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Glasgow alumni raises funds for ambulance for Ukraine

The group Svytlo have organised all sorts of fundraising events following the war in Ukraine, with more coming up soon


It has been over a year since the war in Ukraine started and since then there have been various charitable initiatives to try and raise funds for the cause.

One such initiative was started by a group in Glasgow, with several in the group being alumni of the University of Glasgow. I was lucky to be able to chat with two of the organisers of Svytlo, Niviena Kharlanova and Mark Re, to hear what they’ve achieved so far, what events they have coming up, and ways Glasgow students can help.

When I asked how the group Svytlo was formed, Mark told me that they had formed Svytlo last winter, when Ukrainian power grids were being struck by the Russians.

He explained that hearing how loved ones were spending days and weeks without electricity in complete darkness had spurred them to take action.

“We had an idea to buy some portable lights – elderly people could charge them at the humanitarian stations with generators, then use them in the evening without the risk of a candle starting a fire.”

Mark found himself questioning how to raise money when the war started over a year ago and British news was reporting on it less. He said: “We engaged the community, raising donations while giving people a time they’d remember – so they’d learn more about and remember Ukraine.

“So we’ve organised various events and we’ve shed a little more light on what Ukraine truly is. Thus “Svytlo” – Ukrainian for light – was born.”

Recently, the group raised enough funds for an ambulance, a huge achievement.

Niviena explained to me how they’d gone about getting one. “So we got an ambulance with the help of a Scottish paramedic, Iain Gordon. He had helped us before as he already brought one ambulance in winter to the emy hometown Vinnytsia and he has become a good friend of the charity that my family is running in Ukraine called “Scotland-Ukraine”.

“At that time he was raising money for the other one, so we decided to help with this fundraiser because it’s a good cause and we had money from our blackout dinner, and from the rave for Ukraine as well.

“At that time he was raising money for the other one, so we decided to help with this fundraiser because it’s a good cause and we had money from our blackout dinner, and from the rave for Ukraine as well.

Since December, the group have organised all sorts of events. I was very lucky to attend their first event, Jazz Night. An evening of jazz, Ukrainian films, and artwork was held at the ultra-cool location The Alchemy Experiment on Byres Road. It felt incredibly classy and was an amazing night of fun and fundraising.

Mark also described other fundraising events they have hosted.

“We’ve hosted a blackout dinner, serving Ukrainian food and singing traditional songs; an art sale; and our largest one so far – a Rave for Ukraine at Stereo, which featured both Ukrainian and Glaswegian DJs, all with the help of our amazing teammates and volunteers”, Mark told me.

Several of those involved have close links to Glasgow University.

Mark explained to me that the “core of the group had formed around Glasgow’s student community. I myself graduated from GU, where I have a lot of friends and Svytlo teammates, and also Niviena who came as an exchange student from Ukraine prior to the war. We also have members from GCA, RCS and St Andrews, helping with everything from music and design to putting up posters and volunteering.”

If students would like to get involved, organisers also clarified upcoming fundraising events they have planned.

“Right now we’re planning a mixed media exhibition of Ukrainian photography and art – “INTERRUPTED”. This opens on the 5th of July and will he held at the Salt Space at the Axiom. We’d like to show the incredible creative talent of Ukrainians. The exhibition will reflect on themes such as home, memories and dreams, all of which were put on hold by the Russian invasion.”

“We have a second Rave for Ukraine coming up on July the 28th at Stereo, organised in collaboration with our friends Glasgow’s creative collective – Half Past Now!”

For those having left Glasgow for the summer and thus unable to attend any of the events, there are still ways to show support for the cause in meaningful ways.

Niviena explained how crucial it was to support smaller organisations, particularly those located in Ukraine. She said that it was important to observe charities’ social media activity before donating to ensure donations are as valuable as possible.

“Ask your Ukrainian friends or check Ukraine’s official page on Instagram where these fundraisers are getting published and please avoid sending help with huge international charitable organisations if you want your help to reach those in need quickly. I would recommend UAAnimals.official.”

“Otherwise students can get engaged as volunteers in packing and sorting aid for Ukraine but even sharing trustworthy info about the war on social media to raise awareness is already a huge impact we can all do to fight propaganda.”

I concluded the interview by asking them what important message they’d like to share with students.

Niviena emphasised how grateful she was for the support. “I would like to thank everyone who has been in any way involved with helping Ukraine. From being a volunteer to sharing a post about the war, to being a supportive friend for someone from Ukraine who’s been suffering from this war.

“Or, just being touched by all the news, and not being careless, because it’s important for us. It’s been more than a year for us already and we know that people can be tired of all the bad news of seeing constant disaster happening in our country but this is our homeland and we can’t stop helping what we consider our home and what is the home of our parents and families.

“Our charity fundraiser Svytlo and other fundraisers sharing a glimpse into Ukrainian culture is really important and we love to see feedback from you. From the bottom of our hearts, we are sharing about our traditions, our folklore, cuisine, and just our lifestyle so we’ll keep showing this in Scotland and we would love to see people enjoying it.”