By Cheryl Crilley, Business Director, Kinetic WW.

Like many people, over the last month I’ve watched the news with absolute horror to see Ukrainians have their homes and cities destroyed, families separated, people seeking shelter in underground bunkers. As of March 30th, more than 10 million have fled their homes and thousands of innocent people have been killed, of which 141 are children.

The image of 109 empty prams left in the centre of Lviv to represent the Ukrainian children killed during Russia’s war has been one that will stay with me forever.  

It’s a challenge to understand anyone’s motivation to inflict such pain and horror on society, and a challenge as a new parent for my husband and I to try and explain it to our very curious 4-year-old – whilst trying to be shield and reassure him. 

However, in the last couple of weeks, my horror has turned into disbelief watching reports of people of colour being refused at border crossings in favour of white Ukrainians and being left stranded for days in brutal conditions.  

There have been videos circulating on social media showing Black and Asian people being pushed off trains and buses, being held at gunpoint at the borders and drivers being reprimanded and stalled by Ukrainians as they try to flee. There have even been reports of animals being allowed on trains before Africans. 

Ukraine’s former deputy general prosecutor David Sakvarelidze stated: “It is really emotional for me because I see European people with blue eyes and blond hair being killed, children being killed every day with Putin’s missiles.”  

Charlie D’Agata from CBS News reported that Ukraine “isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan that has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilised, relatively European – I have to choose those words carefully, too – city, where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it’s going to happen.” 

It’s so disturbing to see how some people are reacting on mainstream and social media to this conflict, revealing an underlying racial bias. This should be about basic human dignity and respect, regardless of race, religion, gender, age or sexual orientation. When I reflected on some of these comments, doubts on our progress towards being more inclusive and banishing racism crept in. I could not understand how race was still a factor when people were facing such trauma. 

On an episode of Loose Women, broadcaster Charlene White was accused of ‘playing the race card’ when she spoke powerfully about the plight of black and brown refugees. 

And then three strangers stepped in to help. Black Women for Black Lives was set up by Patricia Daley, Tokunbo Koiki and Korrine Sky to raise money in helping African and Afro-Carribeans students escape the conflict through partnerships with GoFund Me and PayPal. They’ve helped more than 950 black students to date. 

We’ve also seen countries and brands stand in solidarity with Ukraine and impose sanctions on Russia. Some which I find more meaningful include: 

  • BT – providing free phone calls to and from Ukraine so people can check in on their loved ones. 
  • Airbnb – offering free, temporary housing for up to 100,000 refugees from Ukraine. 
  • Depositphotos – owned by Vista and who provide stock photos, graphics and videos. They are making a free collection of images depicting the reality of what’s happening on the ground to prevent the spread of misinformation and Russian propaganda. 

Most of the big holding groups like WPP, IPG, Publicis and Dentsu have announced they will be exiting Russia and have made donations to the Ukrainian appeal. OOH media owners such as Ocean, Open Media and Clear Channel have been partnering with charities to use their inventory to drive awareness and encourage donations.

Our ERG, Kinetic Roots, have made this the topic of our next monthly Spark session – which is a completely safe, confidential space where anyone who is interested to have a discussion about a pre-agreed topic is welcome. 

There is always more we can all do, starting with showing compassion to all refugees regardless of their race. As a media channel, we have huge influence over driving behaviour towards an inclusive society. In the meantime, let’s hope for an end to this war, and to getting back on track to end segregation and racism forever. 

Sources:, The Guardian,,, The Drum, National Geographic, 

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