Celebrities for Ukraine: Supporting the Country’s Defense in Word and Deed

March 6, 2023
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine rocked the world’s art scene, and has prompted outpourings of support from leading cultural figures and their fans.

On the first anniversary of the invasion, a number of international celebrities addressed the Ukrainian people with a message of solidarity, praising the Ukrainian fight for freedom as an inspiration to the whole world.

The address was joined by the band Pet Shop Boys, Imagine Dragons vocalist Daniel Reynolds, Julia Roberts, Morgan Freeman, Barbra Streisand and others. It was posted on the UNITED24 platform,  a crowdfunding initiative launched by  Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

UNITED24 has become a powerful tool for public figures around the world to support Ukraine not only symbolically.

Since May 2022 prominent cultural figures have joined it as ambassadors to promote specific initiatives. For example, actor Mark Hamill, who portrayed Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars movies, supported the Army of Drones fundraiser. As of November 2022, a total of 1,423 UAVs have been purchased under this program.

He also signed a limited number of posters to raise funds to supply the Ukrainian Armed Forces with drones.

Barbra Streisand has supported UNITED24's  Medical Aid work by popularizing the 24,000 Friends of Ukraine project encouraging people to sign up for a monthly donation of $24 to support medical workers. As UNITED24 reports, Streisand herself contributed $24,000 --- 1,000 months, paid in advance.

Actor Liev Schreiber helped raise money to purchase generators for Ukraine's medical facilities, which have been indispensable during the power outages caused by Russia's attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure.

Photo: UNITED24

Сountry music superstar Brad Paisley also joined UNITED24 as an ambassador of the Rebuild Ukraine program. On February 24, 2023, the invasion's anniversary, he released the first single off of his upcoming album, Son of the Mountains. The song, "Same Here" features a special appearance by Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Paisley's royalties for the song will be donated to UNITED24 to build housing for displaced Ukrainians who lost their homes during the war.

Sean Penn, Liev Schreiber, Jessica Chastain, Ben Stiller, and Angelina Jolie all personally made visits to Ukraine. Their visits usually focused on humanitarian issues.

Liev Schreiber met with a psychologist working with people traumatized by the war. Ben Stiller visited Ukraine as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador on World Refugee Day to speak with those who were forced from their homes by the war. Angelina Jolie visited a Lviv hospital with children who were wounded by the Russian attack on the Kramatorsk train station and spoke to volunteers helping people at the Lviv railway station. Jessica Chastain also visited a hospital for children in Kyiv and the capital's suburbs devastated by Russian troops.

Jessica Chastain visiting Ohmatdyt, National Specialized Children's Hospital in Kyiv. Photo: Ohmatdyt

Angelina Jolie with children in Lviv. Photo: Maksym Kozytskyi/Lviv Regional Military Administration

Sean Penn has a rather unique story.

The start of Russia's full-scale invasion caught him in Kyiv where he was filming a documentary about Volodymyr Zelenskyy's transformation from a comedian into a president and the war in Ukraine's East. He met Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the first time on the eve of the invasion. They also met the next day and later on.

Eventually, the film grew in scale to tell a wider story of Ukraine, its people, and their fight for freedom. The film Superpower premiered at the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival. Penn has advocated strongly for increased Western military support of Ukraine.

Sean Penn brought his Oscar statuette to Ukraine where it would stay until the end of the war. Source: president.gov.ua

The music world has joined in, as well. Pink Floyd made a cover of the classic Ukrainian resistance ballad Oh, the Red Viburnum in the Meadow called Hey, Hey, Rise Up!. The old patriotic march was given a new interpretation by Ukrainian musician Andriy Khlyvnyuk from the band BoomBox, who inspired Pink Floyd.

Bono of the rock band U2 came to Kyiv, where he performed in the Kyiv metro together with Taras Topolya from the Ukrainian band Antytila, who was serving in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. They updated the lyrics of U2's famous song Stand by Me for a song titled Stand by Ukraine.

"Today you are fighting not only for your freedom but also for ours," said the Irish musician.

Screenshot: The Guardian

Other bands have also been moved to change lyrics in honor of Ukraine's brave fight.

During a  concert in Las Vegas, famous 1980s rock band The Scorpions replaced lyrics  about Moscow in their iconic hit Wind of Change. Instead of "I follow the Moskva down to Gorky Park," they sang "Now listen to my heart, it says Ukrainia".

The band's vocalist Klaus Meine told Ukrainian media that he would really like Russians to understand the responsibility they bear for their nation's crimes.

Numerous other celebrities have raised money and awareness to support Ukraine. This all shows that Russia's unprovoked aggression has affected everybody, including the world's most famous creative minds. It also shows that there are many ways to help Ukraine, and that what matters is to take action rather than remaining indifferent.

Andriy Avramenko
Analyst and Journalist at UkraineWorld