An art auction in Tallinn raised more than €57,000 for charities helping refugees fleeing war this week and the Estonia-based Ukrainian organizer is now collecting donations for displaced people and children.
The auction was held by Vitaliia Sass and Xenia Joost and raised €57,605 on Wednesday. The auction "Art Against War" was held at Fotografiska and artists from around the world donated works to be sold.
The proceeds will now be given to Come Back Alive, Mondo, Estonian Refugee Center NGOs among others.
Sass, who is Ukrainian, has been living in Estonia for four years. She launched the Hata concept store on Pikk tanav in the Old Town last July. The shop's name translates loosely as "home" and has wheat in the window as a symbol of Ukraine.
Hata is now being used as a drop-off point to collect donations for refugees and displaced people still in Ukraine. People can leave clothes, medicines, books, toys and other items there between noon and 9 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday (see list below).
"I need to do something and not just act like a victim," Sass told ERR News on Friday. "I am not in Ukraine, I cannot influence anything there, but I can take some steps from Estonia. So the best way to do this was to raise money."
"When my husband told me there is a war, I was so broken, I couldn't work anymore, I felt hopeless," she said. "But I understood that if I just cry and panic and read news all the time then it will not help anyone and it will destroy me."
She co-organized the auction after Joost gave her several paintings to sell, saying the proceeds should be given to charities. After seeing the reaction, Sass decided to launch a drop-off point in her store for donations for children stuck in Ukraine. She has already received several boxes of donations after posting the news on social media and donated items herself.
Speaking about why it's important to donate now, she said: "Many families left Ukraine without luggage, so many people were leaving [...] they have maybe a backpack at most. So they have nothing."
"I don't know how popular it will be, but people have to know they can always come here and donate stuff," she said.
The entrepreneur said the solidarity shown by Estonians towards Ukrainians means a lot and it was even highlighted by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
"It helps a lot if I see these Ukrainian symbols everywhere if people are talking about Ukraine. It's not pointless. I feel like I'm not alone and that people care," she said.
Sass will now start sending items to children in Ukraine every week: "If I'm doing something, I'm not just sitting and watching my country die."
Since the war started 10 days ago, more than 1.2 million have fled Ukraine, UN data shows. More than 1,000 Ukrainians have crossed the Estonian border and around a third have been minors.
Needed items: Food products, baby formula and food, toiletries, nappies, wet wipes, scotch tape (for broken windows), power banks, generators, sleeping mats and bags, blankets, medicines and first aid kits, flashlights, batteries and other useful items.
How is Estonia helping Ukraine?
Prime Minister Kaja Kalla (Reform) said the government is helping Ukraine on all levels. This includes sending lethal weapons to the country to help fight against Russia and making sure the issue is prominent in the international media.
The government has also donated money to the Red Cross and donation drives have also been launched by Estonian NGOs and private citizens. The Estonian Refugee Council said more than €1 million has been donated so far.
Estonia is taking in refugees and the country's biggest cities Tallinn, Tartu and Pärnu are preparing for arrivals over the next few weeks. Refugees are being greeted at the southern border with cuddly toys.
Solidarity protests have also been held in Tallinn, Tartu and Narva. More than 30,000 people attended the protest in Tallinn, which was the biggest rally since Estonia regained independence 30 years ago.
Editor: Helen Wright