It was February 24 of 2022 when Russian president Vladimir Putin initiated an attack on Ukraine, spurring an ongoing conflict that has impacted the entire world.
A year later, the war rages on. While the Ukrainian military has taken Russia by surprise and steadily held on to its defense, millions of Ukrainians have suffered at the hands of the Russian military (including over 30,000 civilians who have died) and continue to need support.
As the conflict reaches this pivotal anniversary and has unfortunately faded from the mainstream conversation, this tragic and ongoing humanitarian crisis and devastation must be confronted.
At Good Good Good, we know that hope is fuel. Our team works to research, vet, and share authentic good news and action steps that help readers feel hopeful and empowered to make meaningful change in the world.
We aim to highlight hope — not to move past the heartbreak, but to get involved in the helping and healing process.
There is certainly no lack of heartbreaking news from the war in Ukraine, and it is vital that we all stay informed about the current events in Eastern Europe. However, we hope that “looking for the helpers” will give you the encouragement you need to do your part, and the hope we all need to celebrate the resilience at the heart of the war in Ukraine.
Read on about some amazing helpers who can help us turn our heartbreak into fuel as we continue to support the people of Ukraine.
You might also like: How To Help Ukraine Now — 1 Year Later
Here are the good news stories that gave us hope in Ukraine over the past year
Ukrainians came together to defend their country
Although it is truly horrific that Russia’s invasion forced everyday civilians into a warzone, the strength of community and collective humanity in Ukraine is truly astonishing.
Whether we point to the civilian medic wearing her high heels into a combat zone; the volunteer operation that came together in an old industrial complex to manufacture camouflage gear and body armor; or the women who traveled home to Ukraine at the start of the war to contribute in whatever ways they could — we celebrate countless stories of the human spirit.
People around the globe protested in support of Ukraine
Upon the invasion, many Russian citizens risked their safety and freedom to protest the conflict in Ukraine, but people across the globe showed up to protest in their own communities, too.
The weekend after the invasion, thousands took to the streets in neighboring European countries, as well as Japan, Iran, Australia, and the United States.
Reports show that the largest rally happened in Germany, as over 100,000 people gathered in Berlin to protest the invasion. Other areas around the world showed up in enormous numbers, as well.
30,000 rallied in Tbilisi, Georgia, which was the victim of a Russian invasion in 2008. Over 15,000 protesters lined the streets in Amsterdam. Thousands gathered in various city centers across the United Kingdom.
While these large movements have dissipated, anti-war protesters in Russia continue their fight.
Russia’s anti-war movement rages on — albeit quietly
According to the Washington Post, Russia’s anti-war movement shows a weak street-level resistance, but protests go beyond the traditional displays of defiance.
Since many anti-war protesters have been jailed and drafted into the war, anti-war Russians must move with stealth if they want to stay safe — and have an impact. These movements manifest through disseminating accurate information about the war, acts of sabotage, acts or violence, resistance art — helping Ukrainian refugees.
Networks like Vesna and Feminist Anti-War Resistance work tirelessly to dodge the Kremlin — all while standing against it.
Aid agencies rushed to help Ukrainians
Upon Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, major efforts from international aid organizations launched into action. Whether it was bringing in essential supplies, facilitating refugee safety, providing medical care, or feeding civilians a warm meal, here are a few statistics that celebrate the work of these aid providers over the last year.
- World Central Kitchen has served over 200 million meals across 9,000 distribution sites through its #ChefsForUkraine program
- The International Committee of the Red Cross provided access to clean water to 10,300,000 Ukrainians, as well as provided continued care to some 200,000 people with diabetes, cardiac conditions, and asthma.
- The Global Empowerment Mission helped place 13,624 individuals in temporary housing, and relocate over 38,700 people.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has led Ukraine with loyalty and hope
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s unfailing allegiance to his country has made headlines for the last year. At the start of the war, he turned down President Biden’s offer to evacuate (he said “I need ammunition, not a ride”).
These days, he simultaneously works to rebuild the nation while demanding support from ally countries.
While it is certainly not easy to be a country’s leader during war, and Zelenskyy has and will make mistakes, his character and determination have a ripple effect on all Ukrainians.
“I am here. We are not putting down arms,” he said in a video at the start of Russia's invasion. “That is it. That’s all I wanted to tell you. Glory to Ukraine.”
Countries are decoupling from fossil fuels to reduce reliance on Russian oil
While we already know we need to globally eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels, it’s especially true when it comes to getting them from Russia. 60% of Russia’s exports are oil and gas.
One major response to the invasion of Ukraine was for countries in Europe and around the world to divest from fossil fuel projects in Russia and turn to renewable energy projects. Even before the military invasion, in response to Russia’s buildup of troops around Ukraine, Germany stopped the approval of Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that would bring natural gas from Russia to Europe.
Later, Germany announced it would be accelerating its clean energy transition plans so the country would reach 100% renewable energy by 2035 — 15 years ahead of schedule.
