Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Twickenham restaurant raises funds for Ukraine on eve of England vs. Ireland

Posted on 11 March 2022 by Will Rogan

Volunteers in high vis jackets march up and down the makeshift pathway between walls of boxes, bags and suitcases.

Each is scrambling to find a space for the latest arrival. Stools and tables from the usually bustling Ukrainian-owned Prosperity Restaurant in Twickenham have been moved outside to make room for the offerings of a shocked community.

Clothes, bedding, food, even a washing machine cover the floor.

Those inside would be overwhelmed if they had time to stop and think. Instead, they are working tirelessly to coordinate the mass of donations they have received since becoming a hub of humanitarian aid following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The expressions on their faces are that of determination.

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In the past few weeks many of us have felt a deep helplessness as we watch on at the horrific scenes beamed onto our TV screens. Here, there is a deep resolve to be pro-active. To help in whatever way they can.

In the charming and cosy courtyard at the back of the restaurant, away from the organised chaos of the interior, lead volunteer Kristina gave the Sports Gazette some insight into how the project is going, and what more can be done.

She said: “It’s going really well but we need a lot more money to support our mission. Fuel and lorries cost a lot of money.”

Kristina herself reflects the united front against Russian aggression. She herself is Lithuanian and does not even live in Twickenham.

“I was sad and depressed at home and friends told me about a particular location. I came last week and have been coming every single day ever since.”

It is easy to feel powerless in the face of a war waged by a world superpower that outnumbers and outguns an innocent neighbour, but the opportunity to help significantly quells anxiety for many.

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The motivation of the volunteers is simple, according to Kristina: “They want to do something about it and help our brothers and sisters in Ukraine.”

Kristina said: “It gives a purpose, it gives a meaning and it provides a way to cope with what’s going on at the moment.”

All the volunteers go about their work with a quiet dignity, not overburdened by the huge influx of donations from a generous and empathetic community.

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A humanitarian crisis is quickly unfolding in Ukraine, with official UN figures estimating that over two million people have left the country.

The UK government announced this week that rules would be relaxed to allow more people in from Ukraine, following public uproar about their stringent refugee laws.

Kristina told us the story of a British lawyer who has dropped all their case work to help Ukrainian families to wade through the bureaucracy necessary to allow refugees to arrive in Britain.

“What Britain is doing is great, and we are showing support. However, I think the process needs to be made a lot easier.”  

When asked what more we can do, Kristina said: “We need to press on with the sanctions, we need to keep going at it. We need to provide military support as much as we can. We need to support refugees, do way more than we currently do on that front.”

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80,000 people are set to descend on Twickenham this weekend, keen to spend their hard-earned cash on a pint of Guinness watching two great rivals clash.

Looking ahead to Saturday’s Six Nations match between England and Ireland, Kristina said: “We really need their support. We are asking them to come and donate money for lorries, vans and other logistics.”

The best thing that those with and without tickets can do is to donate to the help fund for Ukraine set up by those at Prosperity Restaurant. The Sports Gazette would like to encourage all fans to sacrifice the price of one pint and donate it to the relief fund instead.

It was inspiring to see a community come together in the face of incredible adversity and show resolve, spirit and concern for their fellow human being.

You can support Prosperity’s appeal by donating to the following details:

Oleksandr Yarema
23-14-70
40013378
Reference: for #Ukraine

Your generosity is greatly appreciated.

 

Co-written with Nat Hayward

 

You can read more on our coverage the sporting side of the Ukraine crisis here:

Paralympic Winter Games- Ukrainian athletes defy struggles at home to break records with 9 gold medals

“Control the Controllables”: Ukrainian Sports Psychologist’s advice to record-breaking compatriots in Beijing