A PACKED Islington cafe hosted a fundraising event for hospitals and schools caught in the middle of Ukraine’s civil war.
More than 70 people spilled out onto the street to attend an auction at the Blackstock Kitchen, Blackstock Road, to raise funds for government sanction-hit public services in the war-torn region of Donbass.
The event, the first of its kind in the UK, had changed venues three times after pressure from pro-Ukraine activists, even moving hours before it started on 2 April from Rowans Tenpin Bowl, by Finsbury Park station, to the cafe after police were alerted, and who maintained a presence outside throughout the proceedings.
Barely had the auction got under way when a man in the crowd began heckling the host and organiser, journalist Graham Phillips, and was bundled off the premises.
Switching between English and Russian, prints of photographs Mr Phillips and others had taken while on the front line of the conflict in south eastern Ukraine and also from Crimea were auctioned, fetching up to £160, while a camouflage jacket he had worn at the time was sold for £290.
Mr Phillips, who lives in the Finsbury Park area, said that he had seen people queuing for hours to buy bread, and that parents were sending their children to schools without water or electricity, the subject of one of the auctioned photographic prints.
He said: “If you stop people in the street here in Britain and ask them what’s happening, they don’t know. How could they know, when there’s a total media blackout? We just want to help the people – I have seen mothers there with children who can’t feed them. This cafe may be in Finsbury Park, but the heart is as big as the world.”
Patrick Lancaster, introduced by Mr Philipps as the longest-serving journalist in the region, also addressed the assembled, speaking of his experiences as a witness to up to 700 civilians perishing during the conflict during the past year, and with families torn apart by differing beliefs.
Mr Phillips said that he had been working in the south-eastern city of Donetsk during the Euro 2012 football tournament, and seen people carrying the Russian and Ukrainian flags side by side, but that events following the ‘Euromaidan’ demonstrations in the capital Kiev during late 2013 and early 2014 had driven a wedge between the two countries.
However, he has also provoked controversy for his aggressive interviewing of a severely-burned prisoner in hospital, and for posing as a combatant, while working for television news channel Russia Today.
The auction, which was covered by the five biggest television channels in Russia, raised more than £3,400, and also featured live music, food, and an open microphone session where those gathered were invited to discuss the situation in Ukraine.