St. Louisans book Kyiv Airbnbs as way to support Ukrainians


BILL MOTCHAN, Special to the Jewish Light

You can score a luxury apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine on Airbnb for $43 per night. It’s got a fireplace, jacuzzi and WiFi.

Lots of travelers are booking great deals in Ukraine on Airbnb right now, but they have no intention of making the trip. The idea is to get cash quickly into the hands of Ukrainians who use the online rental service to pick up extra income.

Airbnb is on board, waiving its standard service fee. The host gets all the money, upfront. Whether there will be an apartment left after the Russian bombing stops is another matter.

Jill Weinreich “booked” an Airbnb lodging in Kyiv for next week. Weinreich is from St. Louis and grew up attending Congregation Shaare Emeth. She lives in Venice, Italy now where she works in event management. Theoretically, she could make the trip to Kyiv easily—it’s a two-hour flight. But the apartment she booked on Airbnb was really a symbolic gesture of support.

“I read about renting Airbnb apartments in Ukraine from my friend Angela Flotken,” said Weinreich, 49. “Angela has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know, and I am always learning from her. When I saw her post, I thought it was an excellent idea to help someone directly—and immediately. I am obviously not traveling to Kyiv next week. I told my host I do plan to book the apartment again in the future when it’s safe.”

Flotken, who is a member of United Hebrew Congregation,  also rented a small apartment for five nights and has been corresponding with the owner.

“She is a 37-year-old woman with a 7-year-old daughter,” Flotken said. “Naturally, they are terrified. We exchanged numbers so we can stay in touch. She sent me a photo of her and her daughter. I will be praying for them and so many others.”

There are, of course, other ways to help out Ukrainians as the country’s war with Russia wages on. The International Committee of the Red Cross is one high-profile organization involved in the efforts to help Ukrainians. A list crowd-sourced by Ukrainians recommends local organizations, such as:

Razom for Ukraine is raising funds to put more volunteers on the ground who will deliver “essential equipment and goods” as well as assist in translating important documents, the organization said.

United Help of Ukraine aims to provide life-saving first-aid kits to the front lines, and “prepare humanitarian aid to civilians.”

Sunflower of Peace is asking for donations to pay for backpacks filled with medical equipment. In the hands of front-line doctors and paramedics “each backpack has the ability to save up to 10 lives: Ukrainian soldiers, civilians, volunteers, and children.”

Revived Soldiers Ukraine is dedicated to giving medical assistance to soldiers and their families, and equipping military hospitals with items needed to care for the wounded.

To donate to Ukraine’s war effort more directly, support Come Back Alive. “One of the most trustworthy” military charities in the nation, according to the Kyiv Independent, Come Back Alive helps equip soldiers with “specialized software, drones, personal body protection, training, and other supplies.”