European Parliament has awarded Brussels-based civil society organisation Promote Ukraine with the European Citizen’s Prize.
The European Citizen’s Prize is an award for eight months of defending Ukraine in Brussels. This is recognition of our results. Our work speaks for itself: we have organised more than 70 demonstrations in support of Ukraine. In particular, they gathered 8,000 people for a march, 5,000 for a charity concert, and 1,000 for a human chain around the European Council. We met with more than 50 politicians and people responsible for decisions on Ukraine. At these meetings we advocated for more weapons for Ukraine, more sanctions for Russia and the recognition of Russia as a terrorist state.
Promote Ukraine had collected more than 300,000 euros in donations for Ukraine and handed over 30 pieces of life-saving equipment. The Ukrainian Cultural Centre was also created by the organisation in Brussels. It supported more than 5,000 Ukrainians at various trainings, workshops, etc.
I am grateful to every volunteer of Promote Ukraine, every supporter, participant, partner, and donor! Together, we can do more! The Ukrainian people need a victory, and we need a victory.
The European Citizen’s Prize is awarded to projects that encourage mutual understanding between people in the EU, cross-border cooperation that builds a stronger European spirit and EU values and fundamental rights In November 2002, in Brussels the European Parliament awarded projects from each EU country for their exceptional achievements
We have gathered here because we have a common pain – struggle for justice, for a better world, each of us in our own field.
When time comes, our fight becomes visible, and when it becomes visible, it makes a difference, it changes lives.
Our organiations have all been selected for this Prize because we encourage:
Mutual understanding, closer integration – COWORKING
Cross-border cooperation – RECOGNITION
Fundamental rights – UNITY
I would like to talk to you about these values and the three symbols, my personal symbols around them: the symbol of co-working, the symbol of recognition, and the symbol of unity.
My story started in 2014 when Russia occupied Crimea. I founded the organization Promote Ukraine. In 8 years, it has built up reputation, trust and structure that was able to accommodate more than 100 volunteers when the full-scale invasion started.
On 24 February, the day of the invasion I was in Egypt. At 5 in the morning I received a call from a friend of mine to put on TV. I switched on news and saw an evil. From that moment on I did not get up from the chair: no food, no water, no toilet. For more than 7 hours I was coordinating with the police on manifestations, I gathered activists on FB messenger. At 2 pm when the first manifestation near the Russian embassy in Brussels started, I first time got up from the chair in Egypt to find charger for my phone that had been dead by that time.
The next day I was travelling back to Belgium. Just before boarding the plane to Brussels, I received several letters to sign. These were numerous requests for location where we could gather to coordinate our activities. One of these letters was directed to President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola. I signed the letter and forgot about it.
I came back to Brussels.
On the 3rd of March I was invited by the channel TV5 Monde to participate in the programe Station Europe, here in the media studio of the European Parliament. There I met a Belgian MEP Benoit Lutgen. After our exchange during the interview, he cried. He got up and asked me “Marta, how can I help”. I told him: let’s go with me to see our volunteers, you will feel their spirit, and you will decideThe same moment, he came with me to the back-offices. He spent 1 hour with our volunteers and decided to go to Ukraine with a humanitarian mission. It was the 3rd of March, and after 4 days: the 8th of March we were in Ukraine, distributing humanitarian help that he gathered from people in Bastognia where he is a mayor. We stopped in Lviv as we could not travel any further due to the dangers of the war. At the same time, Bucha was being occupied, the battles for Irpin were happening, and the control of Russians over Izyum was announced. At that time, we did not know what exactly was happening in the captured cities.
After a few days we came back to Belgium, and I got the news that President Metsola has reviewed my request for location and granted us the access to Station Europe – the building that now serves as a co-working place for Ukrainian civil society.
This way President Metsola contributed to closer integration between our people and gave ground for mutual understanding. The first symbol of this story is “Station Europe” that started with a program on TV and continued with a place for Ukrainian civil society at Station Europe.
In these 8 months, we organized more than 70 manifestations, gathered 8000 people for the march, 5000 people for a concert and 1000 people for a human chain near European Commission. We held more than 50 meetings with politicians and decision-makers behind closed doors where we advocated for more sanctions for Russia, more weapons for Ukraine and recognizing Russia as a terrorist state. We collected more than 300000 Eur in donations and supported more than 30 units with live-saving equipment. We established Ukrainian Cultural Centre for displaced people. More than 3000 people were supported in this centre with information, trainings and workshops. We have been interviewed by world-renowned media on our fight. And yesterday, I talked to a Belgian radio RTBF about my last humanitarian trip to Ukraine.
And here is the second symbol: one week after I came back from Ukraine in March, we have got Station Europe; and now, one week after I came back from Ukraine again – we have got European Citizens Prize. And this corresponds the cross-border cooperation value of European Union. We are helping cross-border. Together with Belgian politician Georges Dallemagne we came from Brussels to Lviv, Kyiv, Irpin, Kharkiv, Izyum and back. We brought help to Ukraine and we took back stories to Brussels. And one story of Ukrainians has a common denominator: all of them said “Ukrainians can live without food but not without liberty. And for that we are ready to give our lives”.
We all dedicate our lives to helping people. And here you have the third symbol: this war started on the 24th of February. 24 volunteers of Promote Ukraine have been invited here today to mark the unity and power of response of all people who support the fight of Ukraine.
If we were able to make it, when tens of us in this room were able to make it, imagine what hundreds of us in this building, thousands in this city and millions in this country and beyond can do when we unite to secure peace and sustain democracy!