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People are booking Airbnbs in Ukraine they’re never going to use just to help its struggling citizens

People worldwide have been finding ways to send money to families in Ukraine as Russia continues to launch attacks on the country. Lately, booking immediate Airbnb stays—even though they don’t intend to check in and use the accommodations—is one of them.

Sarah Brown from Salt Lake City is one of those who booked a stay in Kyiv to funnel money to Ukrainians in need of financial assistance.

Brown, a member of a Facebook group for Airbnb hosts, came across a post saying that it was important to support Ukrainians in places other than the capital, so she booked two more stays in smaller cities and is thinking of reserving more — but never plans to check in.

“These days we do not have any income,” said Ekaterina Martiusheva, the host of the first apartment Brown booked in Ukraine. “We do not have any right to ask our country to help us, because all the country’s resources are for the war and for the victory.”

Airbnb hosts receive payment 24 hours after a guest checks in, so people from other parts of the world are booking stays in Ukraine as a gesture of solidarity. As the movement spread over the last few days, Airbnb is waiving all host and guest fees in the country for now.

On March 2 and March 3, people from across the world booked more than 61,000 nights in the crisis-stricken nation. According to Airbnb, the bookings without any check in grossed almost $2 million. Half of those were made by Americans.

The experience has allowed Brown to gain a personal connection with someone in Ukraine, helping her feel more invested in the matter. Brown, an Airbnb host herself, owns three properties listed on the platform with her husband. She also runs a business that operates another 28.

“It makes me feel like I have so much more skin in the game,” she told NPR. “I am so heartbroken for Ukraine, but I don’t know anyone there. And now I care so much about this woman and what happens to her. It’s not happening to someone happening far away — it’s happening to people we now know.”

People use Airbnb but didn't check in just to help Ukrainians

grateful Ukraine resident | credit: Twitter

Airbnb hosts may not be the neediest population in Ukraine, but Brown says there are ways to find those who likely have limited financial means. For example, people could look at hosts who rent a shared room or live in smaller towns.

Organizers of the campaign also urge people to make sure the rentals are owned by individuals, not companies.

A US resident named Anne Margaret Daniel was moved to take action after seeing the call for guests to book Airbnbs in Ukraine online without planning to check in.

Daniel, a literature lecturer at the New School booked a stay for two nights at an apartment in Old Kyiv. The place is nearly fully booked for the next few months.

In her booking, Daniel included a heartwarming message for the host:

“I hope that you, and your lovely apartment, are safe and that this horrible war is over … and Ukraine is safe. I will come and see you one day, please count on it, and will stay with you when we visit. God bless you and God be with you, your city, your country,” it said.

The host, Olga Zviryanskaya, responded: “We will be glad to see you in the peaceful city of Kyiv and hug.”

Zviryanskaya has lived with her three children in Kyiv for years. When the invasion started, she packed a few belongings and went away with her kids to Cherkasy, a city in central Ukraine. The 100-mile drive took nine hours.

Now, Zviryanskaya is paying it forward by allowing people who have no means out of Kyiv to stay in her apartment. She said messages from strangers have provided her with comfort as they navigate this new painful reality.

“We are alive, but we want to live as before,” she said. “It’s very scary in Kyiv. Every word of support is valuable, not necessarily money.”

Aside from waiving guest and host fees in Ukraine, Airbnb has offered temporary housing to up to 100,000 Ukrainians in neighboring countries.

“We are so humbled by the inspiring generosity of our community during this moment of crisis,” said Haven Thorn, a company spokesperson.

Those willing to help can also contribute to Airbnb’s efforts by visiting the website for more information.

UPDATE: If you decide to help, please make sure that the Airbnb home your looking at is a legitimate one. Read the reviews. The date it was set up etc. It’s always good to be kind, but always do your due diligence.

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