Russia's invasion of Ukraine caused the whole country to mobilize, defending itself against military aggression. Just as with other Ukrainians, the Wikimedia community's work takes many forms – from volunteering to helping refugees to writing Wikipedia articles, from documenting the war’s impact to serving in the army.
In this article, we'll look at three members of Ukraine's Wikimedia community carrying their share of the load.
Andrii Hrytsenko teaches history and pedagogy to university students, chairing a department at the Hlukhiv National Pedagogical University of Oleksandr Dovzhenko. When he is not busy performing his teaching and administrative duties, he contributes to Wikipedia – and quite prolifically so.
Andrii (user Андрій Гриценко) is one of the most active editors of Ukrainian Wikipedia. Andrii has been a winner of multiple contests and campaigns on Wikipedia, most notably international WikiGap Challenge in 2019 and 2020. He has created at least one new article on Wikipedia every single day for over four years now – and continues doing so during the full-scale war that Russia started on February 24th.
Andrii lives in the town of Hlukhiv in Northern Ukraine, close to a border with Russia. Hlukhiv was not occupied when Russia invaded Ukraine, but fighting had been taking place all around this region, and at some point there was a real danger that Hlukhiv would come under attack.
However, Andrii has remained in Hlukhiv with his family and devoted much his time to covering the war in Wikipedia articles. For example, he creates many articles about Ukrainian soldiers and officers notable for participation in the war – such as Inna Derusova, the first woman to be posthumously awarded the Hero of Ukraine title.
Andrii also writes about events and processes like peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia or reparations from Russia. However, Andrii’s work isn’t limited to the Ukrainian topic; for example, he has created multiple articles about Scandinavian women within this year’s ongoing WikiGap Challenge.
Ukraine's north was fully liberated in early April, and Andrii’s town isn't in immediate danger – though the locals fear the war might return, with fighting taking place in other parts of the country and Hlukhiv being so close to the Russian border. Despite the remaining problems with food and petrol supplies, however, Hlukhiv is gradually recovering from the blockade it went through, and Andrii is continuing his daily work on Wikipedia.
On the night of February 24, Kyiv resident Anton Obozhyn stayed up late at night, so he woke up later than millions of other Ukrainians – at 8 am. Instead of morning coffee, he started the day with calls from Wikipedian friends from Kharkiv and Chernihiv, who talked about explosions and Russian tanks near them. In a few hours, he was at the military enlistment office – he volunteered for the armed forces to defend his country.
Anton (user Tohaomg) is an active Wikipedia editor and Wikimedian. He has been a Wikipedian for almost 10 years now, having created almost 500 articles in the Ukrainian edition. He is particularly active in tech circles as a developer and bot owner.
Anton is also active in organizational work: he helped organize several national and international conferences, participates in organizing contests and other projects. Since 2020, he has been a member of Wikimedia Ukraine's Board.
However, when Russia started its military aggression against Ukraine, other priorities became more important.
Anton says that about a month before the start of the full-scale invasion, he realized that the situation was serious and war could not be avoided (news about Russia's military buildup near Ukraine abounded). The most logical step, even the only logical step, for him was to apply to the armed forces. It was a calculated decision rather than an emotional one – Anton thought he could be most useful this way.
A programmer by education and profession, Anton had no military experience. That's why before the war he enrolled in military skills courses for civilians. From the beginning of February, he learned how to hold a gun and how to provide medical aid. He did not manage to complete this training: on February 24, the war began.
But the skills Anton already acquired have been greatly beneficial since February 24, when Anton came to his district territorial center of recruitment and social support (better known as military enlistment office). Anton was accepted to the armed forces; now he remains in Kyiv and performs duties that he cannot yet speak about publicly.
Although Anton lives on base, his responsibilities leave time and space for computer work, including volunteering on Wikipedia. Recently he received a temporary status of administrator on the Ukrainian Wikipedia, and also continues to create articles: for example, he wrote in Ukrainian about Belarusian Wikipedian Mark Bernstein, who was arrested for his editing on Wikipedia.
Now the company where Anton worked before the war, developing computer games, is resuming remote work. So he plans to devote some time to working there as well, and donate the money he earns to army causes.
Anton has no strict plans for the future yet – he and his colleagues are focused on their day-to-day tasks. After Ukraine wins, though, he dreams of resting in a hut in the woods, alone with nature, where he already has an invitation.
Anastasia Petrova joined the Wikimedian community when she applied for Wikimedia Ukraine’s position of project manager for the international Wiki Loves Earth photo contest in early 2020. After two years managing the competition, she recently transitioned to a volunteer role on the project's organizing team.
Anastasia has a big network of friends and a lot of experience volunteering for various social and ecological causes. So, when the war in Ukraine started, it was a logical and obvious step for Anastasia to devote herself to volunteer work helping refugees and the army.
In the first week, Anastasia took a leave from work and was volunteering full-time. At the time, she stayed in Lviv, a city in Western Ukraine, and worked in the humanitarian center. They accepted humanitarian help from locals (such as food and clothes), sorted it and sent it to those who needed it – people displaced by the war, hospitals, and armed forces. Anastasia also helped with translations from Ukrainian for foreigners who arrived at the railway station in Lviv.
Anastasia's main job is managing projects at Beetroot Academy, a non-profit Swedish-Ukrainian IT school. A week into the war, she resumed her work there, focusing on the projects that help people who have suffered from the war to start a new career in tech, particularly women and vulnerable populations.
Still, Anastasia is doing a lot of volunteering as well. She temporarily moved to Berlin, where she is working at the humanitarian center that helps Ukrainians. Sometimes she helps with logistics (such as sorting and shipping items), but her main focus is fundraising. She is raising money for the Ukrainian cause and is working with local Berlin companies to solicit material donations, such as clothes and food packets.
Once the humanitarian center's work becomes more stable, Anastasia plans to return to Kyiv and put more focus on information work, documenting the war. She says a lot of people across the world don't know about the situation in Ukraine, especially those who don't speak English – and she wants to join the effort in communicating with people across the globe.