The Kramatorsk Association of Volunteers

The world was shocked by photos of a residential building in Kramatorsk which was targeted by a Russian strike. The Kramatorsk Association of Volunteers was the first to arrive at the scene of the tragedy and began rescuing people from the burning rubble.

"We rushed into the burning building. There was a persistent smell of gas because a gas pipe had broken. The entrance to the building was under the rubble, so we made our way to the victims through the second floor. Those who had already managed to be taken out were handed over to doctors," recalls Bohdan Zuyakov, the head of the organization, to UkraineWorld. 

Then the volunteers started looking for other people:

"We heard a man shouting from under the rubble. For 2 hours, we dug through debris alongside rescuers from the State Emergency Service, keeping in contact with him. Unfortunately, another collapse  occurred, and we stopped hearing his voice. Four hours later, we found his lifeless body".

This organization is an example of how fruitful cooperation between civil society and the government can be. The Kramatorsk Association of Volunteers began working by creating roadblocks.

"On February 24, the Kramatorsk City Council posted an announcement that help was needed to create roadblocks," Bohdan explains. "We set up checkpoints at the entrance and exit to the city, and we fortified hospitals with sandbags."

Once humanitarian aid began arriving in the city, the Kramatorsk Association of Volunteers was unloading medicines, clothes, and groceries. Since the start of bombing in the city, the organization has also helped people who were unable to take care of themselves, such as elderly people who need humanitarian assistance or medical supervision. The team has been visiting the front line and bringing aid to communities and defenders under fire since the summer. 

"We have been able to provide our defenders with bulletproof vests, but were unfortunately unable to provide them with helmets. We also deliver camouflage nets, trench candles, and rifle sights," Bohdan reports. The Kramatorsk Association of Volunteers is also involved in evacuating people from Bakhmut and other hot spots. From the very beginning, the most difficult challenge was to find transport, but this has been provided by the All Will Be Well Foundation.

Bohdan explains to UkraineWorld that the war created an ecosystem of volunteering:

"You may not be familiar with this or that volunteer, but after 10 minutes of conversation, you are already working together cooperating and keeping your finger on the pulse". The Kramatorsk Association of Volunteers is a self-sufficient initiative with no external funding: "We take care of maintenance on our own. Some people help us with gasoline to deliver aid, while others respond by bringing us bulletproof vests."

The Come Back Alive Foundation

The Come Back Alive Foundation is the first charity organization in Ukraine that received a license for the purchase and import of military and dual-purpose goods. Their main domain of work is  to provide units of Ukraine's defenders with all the equipment they need  for conducting combat operations and defeating the enemy, such as thermal imaging, communication stations, and drones. 

Their second area of focus is personnel training. As Andriy Rymaruk, the director of the military department of the Come Back Alive Fund, tells UkraineWorld, "over the last year, we have trained over 15,000 servicemen in several areas, including unmanned aviation, firing from closed positions, tactical medicine, and mine safety". 

Their third working domain is the purchase of lethal weapons. "One of our achievements," Andriy boasts, "was the purchase of an entire Bayraktar complex, including a command post, three aircraft, spare parts, and high-precision aerial bombs."

The Foundation has purchased 120 mm mortars for territorial defense forces, and has also provided each territorial defense brigade with a reconnaissance and strike complex consisting of drones, vehicles, and of course, mortars. This is one of the Foundation's flagship projects, designated Long Arms of TDF.

The Come Back Alive Foundation is mainly coordinated with Ukraine's Logistics Forces Command, which is responsible for providing the Ukrainian Armed Forces with various types of weapons. "Domain heads also communicate with other foundations and public organizations in order to avoid duplicating  assistance," Andriy tells us.

The Foundation tries to fulfill weapons requests as quickly as possible. "When there was a threat of an attack by Belarus, we provided communication stations, thermal imagers, and drones to all units located along the northern border," says. While the Foundation collected 24 million UAH in 2021, this number exploded to more than 6 billion UAH in 2022, which really speaks to the scale of the nation-wide and international response.

When asked what the Foundation's future holds, he has a simple, direct response: "Victory first!"


As of the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the ArmySOS Charitable Foundation was working on three projects: the Kropyva (Nettle) software complex, the unmanned strike vehicle called Valkyriya, and battalion-level electronic intelligence systems. As the organization's volunteers began serving directly in the military, it chose to concentrate on its Kropyva and Valkyriya projects.

ArmySOS purchases equipment for Kropyva such as tablets, laptops, and thermal imagers."This software," volunteer Hanna Morozova tells UkraineWorld, "is created on the basis of current maps to determine current target locations, make fire calculations to hit the enemy, and construct tactical information". There is a module that allows the user to determine the positioning of their drone and the targets it has found. Accordingly, the enemy's positions are observed and passed on to artillerymen.

There are well over 100,000 Ukrainian military personnel using the software complex, which has been developed entirely on a volunteer basis without external funding.When asked about the Foundation's plans after the war, Hanna tells Ukraineworld, "victory and a trip to Ukrainian Crimea".

The war has caused Ukrainians to migrate, both within Ukraine and abroad. Thus, volunteering centers were even set up abroad. In Lithuania, for example, volunteers weave nets, collect humanitarian aid and purchase equipment for Ukrainian defenders. In Latvia, Ukrainians work with the Latvian organization Your Friends to transport cars and find equipment for the war effort. Both within Ukraine and beyond, every volunteer is working to help the country's defenders bring victory closer.