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UKRAINE

How people in Austria can help Ukraine

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has left many people facing war in their hometown, and hundreds of thousands of others have become refugees overnight. There are ways to give concrete help from Austria.

How people in Austria can help Ukraine
You can help Ukraine by showing solidarity, by donating money, time or needed items. Photo by Attila KISBENEDEK / AFP

When considering making a donation or lending a hand, there are a few things to keep in mind. 

Before you think about what to donate, take a look at what is needed. Most organisations publish lists of the items or type of support they need or share these via volunteers, and these needs may change over time, so you should check these to make sure your help is effective.

If you’re giving material donations, organise them as best you can to help save volunteers time on logistics – for example by using separate, labelled bags for clothing for different ages, for medicines, and food. Make sure you aren’t donating food that’s past its best before date or clothing which is soiled or unsuitable for the season.

This list includes some of the well-established organisations and charities in Austria and further afield, which have long been working with people in Ukraine and/or with refugees arriving to Austria. There may also be people in your local area who are working directly and independently to support refugees.

If you give money to an individual claiming to be helping, do what you can to verify they are legitimate, because unfortunately scammers may take advantage of a crisis. Austria’s Interior Ministry advises against bringing supplies to the borders of Ukraine or into Ukraine yourself, instead recommending making donations to recognised aid organisations to ensure the items that are actually needed get there.

International and Austria-wide organisations

Supporting Ukrainian media: Reporters and journalists on the ground in Ukraine are working under extreme condition to keep their population and the world updated on the war.

Several media partners and media support organisations across Europe have organised a fundraiser on GoFundMe to support the country’s independent media, and you can also donate directly to independent news organisation the Kyiv Independent.

Two Austrian charities with long-standing work in Ukraine are Volkshilfe and Nachbar in Not.

Voices of Children is a Ukrainian organisation which supports children affected by war, in particular through psychological support.

The charity Caritas is distributing food and fuel supplies, and a €25 donation provides an emergency aid package.

The Red Cross is also supporting people in Ukraine with much-needed supplies and you can send a donation.

SOS Kinderdorf has been active in the region for over 20 years giving support for children.

And the NGO Doctors Without Borders has an Austrian branch, where you can donate to support their efforts in Ukraine.

Host a displaced person from Ukraine

The war has turned hundreds of thousands of people into refugees overnight, and one way to help is to offer accommodation if you can. 

The Elinor network as well as Facebook groups such as Host a Sister (international) and the German-language group Wohnraum für die flüchtende Ukrainer*innen/ житло для бiжинцiв з Украïни have been used to find accommodation for displaced people, as well as Austrian Facebook groups for international residents.

However, in Austria, there is now a nationwide coordination centre which you can email at [email protected] to indicate that you have space. If you host a refugee, ask Austrian authorities about information you can give them about the process for registration in Austria.

It might be crucial for them to be registered as a refugee in order to receive necessary help, including medical care, and avoid them falling through any bureaucratic gaps.

Vienna

Train of Hope – organisation supporting refugees in Austria and asking for donations. On their Facebook page they are asking for donations to provide accommodation for refugees, which is being provided at cost price by a Vienna hotel.

St Barbara’s Church, a Ukrainian church in central Vienna, is also collecting donations. There is currently no information on their website about the collection, but volunteers on the site are collecting a range of items including medicines and food.

Salzburg

Salzburg’s Polish Cultural Association has been coordinating donations to be sent to Austria’s border with Poland, with updated regularly shared on their social media platforms.

The organisation Flüchtlinge – Willkommen in Salzburg is also sharing updates on how you can help in the city.

Graz

The Ukrainischer Kulturverein in Graz (Ukrainian Cultural Association) has organised an anti-war demonstration in the city and is collecting donations.

Join demonstrations to show your support

Demonstrations in solidarity with Ukraine are being held across the country, and these are a way to show your local Ukrainian community that they have support (and people in Ukraine, since the reports of international demonstrations will reach them too), as well as to put pressure on Austrian lawmakers to continue doing what they can to support Ukrainians.

What is The Local doing?

In the wake of Russia’s invasion, accurate information is more important than ever. But journalists working in the country are facing unprecedented challenges. 

As a result, media partners across Europe are joining forces to give Ukrainian outlets all the financial, operational and technical support they need at a very difficult time. 

