Mila Kunis and husband Ashton Kutcher have started a GoFundMe for the people of Ukraine with a goal of $30 million. While speaking with Maria Shriver in #ConversationsAboveTheNoise, they’d raised $21 million. It’s a good use of their platform to raise as much money as possible. The money will go to humanitarian and refugee efforts, which is sorely needed. Both Ashton and Mila have proven themselves proficient at fundraising and I’m glad they set the goal as high as they did. I wouldn’t be surprised if they exceeded it.
Of course, this is quite personal for Mila, who is Ukrainian. Her family fled to the US at seven because of anti-Semitism, among other reasons, in the Soviet Union. A lot of people know that Mila speaks Russian. Mila often refers to herself as Russian because, she explained, when she told people she was from Ukraine prior, no one knew where that was. So, it was easier to just say she was Russian. But she is Ukrainian and this crisis has evoked a series of emotions – heartbreak, pride and a sense of dread of what happens is Russia’s successful.
Mila Kunis says Ukrainians’ response to Russia’s invasion has left her “awestricken” and “proud” to be from the region, fueling her decision to start a $30 million fundraiser. Still, she wants Americans to remember that Russia’s people aren’t the enemy.
In a sitdown with Maria Shriver for her #ConversationsAboveTheNoise digital series, Kunis opened up about her feelings around the ongoing war in Ukraine and the $30 million GoFundMe campaign she’s launched with husband Ashton Kutcher to support refugee and humanitarian aid efforts.
The star said the Ukrainian response to the conflict sparked a new sense of pride she hadn’t previously had after growing up in America. Arriving in the U.S. in 1991 around the age of seven or eight meant that she grew up having a much stronger connection to her identity as an American.
“It’s been irrelevant to me that I come from Ukraine. It never mattered,” she said. “So much so that I’ve always said I’m Russian. I’ve always been, ‘I’m from Russia’ for a multitude of reasons. One of them being, when I came to the States, and I would tell people I’m from Ukraine, the first question I’d get was ‘Where is Ukraine?’ And then I’d have to explain Ukraine and where it is on the map.”
“Everything changed” when Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. “I can’t express or explain what came over me, but all of a sudden, I genuinely was like, ‘Oh, my God, I feel like a part of my heart just got ripped out.’ It was the weirdest feeling,” she said. “It doesn’t take away from who I am as a person, but it just adds an entire different layer.”
Part of this “sense of pride” comes from having friends from Ukraine whose family members have chosen to remain in the country. They go to sleep in bomb shelters at night, Kunis says, and during the day, they take “whatever they have to protect themselves in the city, and they go to their office to continue working.”
“I’m not pleasantly surprised, but I’m awestricken by this group of people. They’re fighting with their own makeshift weapons,” Kunis said. “It is inspiring.”
Kunis also addressed criticisms around how the response to Ukraine has differed from reactions to other conflicts. For her, the thing that makes Ukraine’s crisis different is the nuclear element.
“I honestly think that what sets this apart from the horrible events that happened in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen — in any of these other countries where things like this have happened — is that in this case, its nuclear power,” she explained. “There’s a lot of other issues involved that aren’t just about Ukraine, but about its neighboring town.”
That’s part of why she and Kutcher took so much time launching the fundraiser. “I kept saying I think whatever we do, you have to be able to pivot because this is not … a civil war. It’s not a religious-based war. It’s not somewhere that we have pattern recognition on,” she said. “We don’t know what the end goal is, in this case. I don’t believe that the end goal personally is, ‘Oh, we just want Ukraine.’”
So far, the duo has raised more than $21 million of their $30 million ask, with Kunis confident they’ll reach their goal in light of another match commitment. The campaign funds will go to Flexport and Airbnb to help them deliver supplies and provide housing to refugees fleeing Ukraine.
During her discussion with Maria Shriver, Mila made a point to separate Putin’s attack on Ukraine from the Russian people, which I think is an important point to keep in mind. Mila put it really well, stating, “Not to get technical, but all the propaganda a problem. The infrastructure is a problem. The political powers that be are the problem. It’s not the people. The people didn’t vote for [Vladimir] Putin.” I was talking to someone the other day and said to blame Putin’s attack on all Russians would be like blaming Trump’s horrible actions on me. I didn’t vote for Trump and I never supported him. Unfortunately, Trump was at least elected in a legal election. There is no way to vote Putin out of office. So I’m glad that Mila took the time to remind everyone that there is a specific enemy and many people are being hurt by him, including his countrymen.
I’m not surprised Mila would support her country by raising awareness and money. And I’m glad her husband is joining the effort. Just last Sunday, Larry Ellison kicked in with $5 million match. Ashton has a lot of influence with tech money. Some of you said last week, and it bears repeating, that it’s very important to donate to the right organizations currently. As Mila suggested, the organizations that receive the money, especially the sums she’s talking about, need the infrastructure to distribute it properly. I’m not advocating for Flexport or AirBnB, Ashton is an investor in both and CEO of Flexport. But if you are considering a donation, do a little research where your money is best placed. If you want to read up on Mila and Ashton’s GoFundMe, you can do so here.
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