While Russia is decimating Ukrainian cities in an unlawful attempt to occupy the country, WordPress companies and individuals are seeking ways to help refugees fleeing the violence, as well as those who have stayed behind to fight.
We are living in one of those rare times in history where events have captured the attention and hearts of people around the world, with a powerful unifying force. In the face of such unmitigated hostility and injustice, many feel helpless to make a difference, but the WordPress community is finding creative ways to support the brave efforts of the Ukrainian people.
After identifying an attack on Ukrainian universities’ websites that coincided with Russia’s invasion, Wordfence announced it has enabled its real-time threat intelligence for more than 8,000 of its users on the Ukrainian .UA top-level domain (TLD) until further notice. Ordinarily, this is a paid feature. It includes a commercial-grade IP blocklist, real-time firewall rules, and real-time malware detection.
“This is the first time in the history of our company that we are taking this action,” Defiant (makers of Wordfence) CEO Mark Maunder said. “We are doing it as a response to the crisis that has unfolded in Ukraine.”
Servebolt, a company that hosts WordPress sites, among other platforms, has offered free hosting to anyone working to help the Ukrainian people.
In one extraordinary individual effort that raised €3500, mainly from the WordPress community, Ines van Dijk, a mother of three, living in the Netherlands, drove 2500 km to Poland to donate items and chauffeur refugees.
“Many, many people have been displaced”, she said. “I am unable to sit with that quietly and do nothing, so I decided to rent a van, load it up with things refugees might need, and drive to Poland.”
She collected bags of clothing and blankets, personal items, bought food and water, and transported it to refugees in Poland.
One week after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, more than a million people have fled the country in what the United Nations is calling the swiftest refugee exodus this century. Meanwhile, many have chosen to stay behind and some Ukraine-based companies are struggling to stay in business while sheltering for their lives.
Crocoblock, a company with plugins on WordPress.org as well as commercial products, is made up of a 40+ person team of Ukrainians.
“Our team is located in three cities (Mykolaiv, Lviv, Kyiv),” Crocoblock Partner Manager Lana Miro said in an update on Post Status Slack. “We are safe, working somehow. Some stay in basements, some stay in apartments (and use the bathroom during air alarms). Our mood is optimistic and we believe/help our army. Thanks everyone for your support and everything will be fine.”
Crocoblock has updated the banner on its site, which links to a donation page for the Ukrainian Army. The banner references the last words of Ukrainian soldiers who were believed to have died defending Snake Island in the Black Sea. They may have been illegally captured by Putin’s forces but this has not yet been confirmed. Their brave last words have become a rallying cry, echoing the sentiments of pro-Ukrainian supporters around the world.
Paid Memberships Pro CEO Jason Coleman has written a tutorial on how internet businesses can find their Ukrainian customers and email them to see how they can be of help. There are specific instructions in the article for those using the PMPro plugin can on how they can find users with a Ukrainian billing address, Ukrainian email addresses, or Ukrainian websites. It is also more broadly applicable to those using other CRM or e-commerce software solutions.
The team at Codeable, a WordPress freelancer platform, is also working with its developers in Ukraine and Russia to support them in ensuring their clients still receive services.
“We are a two sided marketplace between our developers and clients,” Codeable Expert Community Development Lead Mike Demo said. “We are doing daily wellness checks, expedited payouts to our developers in Ukraine and Russia, and helping clients with Ukraine and Russian experts find alternative development help if needed at no cost to the client or money lost for the expert.”
Earlier this week, Namecheap took a highly controversial approach to making a difference, terminating service for Russian customers with just six days’ notice. (Namecheap has since revised the deadline to March 22). This includes Namecheap Hosting, EasyWP (Namecheap’s managed WordPress hosting), and Private Email with a domain provided by another registrar in zones .ru, .xn--p1ai (рф), .by, .xn--90ais (бел), and .su.
The email to customers puts the onus on subjects of authoritarian rule, a tactic that sparked a fiery debate on Hacker News:
“Unfortunately, due to the Russian regime’s war crimes and human rights violations in Ukraine, we will no longer be providing services to users registered in Russia. While we sympathize that this war may not affect your own views or opinion on the matter, the fact is, your authoritarian government is committing human rights abuses and engaging in war crimes so this is a policy decision we have made and will stand by.”
As sanctions are having a catastrophic effect on the Russian economy, and many Russians are scrambling to get out of the country, some contend that these measures are hurtful to those who are trying to help. One user on Hacker News, @_vtoj, highlighted a few reasons why this approach is problematic:
Dude, right now all of us are in deep shock, while:
– some are trying to find their relatives in Ukraine
– some are coordinating and volunteering
– some are trying to get themselves and their families outside of Russia (which gets harder by the minute because of prices and sanctions)
– some are trying to smuggle at least some of the money outside, because their entire life savings are now blocked
– some are trying to preserve what they have despite ruble and market crashing
– some are hunkering down with what they have and their loved ones, trying to stockpile some food before prices skyrocket
And no one has any time to cope and process anything – don’t forget usual workloads, too. Planning for a week feels like it’s already a strategic, not a tactical scope.
I get what you’re trying to do, but can’t you at least give more time for everyone? Right now I need to drop everything and migrate my DNS as well because my private email that I use for docs will stop working in 6 days. And to figure out how to pay the transfer fees while doing all that. It’s very much fucking stressful already.
GoDaddy, another major domain registrar and host, took a slightly different approach, announcing today that the company is renewing, at no cost, any products or services that are set to expire in the next 60 days for Ukrainian customers. The company is also donating $500,000 to humanitarian relief in Ukraine and matching donations from employees, and providing assistance for Ukrainian contract workers.
“What’s happened in Ukraine is horrible,” GoDaddy said. “We do not condone the unwarranted aggression from the Russian Government.”
The company is also making specific business decision that impact Russian customers but may not affect existing customers as strongly as the Namecheap’s sanctions:
- Removing the Russian version of our website
- No longer supporting new registrations of .ru and .ru.com
- Removing all .ru domain names from our domain name aftermarket
- Removing the Russian Ruble
WordPress managed host WP Engine is donating to Polish Humanitarian Action and the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund, as well as matching employee donations.
If you are looking for ideas on where you can lend your support, longtime WordPress contributor and the co-organizer of the first official WordCamp in Ukraine, Andrey Savchenko, recommends donating to the Ukrainian Armed Forces and Come Back Alive fund. He is currently sheltering in Kyiv.
These are a few examples of the ways the WordPress community and broader hosting communities are using their influence and resources to help with relief efforts. If your company is launching an effort that was missed here, feel free to leave information about it in the comments.