Additionally, Australia, Britain, the United States, and Canada imposed bans on Russian oil purchases in the spring of 2022.
Nearly a year following the invasion, the European Union announced that it is cutting off imports of Russian oil products.
Companies have divested from and cut operations in Russia
Over 1,000 companies publicly announced that they would curtail operations in Russia. Many — like Adidas, Aldi, McDonald’s, and Starbucks — have exited or wound down their operations entirely.
Check out Yale’s complete list (and rankings) of global companies and their relationship to Russia.
Similarly, some fossil fuel and oil companies have also made divestments from Russia.
While we’re hesitant to ever celebrate oil and gas companies doing good for the planet — both because their overall efforts to transition to renewable energy pale in comparison to their investment in fossil fuels, and because of decades of hiding the truth about the damage they were doing to the planet — it is genuinely good news to see both BP and Shell make significant exits from investments and ventures in Russia.
Helpers around the world opened their homes to refugees
Millions of Ukrainians fled their homes at the start of the war, and while the massive scale of this refugee crisis overwhelmed the world in a mere few days, countries (and individuals) around the world were ready to welcome them with open arms.
For example, Poland took in more than 1.6 million Ukrainian refugees, with countries like Germany, Czechia, and Italy closely following in numbers.
Online platforms also became a safe haven for refugees, as folks turned to Host A Sister, Ukraine Take Shelter, Host4Ukraine, and Refuge Booking to find a place to stay. Unlike initiatives on Airbnb, many of these places hosted refugees free of charge and helped shelter minority communities who were otherwise discriminated against in their journey to safety.
Solar microgrids kept Ukraine’s hospitals running
One of Russia’s main targets (besides innocent civilians) has been fuel sources and power grids in Ukraine. When the crisis began in the area, American renewable energy experts Will Heegaard and Paul Shmotolokha were quick to take action to ensure Ukrainians could maintain power.
The duo sent LED lighting equipment and headlamps to hospitals and then expanded the program to include portable solar microgrids.
Unlike diesel generators, which are usually the route to emergency backup power, solar microgrids can produce and store energy independently from the main grid without relying on fossil fuels.
Heegaard and Shmotolokha were able to save lives by delivering these solar battery systems to over 13 hospitals in cities all over Ukraine.
Helpers of all kinds worked quickly to keep Ukrainians fed
When fleeing your country under the threat of a missile attack, you’re likely not going to pack the whole kitchen pantry in your backpack. For displaced Ukrainians, having access to food exactly where they are was pivotal in maintaining their health and safety.
Chef José Andrés and his nonprofit World Central Kitchen arrived almost immediately on the scene in Ukraine back in February 2022. Since then, his relief crew has provided over 200 million meals and the organization’s #ChefsForUkraine program has partnered with a large network of Ukraine’s restaurants to continue the good work.
This couple created a nonprofit to build homes for internally displaced Ukrainians
Patricia (Tuscia) Shmorhun Hawrylyshyn and her husband John Shmorhun have had a whirlwind marriage that took them around the globe for work, but when they landed in Ukraine 20 years ago, they decided to stay put — even in the face of war.
With their NGO backgrounds, the two put their heads together and called in their engineering-savvy friends to help house the internally displaced people in their communities. This was the birth of their nonprofit: MoveUkraine.
Read more about their story and how MoveUkraine is working to rebuild with rubble.
Families have been reunited with their loved ones
While many Ukrainians are still experiencing displacement or have relocated to an entirely new country, some families have returned to their homes or have reunited with loved ones.
When Russian troops retreated from Kherson in November of 2022, they left massive destruction in their wake, as Ukrainians were without power and water — but not without each other. Families reunited in Kherson and the surrounding villages, and although the fighting could still be heard in the nearby areas, they were able to rejoice.
Similarly, a number of children who were deported into Russia were reunited with their families in November. Ukrainian officials say over 16,000 children have been deported, and while just over 300 have been returned, the fight for their safety continues.
People kept living, celebrating, and connecting — despite the war
As much as the war has brought destruction and terror to Ukraine, its people continue to live their lives, connect with one another, and celebrate milestones as they normally would. This insistence on normalcy becomes a form of resistance. Where the Russian government threatens to destroy, Ukrainians choose joy.
Take this wedding planner, for example, who has adapted her events to blackouts and curfews, because more people are getting married in Kyiv. The city registered 9,120 marriages in the first five months after Russia’s attack on Ukraine, compared with just 1,110 over the same period in 2021.
Sports have gone uninterrupted, too. In October 2022, Ukraine began its new football season in spite of the war, and players from both teams wore jerseys sporting the same insignia: “Ukraine will win.”
In terms of winning outside of the war, Ukrainians have been doing that, too. The country won the Chess Olympiad last year, as well as the Eurovision Song Contest.
