An international humanitarian effort born within the European Rockabilly community is helping Ukrainians raise funds and deliver goods door to door in Kharkiv and Kyiv.
Hair grease and 1950s outfits are probably what first come to mind when one thinks about rockabilly fans – a broad range of music obsessed people who keep the scene rocking as they gather every year at legendary gigs and festivals.
For decades, rockabilly fans have been roaming Europe and the USA, treating their host venues to a spectacle of colorful events and the joy of great live music, while simultaneously cementing their ties as a community. When the music’s over, they return home to their everyday lives and various professions as musicians, engineers, bricklayers, journalists, teachers, lawyers, doctors, etc.
So when Russia launched its now infamous attack on Ukraine, the resulting humanitarian crisis particularly resonated within the rockabilly community. Rockers – perhaps to the surprise of those outside observers whose mundane reality predisposes them to dispassionately interpret such events in the context of faceless geopolitics – assessed the situation correctly, for what it was: naked aggression.
No less important for a correct understanding of the reality was the Rockers’ immediate access to on-the-ground information, which they received directly from their friends back in Ukraine through text messages and social media posts. Members of the popular rockabilly bands The Wise Guyz (who hail from Kharkiv) and Ruki’v’Bryuki (from Kyiv) were live witnesses to the war as it unfolded.
Their posting of bulletins on their Facebook walls may have been among the most effective conveyors of reality, certainly more so than that which percolated through the screens of mass media journalism, not to mention all the information caught up in the sneaky web of Russian propaganda. They were, thus, able to create within the information bubble a crystal-clear understanding of the conflict superseding the commentary of “experts”, while at the same time engendering a feeling of solidarity and consciousness that pervaded the war scene.
And their Rocker comrades outside Ukraine weren’t about to leave their Ukrainian friends to their own fate, because rock ‘n’ roll is about a lot more than just guitars and parties. It was time to act and to act now. And it was a young woman from Germany who got things going: Koko Veliki, a nurse from Stuttgart, decided to start collecting money for her friends in Ukraine. So, the Kyiv Post spoke to her.
“I could not just sit home and watch this chaos on TV. Our friends are there,” she said. So Koko drew upon the consolidated social web of the rockabilly scene to raise funds through a PayPal account. During the first few days, so much money was collected that she had to transfer the initiative to GoFundMe.org. “I didn’t expect this to grow so big. It started as a private initiative just to help our friends, but then we realized it had the potential to do much more.”
Fortunately, it turned out that, in the meantime, a young Ukrainian woman living in Poland, Daria Chuprina, also from the rockabilly scene, had set up a charity called “DC Charity Foundation.” So Koko and Daria got in touch and coordinated their effort, which grew bigger and bigger each day.
From the very start of the war, more and more people spontaneously decided to join the effort in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, using the dedicated Facebook group to share their ideas and sell their products, like cool T-shirts and paintings, toward aiding the humanitarian effort in Ukraine. With the money collected and a list of needed items received from their friends in Ukraine, they went about making the purchases. Then, someone from Western Europe was put in charge of shipping the aid through Germany and Poland right up to the Ukrainian border, where members of The Wise Guyz and Ruki’v’Bryuki picked it up and delivered it door to door to those in need.
“It started out as help to the relatives of our friends in Ukraine who needed some money to evacuate from the war zone. Now these people are already standing on their own two feet and have been receiving job offers as music or language teachers, and are making a living waiting for the war to end to hug their guys again,” says Koko.
“But the initiative expanded to the point that we are able to help many other people in our friends’ neighboring areas,” she added. The escalation of something that got out of hand, but this time in a good sense. Something big was born from the mix of German-style logistics, Ukrainian bravery and the big hearts and unity of international rockers.
“Now, Daria is in touch with a network of people operating on the Ukrainian side. She set up a warehouse in Lviv and everything we buy goes to this warehouse. They have drivers who deliver it to the places where the things are needed,” explains Koko. “Volunteers get lists of what is needed from hospitals and from citizens … some people participate by directly buying the goods needed and not delivering money. None of us is taking anything from the donations. Every single cent is going into actual aid.”
The goods bought include medicine, food, protective equipment (like helmets and boots) and other necessary items.
The guys in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia – regardless of the situation on the ground – go out with the goods collected and bring them door to door to the people left behind who cannot take care of themselves. Not even pets, whose owners can no longer take care of them, are left behind. Stray cats and dogs, too, receive food, care and cuddles from the rockers-turned-volunteers in Ukraine! Unfortunately, some volunteers have been injured in the line of duty and are now in hospital. But deliveries carry on.
“We are grateful to have received substantial help from some big names in the scene. DJ Mouse is organizing huge benefit events, donations, auctions. A guitar signed by Scotty Moore, who played with Elvis, for example, was sold … But people outside the scene are also participating. For instance, thanks to a German dentist, we were able to deliver 28 kg of dental equipment to a dentist in Ukraine who is treating people for free … A football team, SSV Ulm, organized a huge benefit on the occasion of the championship’s closing match.”
And there has been a helping hand from beyond Europe: some from America have donated things directly to their friends in Ukraine, while people from Australia are setting up their initiatives too.
“People who are into music have an invisible bond, you know, they share their love for the music and the lifestyle,” explains Koko. This is perhaps what has made this initiative so successful and unexpectedly big. “But interest is now going down, and the people who are donating are diminishing, while help is needed more and more as the war goes on,” she underlined.
This initiative is a concrete way to help Ukrainians, and it is all engineered and sustained by rockers. International names in the wider rock music scene have variously expressed their support for Ukraine. For example, the legendary Pink Floyd reformed to release a song for Ukraine. The video of people building barricades in Odesa while blasting Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” went viral. The Ukrainian army blasts heavy metal into Russian camp radios to jam communications… It is one of the harshest wars of contemporary times, but at least the soundtrack is great.
To learn more about the initiative and donate, please go to: Help for The Wise Guyz and Ruki’v’Bryuki FB group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/950484362494655/
DC Charity Foundation: https://www.facebook.com/DC.CharityFoundation
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