It’s some rough, tough, gloomy, depressing day. This morning Kyivstar, Ukraine’s principal mobile telephone network provider had a nationwide outage. Apparently it’s due to to a massive cyber-attack, and a substantial part of the IT infrastructure of Kyivstar has apparently been destroyed. So don’t bother giving me a call. There’s no coverage anywhere. The weather is dark and bleak and after a few hours of work I came home. We were all working in solemn silence in the gloom and the rain and I couldn’t take too much of it. I didn’t dare leave my colleagues at the end of the working day in case they all solemnly hanged themselves in the dark. Overnight last night there was a power cut. The snow is continuing to melt and it’s all slush-slush-slop-slop. The kitchen where I work has an infestation of giant fat greedy pigeons with evil eyes and big mean beaks. They flap around in the garage and inside the warmth of the kitchen itself, flapping around like giant rodents with wings and trying to grab anything that looks edible or even lots of things that don’t look edible, like blue rubber gloves or mashings from a carrot scraps bucket. Given the mobile ‘phone outage seems like it may last a while, my team and I are wondering whether we can train the pigeons to become carrier pigeons and carry messages. Or we can turn them into vareniki (Ukrainian pasta dumplings).
Rather more sadly, my friend and colleague’s brother is missing on the front line. She hasn’t heard from him and her face shows the anguish that she and her family must be going through. I cannot imagine the psychological hell that must torment her right now, in these long, dark nights and cold bleak days, day after day, waiting for some news - any news. It is a horror that so many people are suffering through amidst this terrible war, their faces strained in the cold winter rain by the misery that each is suffering. I see it every day, in every other interaction: a death here, a missing person there, more and more horror, building up, relentless, teaming, heavy burdens on everyone. I think of my own troubles and I realise mine are but a trifle compared to the hell that must accompany each long day on the part of people waiting for news of their family and loved ones who are out East on the front, where I was too just a few weeks ago. Everything feels so normal here in Lviv - and yet it’s not. It’s living hell.
I’ve returned home to do some desk work, where I have a smart little wooden table with a 1970’s standard lamp under whose gaze I can type. I have to focus on fundraising and I had a call today with a good friend and colleague who has some exceptional ideas and I hope is able to help. We think the idea of a “clearing house” for international funding for individual Ukrainian good causes that help the military and civilians alike in specific ways is something that we can really get to fly back in the West. It will be a simple model, because simplicity is always best or multiple trustees can get to arguing and voting and the distribution of funds suddenly becomes very political. It needs to be an easy mechanism in which people can apply for grants simply and without bureaucracy.
My two daughters and I wanted to raise money for Ukraine amidst the wealthy shoppers in a provincial town in England over the Christmas period. My mother was wise enough to inform me that apparently you need a licence to do this. You need a licence from the government to stand in the street on a cold day and collect money from Ukraine? Yes you do. And I should apply for a licence by email to some government department. So I duly composed a very polite email, explaining what we wanted to do over the Christmas period and why feeding soldiers and civilians in distress in wartime Ukraine when they are resisting the horrendous Russian onslaught to the benefit of all Europe is a good cause that ought to be supported. And here is the reply I received:
Unfortunately we are unable to approve your fundraiser as it doesn’t meet the following requirements stated in the Councils Street Collection Policy.
1. Street collections are normally, but not exclusively, allocated to charities registered with the Charities Commission (the type of rare exceptions to this would be an urgent, one-off local appeal).
2. All charities undertaking collections in the district must have links to a registered office in the district. Examples of links would include collectors living or working in the district, a shop or business based in the district or money being raised for a cause within the district.
3. Applications must be made on the charity's letter headed notepaper or from the charity's legitimate and traceable email address.
Bureaucracy, bureaucracy, bureaucracy. So in order to raise money in the street in England to help Ukraine, I have to register a charity with the Charities Commission? This is insane. Why is there an exception only for urgent, one-off local appeals? Can’t there be an exception for the dying, injured and starving on the front line in Ukraine? Unlike some sorts of unregulated fundraising, such as all these “crowdfunding” websites that don’t seem to work, I actually explained that I am a lawyer and I am going to be establishing a trust into which the funds will be paid and applied in accordance with a transparent set of terms and conditions. But that doesn’t fit the government’s local rules, and the intrinsic merits of the exercise are quite lost upon them.
Those people should wake up. Here in Ukraine we are fighting for the future of Europe, and all the British government can do is set rules stopping people from trying to help. We’ll have to find another way. I’m not going to give up. That’s not my style. I never give up. You keep on fighting. You keep going to the end.
I hear news that Congress will be having another vote on the Ukraine funding bill on 14 December. That’s the same day as Vladimir Putin is giving his “state of the nation” speech to Russians. One of my friends thinks that the reason for the aggressive push to seize Avdiivka at the current stage is because Mr Putin need something to show the Russian people in his “state of the nation” speech. It’s possible, I suppose, but Mr Putin is hardly the great democrat in thrall to the will of the people. Rather with him it’s the other way round: in his state of the nation speech he does not seek his people’s approval but instead he tells Russians what they all ought to be thinking. In any event, the next couple of days are going to be critical, both in Avdiivka and in Washington, DC. I urge the valiant Ukrainian soldiers not to give up Avdiivka, just as I am not giving up on them. We will find a way through. Slava Ukraini. I will do some more fundraising work, and then I will had off to see my weird and wonderful cast of friends in Moss Eisley Space Port. At least I know how to walk there without Google Maps, because that doesn’t work right now.