Ukrainian artists used their skills to support their neighbors through Etsy
Creativity has been a tool for Ukrainian solidarity since the start of the war. Thousands of Etsy sellers took to the global artisan marketplace to raise funds for Ukraine through digital downloads.
“I try to fulfill orders whenever possible,” one seller, Yulia Kosareva said. “Creativity helps [me] not to think about this horror. I am very grateful to all my customers for their support and willingness to wait, as the constant air danger sirens leave me little time for work, but I constantly work when I have the opportunity.”
Learn more about Yulia and the efforts of artists to raise funds and keep creating during war.
Children have benefited from education and arts programs to heal from the trauma of war
Children’s mental health is already fragile, but a war-time environment makes it even more important to prioritize mental health, education, and healing for young ones.
One way Ukrainian children have been able to access mental health care is through the healing power of art. Nonprofit Ukulele Kids Club has created the Ukuleles For Ukraine initiative with the World Federation of Music Therapy's Global Crisis Intervention team. Together, they provide instruments and music therapy to children in Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees across Europe.
Similarly, the charity UA Kids Today emerged in March 2022 to encourage children to tap into the therapeutic benefits of drawing. The organization has an online gallery to view submitted artwork, and while the creations of young ones is a healing tool, they also serve as a way to honor and protect cultural heritage.
The War Childhood Museum has also developed a traveling exhibition throughout Europe, chronicling the experience of children in the war.
Artists and activists are preserving Ukrainian culture at home and abroad
Speaking of which, cultural preservation is at the heart of war-time activism. As Russia threatens to erase an entire culture through the destruction of land and life, they also threaten to erase Ukrainians from history.
And that will not do.
Ukrainians across the globe have shared their cultural traditions with new, safe communities and introduced the world to so many special, unique practices that will surely stand the test of time. Museums have also gotten in on the action, working to protect and preserve artifacts.
Ukrainian animals have been rescued and re-homed
In October 2022, a pride of lions was airlifted from Ukraine and brought to the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado. Nine adult lions and two cubs were rehomed in the sanctuary as part of the world’s largest warzone lion rescues in history.
“We are thankful we could get all the lions out in time and save them,” Pat Craig, Executive Director of the Wild Animal Sanctuary said. “They will live out the rest of their lives in pristine, large, natural habitats.”
Similarly, the International Fund for Animal Welfare helped rescue four lion cubs from Ukraine and brought them to their new safe havens at the Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone, Minnesota.
People around the world traveled to Ukraine to volunteer on the front lines
Although any assistance, like donations, raising awareness, and fighting disinformation, makes a difference for Ukrainians, some folks made it their mission to get to the front lines of the conflict to help.
Agatha Williams is a queer metal fabricator from Denver who grew up in foster care, and when the conflict arose in Ukraine, decided to leave the U.S. for the first time to serve as a front-line aid worker.
They teamed up with a small team, self-titled the Renegade Relief Runners, delivering 4,000 pounds of food, repairing hospital generators, and reaching small areas international aid organizations likely couldn’t reach.
“The collective diversity of those who came her to Ukraine to help push back against Russia has been strengthened because we found each other as a team, and thanks to our individual identities, we’ve been able to accomplish much of what we’ve set out to do so far,” Drew Luhowy, a member of the Renegade Relief Runners team said.
Another Denver do-gooder, retired cop Snow White (yes, that’s her name!) traveled as a volunteer with World Central Kitchen, packaging and distributing meals for refugees on the border of Ukraine and Poland.
“It is humbling to do this work, but I am thankful to be able to make a difference,” she told CBS News. “You’re doing something other than sitting at home wishing you could do something.”
Helpers worked to bring aid to Holocaust survivors
Ukraine is home to a large number of Holocaust survivors, who carry a storied past in the nation that was once occupied by Nazis. For many Holocaust survivors, it was especially traumatizing to be forced to leave their home country once again.
All the way in Los Angeles, at the start of the war, paralegal Julia Entin spent days on the phone connecting Holocaust survivors with trusted support groups to be rescued out of war zones. Entin is a daughter of a Holocaust survivor and refugee from the former Soviet Union, and from her headset and laptop in California, untangled webs of grassroots organizations, taxi and bus operators, and the vulnerable community themselves to find safety.
Coincidentally, many found refuge in Germany, where President Frank-Walter Steinmeier hoped to welcome these survivors with warmth and care.
While many were wary and still hope to return home to Ukraine, they are comforted knowing that they have found safety — even if the place they are staying right now is temporary.
“In 1941, we fled from the Germans. Now we faced war once more, and now we have come to the Germans so they will protect us. This is the paradox,” Ukrainian refugee Larisa Pogosava told PBS NewsHour. “So maybe there is no such thing as permanent friends or permanent enemies.”
The world continues to help Ukraine
As the war between Russia and Ukraine continues, people and organizations all across the globe are looking to help. We are looking for the helpers and continue to provide ways to take action against war and human rights atrocities.