New focus for historical testimonies NGO – direct aid to Ukrainian Army

Equipment for the Ukrainian Army

For many years the NGO Memory of Nations has been recording the testimonies of Czechs who suffered under the Nazi and Communist regimes. Now the group has a new focus: raising money to buy materials directly for the Ukrainian Army.

Illustrative photo: Martina Schneibergová,  Radio Prague International

Over the last two decades the Prague-based non-profit group Memory of Nations (Paměť národa) have been doing extremely valuable work.

They conduct long interviews with people, many of them now elderly, who survived the hardships of the Nazi and Communist totalitarian systems.

Their endeavours have given rise to a publicly accessible database of testimonies, which richly demonstrate how ordinary lives are deeply impacted by “big” history.

Mikuláš Kroupa | Photo: Tomáš Vodňanský,  Czech Radio

Now, however, Memory of Nations has a brand new focus: raising money to help Ukraine repel Russia’s invasion of the country.

This initiative grew out of a joint project between the Czech group and colleagues in Ukraine, which was launched two years ago, says Memory of Nations co-founder Mikuláš Kroupa.

“We contacted journalists in Lviv. They were people who were mainly focused on the past, mainly via internet magazines dedicated to World War II.

Equipment for the Ukrainian Army | Photo: Post Bellum

"We gave them all the equipment they needed and some financing.

"Working with them we created a community of documentarians who have visited people and recorded their recollections, chiefly of the period of Stalinist repression.”

Kroupa and his team in Prague were horrified by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last week and after speaking with their counterparts in the country decided to set up an online public collection.

However, the money is not just going on humanitarian aid for the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the Russian attack.

Photo: Post Bellum

Rather it is being spent on sourcing gear for the Ukrainian Army itself in the Czech Republic and other European states, says Kroupa.

“Bullet-proof vests, helmets, medical supplies, field hospital equipment, drones. At this moment we are in direct contact with the Ukrainian Army.

"We are able to deliver hundreds or thousands of helmets and flak jackets to distribution points in Ukraine.”

Come Back Alive

The founding father of Memory of Nations said the initial idea was to work through a local group.

“We originally wanted to send the money from the collection to non-profit organisation Come Back Alive, which for eight years organised this kind of military defence aid for the Ukrainian Army.

"However, we started losing contact with them. They were evacuated from Kyiv and some of their staff had to join military units.

Kyiv | Photo: Efrem Lukatsky,  ČTK/AP Photo

"So it turned out to be a lot more effective, and correct, to buy the military material here in Europe and deliver these things directly, through the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry and Army.”

Mikuláš Kroupa says he and his team have been hugely surprised by the massive wave of solidarity for Ukraine shown by the people of the Czech Republic.

As of Friday afternoon, nearly 21,000 people had donated over CZK 130 million to the Memory of Nations drive.