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Ukraine is an Eastern-European country with its own storied history and fascinating culture. Sadly, the reason this interesting country is on everybody’s lips is because of the unprovoked Russian Invasion of Ukraine.
With the near-complete destruction of many Ukrainian villages, towns, and cities, Ukrainians in their millions have become refugees, fleeing their homes, the war, and Russian soldiers and mercenaries who have been credibly accused of mass murder, theft, kidnapping, torture, rape, and even genocide.
It’s tempting to want to help these refugees, but many stop short of actually helping because they don’t know how best to help.
Amazingly, the short-term and vacation rental industry was one of the first industries where players took an active role in trying to aid Ukrainians and refugees in their hour of need.
People booked rooms in Ukrainian rentals, not to visit, but to give the owner some cash. Other companies have organized rentals on the go for refugees on the move. Companies like Airbnb and Booking.com have donated to refugee funds that help families escape the carnage.
But have any of these had a meaningful impact? Let’s take a look.
Russian Invasion of Ukraine
On February 24th, 2022, the Ukraine Crisis (which had been stewing since Russia’s first illegal incursion into Donbas in 2014) turned into a full-scale war, the like of which hasn’t been fought on European soil since 1945.
The true goal of Russia’s shamelessly dubbed “Special Military Operation” is unknown, but was ostensibly launched to remove Nazism from Ukraine.
Against incredible odds and medieval Russian barbarism, Ukraine still stands, having inflicted devastating (and possibly irreplaceable) losses on Russian forces.
The real victims are Ukraine’s civilian population.
They have been slaughtered in the thousands, mostly by indiscriminate Russian artillery, airstrikes, and small-arms fire – or worse.
Millions of Ukrainians have become refugees, many losing their homes and possessions forever.
While thousands have now been settled all over the world, many, many more need help with funds for travel, finding places to stay along the way during their flight, and a place to call home until it’s safe to return, should they choose.
The crisis is particularly dire, due to the high number of children having been evacuated (and are still being evacuated) from Ukraine.
Vacation Rentals to Help Ukraine
At the outbreak of the War in Ukraine, thousands of people from around the world began “donating” to Ukrainian short rental and vacation rental operators through companies like Airbnb and Booking.com.
The notion was that people would book rooms or rentals at Ukranian properties and not show up. Thereby almost all the cash went straight to Ukrainians in need or soon to be in need.
This was met with some skepticism at first and wasn’t a terribly effective way of getting resources to Ukrainians in need. That said, the initial idea has blossomed and evolved.
Shortly after, these companies would organize their own donation and hosting efforts to aid the Ukraine Refugee Crisis. There are now several companies and initiatives within or born out of the industry that are now helping to deliver real assistance to the Ukrainian civilian refugees in need.
Now, it’s worth noting that delivering “real assistance” isn’t as easy as it sounds and many of these companies have run into snags and criticisms along the way.
Be that as it may, there are other ways to help.
Vacation Rental Companies Helping Ukraine
We’ve compiled companies and resources so you can see how you can help Ukrainian refugees through vacation rentals.
On Airbnb’s Help Ukraine page, you can host refugees in properties across Europe. Temporary places to stay are in high demand in Eastern European countries near the Ukrainian border.
Owners can list their properties at a reduced price for this initiative, while Airbnb vets the refugee requests to find the best fit.
They’ve also teamed up with Save the Children and donated enough resources and funds for temporary stays for up to 100,000 refugees.
Booking.com helps partners offer a Ukrainian Refugee Rate to people fleeing Ukraine, and the ability for property owners to offer free stays for refugees too.
This plan applies to Booking partners in Eastern and Central Europe, including Austria, Czechia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Moldova, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. Being home to Booking.com, the plan also applies to properties in the Netherlands.
Check out the Supporting refugees from Ukraine page on Booking.com’s Partner Hub for more info.
