WAR IN UKRAINE - AUSTRIAN INITIATIVES AND WAYS TO HELP
With the frightening and heartbreaking news about the conflict in Ukraine and the United Nations estimating that nearly one million people have already fled the country (and many more people displaced within Ukraine itself), many of us in Austria are naturally wondering what we can do to help. But are you also feeling overwhelmed by the number of social media posts telling you where to send money or supplies, or how to help in other ways, and wondering which are valid and worth supporting? This post is intended to provide an overview of the initiatives coordinated by the City of Villach and other Austrian or local organizations, all of which offer concrete and legitimate ways to support those in need.
From how and what to donate, to offering housing or providing other kinds of support, to comprehensive information about what nationwide and federal initiatives are happening, this post will give you a thorough overview of the current situation.
ALL ABOUT DONATIONS
The City of Villach is organizing the delivery of supplies and food to the western Ukrainian city of Mukachevo, where tens of thousands of war refugees are soon expected. This initiative is organized in conjunction with three Villach residents, one who was born and raised in Mukachevo and two who have many years of experience helping people in Ukraine. They have put together a detailed donation list, which includes everything from bottled water to diapers to sleeping bags to non-perishable food. If at all possible, please pack your donations into boxes by type of article and label the outside of the box clearly in German and in English (for example: “toiletries - Hygieneartikel” or “non-perishable food - Haltbares Lebensmittel”), to save the organizers time. Bring donations to Villach’s main fire station (Hauptfeuerwache Villach) at Kasernengasse 3, from Monday-Friday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. or Saturday from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. Deliveries to Mukachevo will be made as soon as possible and as often as possible.
The City of Villach has also set up a bank account for receiving financial donations to support the Mukachevo initiative. You can either transfer the money directly or donate cash at the main fire station (see address and opening times above). These donations are of course tax deductible.
AT98 3949 6000 0000 4101
„Villacher Ukrainehilfe – Hauptfeuerwache"
The Villach childcare organization Kinderfreunde - Sonnenhof is also organizing deliveries of supplies for children in Ukraine. They are taking donations of children’s clothing (0-13 years old), toiletries, stuffed animals, blankets, bottled water, and paper plates and other disposable tableware. If you’d like to donate, please contact them directly at email@example.com or through their Facebook page.
Olga Bulhac, founder of the Carinthian International Center’s BabyChat group, has organized a WhatsApp group called BabyChat_HELPS in which to share information about how and what to donate, and how to help people affected by the war. Join the group to find out more about local donation initiatives and services available for Ukrainian refugees.
If you would like to offer accommodation to people fleeing the war, the Austrian Federal Agency for Reception and Support Services (BBU) has put together a platform to coordinate these private accommodation offers. Using this platform ensures that each refugee is officially registered and therefore also covered by health insurance, and also helps the authorities keep track of all developments during this crisis. Just fill out this form to register to be a host, and you will be contacted as soon as there is a need.
HELP FOR STUDENTS
The Austrian Student’s Association (ÖH) of the University of Klagenfurt is coordinating efforts to support university students who have been affected by the war. These include helping find accommodation for students who are coming to Austria to start their stay here earlier than planned; offering financial assistance to those adversely affected by the financial sanctions imposed by the EU; giving free legal advice; helping coordinate fundraisers; and offering social events and solidarity. If you’d like to get involved in these efforts, please get in touch with them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NATIONWIDE AND FEDERAL INITIATIVES
The Austrian Federal Agency for Reception and Support Services (BBU) is providing information and support services, such as housing, food, and counseling, for Ukrainian citizens in Austria.
In an unbureaucratic show of solidarity with war refugees, railway companies in many European countries - including the ÖBB in Austria - have announced that people fleeing Ukraine can travel for free on all trains within and through their countries. Refugees can also use Vienna’s public transportation system, Wiener Linien, free of charge.
Ukrainians who are fleeing from war can use @unsereoebb trains in #Austria without a ticket. In times like this, it is our responsibility to help fast and unbuerocraticly. And that is exactly what we are doing. 🇺🇦 #Ukraine— Leonore Gewessler (@lgewessler) February 27, 2022
Various news outlets are reporting that Austrian government officials support allowing refugees from Ukraine to stay for at least one year in Austria and be able to get a job. This is a developing situation, and at the time of posting discussions were underway in Brussels for an EU-wide agreement on this issue.
The Austrian Federal Ministry for the Interior has extensive information on their website about ways the Austrian government is working to support Ukraine and those fleeing the war. Most content is only in German, but the FAQs for Ukrainian citizens are also in English.
The English Speakers in Austria Facebook page has a super convenient list with comprehensive information about how to help in various ways during this crisis, as well as information about what the Austrian government is doing. (You do not need to have a Facebook account to see the information.)