“Russians for Ukraine”: the border of hope

CBCC caught up with Liudmila Sheremeteva and Filip Ślipaczek who joined forces to provide so much needed help to Ukrainian refugees. Here is their incredible story of goodwill, compassion, and determination to bring hope to the vulnerable people affected by the war…

Q: How did you two meet?

Filip: We were introduced at the joint BCSA/CBCC Summer Party in June by Ladislav Hornan who is involved in both organisations. I overheard a discussion about Ukraine which piqued my curiosity. I have an empty house in Szczawa, Poland, which I already provided to Ukrainian refugees in the past – the last five refugees are now about to leave for Canada, so I was glad to be put in contact with Liudmila. We got talking and the rest is history – thanks to her there will be refugees coming in the near future to stay at my house.

Q: Liudmila, what motivated you to start helping the Ukrainians?

Liudmila: I am Russian born but my father is Ukrainian, and my heart is really there. Since the war outbreak I felt I had to do something. In the 2nd week of the war, I began raising funds and later I found out about the Russians for Ukraine (RFU)* initiative operating at the Polish/Ukrainian border. The organisation started spontaneously in February 2022 and exists purely on enthusiasm of each of us and our strong compassionate feelings for Ukrainian civilians. Needless to say, my family back in Russia disowned me, which is common.

Q: Where does RFU operate?

Liudmila: We rent a house in Medyka (about a 10-minute walk from the Ukrainian border) which serves as our volunteers’ hub and provides accommodation for up to 30 people. This allows us to host anyone from any country who’s willing to help Ukrainian refugees. My RFU mates are literally saving people’s lives every single day, also dealing with very challenging cases (e.g. transporting people with severe disabilities or the latest stages of cancer, etc.) while well established and highly bureaucratic charities wouldn’t touch them trying to avoid associated risks. People are coming to the borders without any personal belongings and essentials and are so grateful to get the basics. My heart is bleeding with tears when I see these people.


Q: Where do the volunteers come from?


Liudmila: Most of us are Russians by origin who left Russia decades ago (like me) or who had to flee recently due to their political views. Our volunteers come from all walks of life, age groups and countries. Apart from almost all European countries, the US and Israel, we also had volunteers from New Zealand, Australia, and Congo. During one of my recent trips to the border I was volunteering with a 72yo professor of Colombian University and a 73yo professor of Harvard University. Both made significant financial contributions to RFU but still felt compelled to come in person to do physically and emotionally very demanding volunteering work.


Q: Where do you place the refugees initially?


Liudmila: Since September 2022 we’ve been running a refugee shelter for 30 people – an initial grant for the first two months was provided by Oxfam, but since then we have to raise about 4K euro every month to cover the rent, utility bills, petrol and basic food/essentials for vulnerable Ukrainians who are still crossing the border every single day and stay in our shelter on their way to other countries. Sadly, the flow of people has not subsided also due to the Kahovka dam explosion and catastrophic flooding. We provide clothes and other basics which we regularly collect and send to Poland from London. Another big part of the RFU operation is delivering humanitarian aid to Ukrainian territories as well as doing regular shifts at the Przemysl railway station assisting the Ukrainians travelling from and to their country.

Q: Where do the donations come from and do people offer properties like Filip?

Liudmila: As mentioned, except for a one-off grant from Oxfam for our shelter, all RFU funding is coming from private donations. Individuals also help in other ways, e.g. they come to the station to help carry the luggage, etc.

Filip: And just to add, in the UK the charities get paid by the government to assist the refugees but when the money dries out, the poor refugees must go somewhere else. I find it unfair. However, I have to praise the Rotary Club of London – every time I send any donation, they match it.

Liudmila: Filip has genuinely offered much more than just basic help. People are so happy in the house. For a few people, and especially for kids, we hopefully made the war more bearable.

Filip: It was hard to get refugees to my house. I talked to the Ukrainian embassy, other Ukrainian organisations, nobody was interested. They seem to work on a bigger scale. In doing this, I’d like to set an example how anybody can join us in this effort and help.

Q: When doing this work, did anything surprise/disappoint you?

Liudmila: We see all sorts of people coming and I have a lot of stories to tell about both selfless and selfish people. But I saw so much generousness and decency. One of the RFU founders Yana Serova used to work as a Head of Sotheby’s property in Moscow – she left a very comfortable life in Moscow behind her and came to the border to help unfortunate Ukrainians fleeing for their safety. She has been volunteering on the border since the first days of this war and is a leading volunteer in RFU. This unprovoked aggression from our country towards Ukraine has fundamentally changed Yana’s views on life and she decided to do charitable work for the rest of her life.

Filip: Simply, the war has brought out the best and the worst in people.

Q: Can anyone come there as a volunteer?

Liudmila: Anyone can come to help for a few days. RFU will secure accommodation in our house on the border and provide basic food. We are proud that our shelter offers much better conditions to the refugees than RFU could provide for our volunteers. During busy times (usually during school holidays when people have spare time to travel) our volunteer house is full and we sleep on the floor. On the New Year’s Eve there were six people sleeping on the floor in one room plus a dog. During the summer there are many tents in the house yard when we are short of space in the house. Some people prefer to rent short-term accommodation in the nearest town Przemysl and come to do their shifts to the shelter, railway station or drive humanitarian aid to Ukraine. People often bring their teenage children with them so they could also learn to volunteer.

Q: Last word?

Filip: Everything happens for a reason, and I believe it was a fate that I was at the Summer Party, and we got connected. As mentioned, I hope this example will inspire people in other countries to do the same – to offer their unoccupied properties to the Ukrainians fleeing the war.

Liudmila: We are so grateful to Filip for everything he has done. In addition, we are pleased that many journalists worldwide, such as CBC News, Aljazeera and others, have decided to feature our story. That increases our visibility, which hopefully will lead to a larger pool of volunteers and more donations as well as a more positive impact we are striving to make for refugees as well as to bring the end to this barbaric war.

Here are a few videos (in English or with English subtitles) where you can see what the work of RFU looks like: 






Liudmila Sheremeteva: Founder and Leading Consultant, FSEE Ltd Solution for International Growth

Filip Ślipaczek: Senior Partner, Ślipaczek Chartered Financial Planners

By Tereza Urbankova, member of the CBCC Executive Committee

We are looking for more CBCC members to be interviewed! Please email tereza@cbcc.org.uk if you are interested.

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