The Local is convinced that this solidarity with Ukraine is not just right but crucial, and thanks to the support of our members we are happy to be able to make a €20,000 donation to the fundraiser.

If you would like to know more about efforts to help Ukrainian media – or want to help out yourself – please check out the following link. 

READ MORE: How you can help Ukrainian media 

Fact-checking and raising awareness

Alongside actively supporting the victims of the violence and displacement, one way everyone can help is by being a responsible user of social media. Try to verify the source of any information you share and avoid sharing unconfirmed reports. The Ukrainian government has asked everyone to avoid sharing photos or videos showing Ukrainian troops to avoid revealing their location.

By sharing verified information about the war and the ways that people can help from Austria and/or other places where you have ties to, you can help raise awareness. 

Anything we’ve missed?

If you’re organising aid for Ukraine or think we’ve missed something important in this article, please let us know by emailing [email protected]

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

Five of the biggest challenges facing Austria right now

Austria is known as a rich and neutral country, but this doesn't mean it is immune to the problems sweeping across Europe right now. Here's what you need to know.

Five of the biggest challenges facing Austria right now

For several decades, residents in Austria have enjoyed stability and an ongoing high standard of living, but the Alpine Republic has been shaken by recent global events – like many of its neighbours.

First, there was Covid-19 that brought up various political issues across the country, most notably in relation to vaccination.

Then, just as it seemed the pandemic was being brought under control, Russia invaded Ukraine, sending shockwaves of anxiety across the continent and sending energy prices skyrocketing.

FOR MEMBERS: Reader question: Should I buy an electric heater in Austria this winter?

More recently, Europe has also hit new records when it comes to high temperatures with many regions now suffering from drought – something that is impacting Austria too.

These are all challenges that require immediate and long-term solutions, and are set to impact residents in Austria in the foreseeable future. 

(Photo by Daniel ROLAND / AFP)

Energy crisis

Rising energy costs is a multi-faceted problem as it impacts everything from the price of petrol and diesel at the pumps, to the cost of heating a home in the winter. And with the autumn and winter season looming, this is a challenge that needs immediate attention.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February and the subsequent rounds of economic sanctions imposed by the EU, it has become acutely obvious just how much Austria relies on Russia for energy.

Up until very recently, Austria sourced around 80 percent of its entire natural gas consumption from Russia. This has put Austria in a tricky situation as the government has condemned the war and publicly declared solidarity with Ukraine and EU sanctions, while also having to ensure the gas supply from Russia remains intact. 

READ ALSO: Energy crisis: What to do in case of a power outage in Austria

So far, Austria is still receiving gas imports from Russia (albeit at a lower than contracted level), but the government activated the “gas alert” in April as part of its emergency plan to ensure gas supply for the country amid fears that Russia could cut supplies to western countries.

There are three stages in the emergency plan. Only the third one contains the possibility of adopting energy control measures such as rationing. However, E-Control, government’s energy regulator, said the measures do not target households but industries instead. 

All of this has resulted in a steep increase in energy prices and high inflation (more on that below), with no sign of it slowing down any time soon.

In fact, energy companies in Lower Austria and Vienna announced further price rises for both gas and electricity just last week. This was shortly after the Austrian Federal Government announced plans for a nationwide electricity price cap with the aim to bring prices to a “more favourable price at pre-war levels”.

how to beat rising inflation spain

(Photo: Soydul Uddin/Pixabay)

Inflation

In July, inflation in Austria hit 9.2 percent, leading to many essential items becoming increasingly more expensive.

So far, the wave of inflation (that has been steadily increasing since early 2022) has mostly affected energy and food prices but has now also arrived in the gastronomy sector, with rising prices in bars and restaurants across the country.

As a result, household budgets across Austria are being tightened and a recent survey by Swiss Life revealed that more than 50 percent of Austrians do not feel financially well prepared for any unexpected turns in life.

READ MORE: Cost of living: Why are restaurants getting more expensive in Austria?

As with rising energy prices, inflation is not expected to slow down in the coming months, and the government has now stepped in to help Austrian residents with the high cost of living with a series of one-off payments. 

The measures include a “special family payment” of €180 per child in August, a €300 payment for low income and vulnerable people in September and a €500 bonus for everyone in Austria. The latter is made up of €250 as a Klimabonus (the planned climate bonus) and €250 as an anti-inflation payment (Teuerungsbonus), which will be paid out in October. 

