‘Ukraine is not in the media any more’ – charity chief fears war being forgotten

The founder of a Dorset charity who says his volunteers have saved tens of thousands of Ukrainian lives has said he fears the war-torn country is being forgotten as donations dwindle.

Karol Swiacki founded Ukraine Relief in Bournemouth two years ago to provide aid and donations to Ukraine in response to the conflict which began on February 24 2022.

The 42-year-old said public donations to the charity have been falling and he fears the public have forgotten Ukraine as it receives less media coverage than two years ago.

“Ukraine is not in the media any more so, definitely, we would have much more (donations) if Ukraine was,” the charity chief executive told the PA news agency.

A group of charity volunteers
Karol Swiacki (front left) with volunteers from Ukraine Relief (Karol Swiacki/PA)

“My question to everyone is: Do we really need to have rockets flying over our homes to understand how dangerous that is for the future of Europe? Only then the people will wake up.

“It feels sad that I, with 40 volunteers, can do so much that we send so many things to save tens of thousands of lives. And that’s only a bunch of us.

“Imagine what we could do if that was thousands of us.”

He urged people to continue helping Ukrainians, adding: “I know this is not the only war around the world, but this is our war.

“We cannot allow this to happen.”

Ukraine Relief, previously known as Help from Bournemouth to Ukraine, began at a warehouse in Castlepoint, collecting thousands of donations such as blankets, clothes and healthcare products, to be transported across Europe to Ukraine.

It has since become a registered charity with connections in the US, Sweden, Germany and France and has received backing from financial corporation JP Morgan.

Karol Swiacki visited a school in the Lviv Oblast region (Karol Swiacki/PA)
Karol Swiacki visited a school in the Lviv Oblast region (Karol Swiacki/PA)

The charity started the Children Are The Future project aiming to improve youngsters’ physical and mental health through sports and games, which Mr Swiacki said has helped them briefly forget about the conflict.

“We spend the money to renovate schools and shelters and give sports equipment to the kids,” he said.

“It is so amazing to see the children happy when the sports equipment arrives. They play, they have fun.

“For a few moments, they forget that the war exists.”

Mr Swiacki admits he sacrifices time with his family to focus on his charity endeavours, but feels this is necessary to continue supporting Ukraine.

“I’m working 16 hours a day and I’m trying to do the best I can – my children have no father because of how many duties I have,” he said.

He said he hopes his family never experience the atrocities Ukrainians face daily after visiting the war-torn country on several occasions, seeing children run into shelters for safety and hearing the sounds of planes and bombs at night.

Man stands between two derelict buildings in Ukraine
Karol Swiacki visited Bucha to see the devastation caused by bombing (Karol Swiacki/PA)

“That’s what I do not want our families to have,” he said.

“That’s why I sacrifice my life, because I think it’s important.”

Mr Swiacki, a former events organiser, said creating the charity has given him a new “life mission” to continue helping others.

“I think I will never go back to normal work,” he said.

“I think I want to help people now.

“After what I’ve done I can see how important this is for some of us… maybe this has become my life mission now.”

He aims to be a constant source of hope for Ukrainians, which he feels will help them rebuild their lives.

“It’s not only the aid, but through our actions, we are bringing hope so people can survive,” said Mr Swiacki, who is originally from Poland but now lives in Bournemouth.

To mark the two-year anniversary since the war began, Ukraine Relief will host a theatre show on The Square in Bournemouth town centre from 3.30pm on Saturday, and on Sunday there will be an awards ceremony at Castlepoint, complete with Ukrainian food, drinks and music, to celebrate its volunteers.

“(The volunteers) all work hard for so long. We have such an amazing team, we need to appreciate it,” he said.

“We’re marking the anniversary, but we’re also celebrating the birth of the charity.”

Mr Swiacki believes Ukraine “deserves to be free” and will only survive the war through the work of his charity and continued support from people in the UK and across Europe.

“I strongly believe only with our help Ukraine will survive,” he said.

“If Ukraine will survive, the freedom of Europe will survive.

“We are a free nation. Let’s defend the freedom of another nation. They deserve to be free.”