UkraineDAO, a decentralized collective raising funds to address the humanitarian crisis unfolding in eastern Europe, has collected more than $7M in five days. The funds will be used to support non-profits and Ukrainians struggling to endure the Russian invasion, which is now entering its second week.
“The most valuable thing, to me, about this DAO, is that I was able to connect with other people who were on the ground, or that could provide some help,” Alona, a UkraineDAO co-founder and Ukrainian living in the UK, told The Defiant in an exclusive interview. “To me, UkraineDAO is about providing Ukraine with the help that it needs, and providing those connections that unite people who are willing to help or that need help.”
Alona has been instrumental in building a network of supporters in the crypto community for her embattled fellow Ukrainians. She took part in discussions last week with PleasrDAO, theinfluential collective of DeFi leaders. And Illia Polosukhin, co-founder of Near Protocol, connected her with Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin. She says that Buterin called her within minutes to express his support.
101.5 ETH in Eight Minutes
The DAO launched a partybid auction for a one-of-a-kind NFT depicting the Ukrainian flag on Feb. 27. Contributions have been received at an average rate of $886 per minute. In total, 2,258 ETH has been raised from 3,271 donors through the auction.
An influx of large donations were made during the final hours of bidding. UkraineDAO co-founder CryptoSteve informed The Defiant of three contributions totaling 101.5 ETH (approximately $300,000) over the span of just eight minutes.
More than $450,000 has also been raised in the form of direct donations separate from the party bid. UkraineDAO will continue to accept direct donations at UkraineDAO.eth.
The exact distribution of funds is yet to be determined, however, a share of the money raised will be donated to the local non-profit, Come Back Alive. UkraineDAO added that a portion of the funds may be used to “support Ukraine directly” without going through non-profits.
Alona is steeped in the DAO movement. She was a member of the FreeRossDAO, which is seeking to aid Silk Road convict, Ross Ulbricht, appeal his life term in a U.S. prison.
She says many of UkraineDAO’s volunteers “did not know where to find those people that they wanted to help.” Alona adds that she and others have stepped in to “act as that point of contact” between those able to provide assistance and Ukrainians who are suffering on the ground.
“I realized that silence is a crime right now, I have to come out and speak up…” Alona
While Alona expressed immense gratitude to those who have provided monetary contributions, she described the community itself as the main benefit of UkraineDAO: “The people in it are selflessly working to help others, or are people who are looking for help that can find that help in the community.”
“Everyone is doing it for free… It’s just been incredible to have the support from the community. I’m very grateful to everyone involved.”
The UkraineDAO co-founder is also working to organize mental health support services for people on the ground after realizing that the situation was taking a toll on her own mental health.
“People need that help, especially people who are going through traumatizing situations on the ground,” she said. “Those people will need to deal with that trauma because it is awful trauma — just from the messages I get, you can get PTSD just from looking at them. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be there… Some of the people there are not in the right mental headspace to speak, they just can’t put it into words.”
Alona is also working to help health organizations supporting Ukrainians that require “complex medical care” and medication, such as Type 1 Diabetes.
Alona says that UkraineDAO grew out of discussions between herself and members of FreeRossDAO and PleasrDAO. She became increasingly concerned after corresponding with a friend who had been in contact with Ukraine’s intelligence services amid the military buildup around Ukraine in February. Alona wrote an open letter that was published to FreeRossDAO’s blog on Feb. 21. “I was doing everything in my power to warn other people that [the invasion] was going to happen,” she said. “I realized that silence is a crime right now, I have to come out and speak up.”
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Alona criticized Putin’s efforts to cultivate “misinformation, fake news, and propaganda” regarding the situation in Eastern Ukraine.
“They were showing on federal channels, absolutely fabricated news stories about Russian speakers being persecuted in Eastern Ukraine,” she said. “I’m from Ukraine, I speak Russian… and I know that the whole narrative is not true… I have never been discriminated against in Ukraine for speaking Russian.”
After attending last week’s Downing Street protests and appearing on Ukraine Parliament’s television, Alona made increasing efforts to work with PleasrDAO, a collective of DeFi leaders. After she was invited to join a call with the group, Alona connected with 20 people in attendance including developers and other volunteers. The call culminated in the creation of UkraineDAO.
Now Alona and her fellow DAO members are leveraging their unique skills and experiences to provide the best support that they can, monetary or otherwise. “The donations are good, money is good,” she said. “But there is so much to be said for actual humans just giving each other the love and support that is needed.”