How to talk about and support Ukraine - by a British-Ukranian

Things that seemed irrelevant for anyone to know a week ago:

  • Growing up, I thought lasagne was Ukrainian because my grandma used to make as much as varenyky when I was a child
  • Until my mid-teens, I was a competitive Ukrainian folk dancer for ten years
  • The reason my first name is double-barrelled is because my parents wanted to represent my heritage in my moniker. ‘Kimberley’ is the British part and ‘Marie’ comes from the popular Eastern European name ‘Maria’.
  • I was raised to believe that raw garlic sandwiches cure colds

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I sound British and look British but I’m not really. I was born in the UK but I consider myself Ukrainian too. My grandad was Ukrainian, and Ukrainian is my father’s first language. I was raised in the Ukrainian community in Huddersfield.

Why am I telling you this? My grandad came to the UK as a refugee in 1947 and we’re seeing history repeat itself right now. At the time of writing this, the United Nations has reported over 360,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine, and we’re only in the first few days of the invasion. This is an attack on everything my grandparents wished and hoped for, everything they risked and lost for, and the pride they instilled in me.

This situation has been simmering for weeks. I’m glad the commentary from when I organised a rally in January has changed from questioning and even racism, to a huge outpouring of support. I’m thankful that people, and the world, are finally listening.

Kim Sklinar

Communications Manager and specialises in internal comms. Kim is an IoIC FutureNet Committee member and UN Volunteer.

I may not be able to help my family and friends in Ukraine physically, so the least I can do is advocate for their voices, educate, spread the word and use my skills as a professional communicator. I, like many others, feel so helpless.

Here are some tips and links on how to talk about and support this situation. I also cover what to be mindful of when communicating it, based on some of the things I’m seeing – plus bonus language and history lessons too!

Key topics

This war is not new, it is an escalation. There has been a war in Ukraine for the past eight years.

And Soviet occupation from 1939 means this is especially painful for Ukrainians – history is repeating itself. My 94 year-old cousin Paraskia, who lives in Ukraine, remembers when this happened the first time around and I cannot imagine how terrified she is watching this on television.

Did you know where Ukraine was before this, or what countries it shares a border with? It’s massive, isn’t it! I’ve seen some incorrect maps shared referring to the seperatist line of control too – the whole of Donetsk and Luhansk are not included in this so please consider this in any graphics you are creating.

  • Don’t say ‘World War 3’ – this is happening to real people and it is not a time to be dramatising the situation
  • Don’t refer to ‘the conflict between Russia and Ukraine’, or ‘the Ukraine crisis’, or the ‘Russia-Ukraine crisis’. Say ‘Russian invasion of Ukraine’ or ‘Ukraine invasion’.
  • ‘Kyiv’ is pronounced ‘Keev’. Never use ‘Kiev’ – save that for chicken kievs
  • Say ‘Ukraine’ not ‘The Ukraine’
  • Say ‘Ukranians’ not ‘The Ukrainians’. The Ukrainians are a British-Ukrainian band (which are great, by the way). ‘The Ukrainians’ is akin to referring to ‘those’ people. We are just people, not ‘those’ people.
  • Write ‘Lviv’ not ‘Lwow’/’Lvov’

Ukrainian and Russian are different languages. They have different alphabets and different vowels although they are both Cyrillic languages.

‘Kiev’ is a Russian way of pronouncing the name of Ukraine’s capital city, based on Russian Cyrillic spelling. In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed and so the name was changed to ‘Kyiv’ which is a Ukrainian pronunciation based on Ukrainian spelling.

Saying ‘Kiev’ is offensive as it refers to Kyiv under Soviet control and completely disregards Ukrainian independence.

Similar applies to Lwow/Lviv – ‘Lwow’ is the Polish spelling from when Lviv was under Polish occupation which ended in 1939. This beautiful Ukrainian city is called ‘Lviv’ in Ukrainian.

Finally, ‘The Ukraine’ refers to a region of the Soviet Union. ‘Ukraine’ is the correct way to describe our country and recognise its right to sovereignty.

The amount of support that I’m seeing on social media makes me cry several times a day.

There is so much local and small fundraising going on and I receive a lot of questions of where it should go. We don’t want to gatekeep, but also we want to make sure that people’s well-meaning gestures go to legitimate places that will help our brothers and sisters in Ukraine.

Founded in 1946, the AUGB is organising a coordinated response that has gone from £30,000 last week to well over half a million pounds. Donate here:

As much as donations of physical items are amazingly kind, it’s not easy for us to get things to Ukraine right now. The AUGB are buying physical things on your behalf and have a warehouse in Ukraine already where items are being stored and distributed locally where it is most needed.

You can also donate money to Ukrainian organisation Safe Life UA. Since 2014, they have been supplying and repairing equipment, training the military and officers, talking about the war first-hand, curbing the flow of propaganda and disinformation, giving entrepreneurship support for veterans, and more. Donate:

British Red Cross:

Apart from offering your support, wishes, and thoughts, you might keep seeing the phrase ‘Слава Україні! Героям слава!’ on social media. This translates to ‘Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes’ and is our national salute, something that has just become a way of expressing our national pride.

Want to have a go yourself? Say: ‘slah-va oo-cry-ee-knee’ then ‘‘hair-oh-yam slah-va’.

A final thought

The news is coming thick and fast, and it’s important to make sure you give yourself a break from it. As communicators, we’re often very empathetic people so this is my reminder to you to consider your own wellbeing as well.

If you’re communicating internally, you may have Ukrainian colleagues or people with connections like me. Make sure support is available for them and you talk about the situation sensitively.

If you are in my position – please do your best to eat well and sleep well!

It’s strange that the world is watching Ukraine right now, and we are eternally thankful for your support and solidarity. Слава Україні!

The words above are written by Kimberley-Marie Sklinar and was originally posted on Comms2point0.

Support Ukraine

You can support Ukraine in many different ways. You can educate others the correct language to use when communicating about the invasion and also if you are in a situation where you are able to, you can donate money via the following links:

Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB) fundraiser – donate here.
Safe Life UA fundraiser – donate here.
British Red Cross – donate here.


You can find more resources HERE.

This episode is sponsored by Blink. The world’s first enterprise app designed exclusively for frontline workers.