See Related: Booking.com Review
HomeToGo is a well-regarded German-based vacation rental company that hosts crowdsourced web pages providing resources for refugees in need of accommodation, tools for rental owners who can offer temporary housing, and for anyone else who can spare anything to aid the refugee crisis.
HomeToGo also coordinates with other vacation rental companies such as VRBO and Airbnb to pool resources and direct the help where it is most needed.
They also have 4 separate websites to help get refugees where they need to go depending on where they are:
- Ukrainian refugees in Germany can visit: https://hometogo.de/ukraine-hilfe/
- Ukrainian refugees in Poland can visit: https://hometogo.pl/pomoc-ukrainie/
- Ukrainian refugees in the UK can visit: https://hometogo.co.uk/help-ukraine
- Ukrainian refugees in the US can visit: https://hometogo.com/help-ukraine
The travel search engine Hopper is currently offering funds to individual refugees fleeing Ukraine that need temporary accommodations in neighboring countries in Europe, particularly Eastern European countries sharing a border with Ukraine.
In order to get these funds, refugees must download the Hopper app and create an account, and then fill out the refugee intake form on the Hopper website, making sure to list their Hopper account number in the form.
Once verified, Hopper will add $150 USD worth of Carrot Cash to each refugee’s account on the app, which can then be used to book a hotel or rental home directly in the app itself.
See Related: Skyscanner vs Hopper: What is the Difference?
CouchSurfing hosts a social networking and hospitality exchange service that allows travelers to connect with homeowners around the world who have places to crash. Even if it’s just a couch, it could make all the difference.
There are groups and events to help refugees find places to stay on their journeys popping up all the time. The company has also temporarily waived fees for Ukraine-registered accounts.
Other Resources To Help Ukrainian Refugees Find Accommodation
- Accommodation, Help & Shelter for Ukraine
This Facebook group is created to help all Ukrainians, seeking help, shelter, and accommodation as they escape the violence. This grassroots group is where anybody who has resources to help refugees can reach out and coordinate.
Host4Ukraine is a place where refugees looking for accommodation can connect with people offering places to stay in Europe and North America. They also accept donations to optimize the services they provide.
- Rentals to Rescue
Made up of various players in various sectors in the US vacation rental industry, Rentals to Rescue is hosting a GoFundMe to raise funds to provide short-term rentals for refugees in countries neighboring Ukraine.
- Shelter for Ukraine
Shelter for Ukraine Or Shelter 4 UA, is a terrific resource where refugees can connect with private homeowners and rental operators all over the world who can host or offer places to stay.
- Ukraine Now
Ukraine Now is a huge effort to help Ukrainians and neighboring nations deal with the ever-mounting humanitarian crisis. As well as being a place where people can offer to host refugees, you volunteer in humanitarian efforts at the border and help transport refugees to where they need to go.
- Ukraina Services
Ukraina Services is a site offering countless humanitarian services to help refugees and to connect them with anything they might need, including accommodation, healthcare, psychological help, child care, legal aid, and more.
- We Help Ukraine
Created from the partnership of a ton of organizations around the world We Help Ukraine is a site that can connect refugees with people who can help connect them with people who can host.
Other resources for Ukrainian Refugees
UN Refugee Agency
This international UN agency has long been delivering aid to those fleeing violence. You can donate to them here:
British Red Cross
The Red Cross allows you to donate directly to efforts to help refugees. Your donation can help provide food, water, first aid and medicine, clothing, and shelter for people fleeing Ukraine.
All final thoughts should be with the people of Ukraine – but thoughts and prayers fall far short for a people who have endured and withstood murder, abuse, and destruction at the hands of Russia and its allies.
Do more than think. Do more than pray.
Have you found any other resources that could help Ukrainian refugees?
Please contact us so we can help spread the word and share resources.
- About the Author
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James is a British-American writer and editor for Via Travelers who has been writing since he was wee. As someone who has spent much time trotting around the globe, James appreciates traveling smart and comfortably, and has every intention of helping VT’s readers do the same!