READ ALSO: When will you get your cost of living ‘bonus’ payments in Austria?

However, despite the government payments, Austrian residents are still set for an expensive autumn and winter season.

austria parliament house flag

(Photo by ALEXANDER KLEIN / AFP)

Neutrality

Austria is committed to a stance of “engaged neutrality” while avoiding membership of a global military alliance, like NATO, and most Austrians agree with this approach.

But the war in Ukraine has raised many questions about the sustainability of Austria’s neutrality and resulted in the publication of an open letter in May to Austria’s Federal President, Federal Government and National Council. 

The letter, which was published in German and English, said: “Our neutrality – interpreted very flexibly in practice – was never checked for its current expediency, but raised to the supposedly untouchable myth. 

“As an EU member and participant in the EU’s common security and defence policy, Austria is already obliged to show solidarity. Given the current threat, there needs to be a debate without blinkers.”

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why isn’t Austria in NATO?

At the time, The Local also talked to neutrality expert Martin Senn, Professor of International relations at the University of Innsbruck and Lecturer at the Vienna School of International Studies, who said neutrality can no longer be a ‘marginal issue” in Austria.

Senn told The Local: “In my view, it’s important for Austria to come to terms with the tensions between neutrality and solidarity in Europe. 

“For example, what would Austria do in the case that another EU country was attacked? This then leads to the question of what type of armed forces do we need.”

These are tough questions that the Austrian Federal Government and Austrian population find hard to answer.

And while Austria’s neutrality can in theory be changed, there is very little appetite to do so, with 52 percent of Austrians believing neutrality protects the country and just 14 percent in favour of joining NATO.
Cafe Sperl is one of Vienna's oldest, and most famous, coffee houses. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KLEIN

(AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KLEIN )

Labour shortage

A labour shortage is not a problem unique to Austria as the global workforce ages, birth rates decline and unemployment remains low. 

But some essential businesses in Austria, like Vienna’s transport network, are now thinking outside of the box to attract more workers.

READ ALSO: Working in Austria: Why foreigners find it hard to integrate in the workplace

Vienna’s state-owned public transport company, Wiener Linien, is lowering the German language requirements and offering a 4-day work week in a bid to boost it’s team by hundreds of workers, as reported by The Local.

Why? Because in 2022, the company responsible for the buses, trams, and metros across Vienna will see around 600 employees from the so-called “baby boomer generation” retiring, which means they need to recruit hundreds of new employees.

Additionally, earlier this year, the federal government announced a comprehensive reform in its residence permits and work visas to attract more workers into shortage occupations and make it easier for high-skilled professionals to immigrate to Austria.

A man takes a picture standing on the dried out lake bottom of the Zicksee in St. Andrae am Zicksee in Burgenland, Austria on July 20, 2022. - Ongoing heat led to draining of the lake. Hundreds of fish died in the dried out lake. (Photo by Alex HALADA / AFP)

(Photo by Alex HALADA / AFP)

Climate crisis

It’s no secret that temperatures have been high across Austria this summer, and while many have welcomed the long, hot days, the heat is having a negative effect on Austria’s water reserves.

In July, popular holiday location Lake Neusiedl in Burgenland reached its lowest levels in almost 20 years. This led to the Austrian and Hungarian governments announcing a joint plan to protect the water level in the lake, including a canal of fresh water from the Danube River.

The plan was met by criticism from environmental activists who say the lake drying up is part of the natural cycle, but many farmers and tourism businesses in the region rely on the water for their livelihoods.

FOR MEMBERS: How to avoid getting heat exhaustion in Austria’s scorching weather

Similarly, forests in Lower Austria (including the Vienna Woods) are being hit by drought conditions due to low ground water levels, according to ORF. This follows several years of limited snow and rainfall in autumn and winter in the region, and forest managers are now debating the best course of action to tackle the problem.

Changes are also taking place in the Alps with temperatures rising by nearly two degrees Celsius in the past 120 years — almost double the global average, according to the International Commission for the Protection of the Alps (CIPRA).

In Austria, the Jamtal glacier has been losing about one metre (three feet) from its surface annually. But this year it has already lost more than a metre, and there are predictions that the glacier could completely disappear within five years.

For environmentalists and alpinists, this is a looming disaster. And for the government, Austria’s changing climate is another crucial issue that requires an urgent risk management plan for the future.

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