When Russian forces attacked Ukrainian soil in February, millions of people were displaced — from their homes, their jobs and their schools. Lack of access to education became a huge problem for millions of children.
Ukrainian creative agency Drama Queen, launched in 2020 during the pandemic, wanted to help its country during the war. Despite most of its local business drying up (the agency is sustaining itself on international clients), Drama Queen looked for ways to help.
In March 2022 Drama Queen launched a foundation, called Aid Legion, to direct foreign aid to local volunteers and organizations in need. The foundation, started with donations from family and friends, now funds local aid projects that support Ukraine’s military and doctors, continue access to education for Ukrainian children and help rebuild destroyed territories.
“[Huge] foundations are now overloaded, so aid sometimes is not delivered as quickly as it could be,” said Anna Goncharova, co-founder and creative director at Drama Queen. “Then there are small local initiatives of volunteers. We tried to create something in the middle. We support different projects so our donors have a choice of who to help.”
One such project is Study.UA, a Kyiv-based private school that Aid Legion worked with to adapt into a virtual school for displaced children. More than 40,000 children have enrolled since the project launched in March.
To get the word out, Drama Queen released a video in June aimed at Ukrainian mothers that includes a manifesto urging them to dream on, despite the horrors of the war.
“Mothers, we are dreaming with you — in basements and subways, on borders, in hallways, to the sound of damn sirens,” the voiceover reads. “Of the first day of school and the first school love, of sewing a hedgehog costume until dawn…of chipping in for classroom needs, and of dads who will come back home and finally teach that swimming stroke.
Though the battle goes on, we will teach on.”
War has changed the way Drama Queen works. As the agency uses its creative expertise to spread important communications, it’s working faster and more agilely to get the word out quickly. Aid Legion, for instance, came together in just three weeks.
“Most of us now are in this active, angry, productive mode,” Goncharova said. “This is something that also gives us energy — the emotions we feel, the anger — and we channel it into the work. We are in a bit of survival mode, which gives us a lot of strength and focus.”
But rather than lean into the doom and anger, Drama Queen takes a more optimistic tone in its communications. Though the videos touch devastating topics, they also tackle real and relatable topics, like war fatigue abroad.
“For people it becomes another war somewhere far away and they can't be concerned, sad and depressed for that long,” Goncharova said. “So we are trying not to push those buttons of guilt or fear. We are trying to be optimistic, and sometimes a little bit ironic.”
Drama Queen will continue taking on new projects through Aid Legion even after the war ends. The organization is now looking to bring on foundation ambassadors from different countries to help spread the word globally.
“We will have to rebuild the country,” Goncharova said. “This is tons and tons of effort that will be needed and [more] donations. So this is a long-run project for us.”