Photo by Marcus Yam/Getty Images

Ukrainian Sex Workers Are Rallying to Help Those Stranded in the Conflict Zone

They're concerned that donations aren't reaching them quickly enough.

Sex workers around the world, and many of the platforms they use, have spent the last week rallying support for their colleagues stranded on the ground in Ukraine. Platforms from across the industry have poured millions into humanitarian aid, and committed to coordinating evacuation efforts. Others have undertaken major fundraising efforts on Twitter.

Now, workers on the ground want help defending their homes.


Among them is Kara Xaen, a 26-year-old Ukrainian sex worker who recently returned home from Germany to be with her family in Ukraine’s south-east. Her grandmother is “tremendously” sick, she told VICE, and her father isn’t able to leave the region. “We’ve decided to stay here, together,” she said.

Xaen said support from across the industry has been overwhelming, but she encouraged those looking to get involved to make donations directly to workers like her, still in Ukraine, or the grassroots organisations supporting them. Even just the Ukrainian military – but definitely “not UNICEF”. 

“There is a big [on-the-ground] effort here, because our city hasn’t been invaded yet, to help people around us get medicines, supplies, batteries, all these kinds of things, while we can still help,” Xaen said. 

“Some of my friends from university [in Germany] have said, ‘Hey we’ve donated to this organisation like UNICEF’, or whatever. But, it’s like: you’ve donated to an organisation with thousands of people. When will we actually see this money?”

For Xaen, the money would be better donated to those on the ground. That way, it is sure to go directly to those involved in ferrying supplies to civilian battalions, taking up arms to defend their cities. It’s an instinct that comes more naturally to her colleagues around the world, who have developed a strong track record in recent years of mobilising for victims of disasters and ensuring they see the money that has been raised for them.

 Members of a Territorial Defence unit prepare to deploy to various parts of Kyiv. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Members of a Territorial Defence unit prepare to deploy to various parts of Kyiv. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Over the last week, even the platforms Ukrainian sex workers depend on to make a living have made serious efforts to make their support known. OnlyFans made a donation of 500 Ethereum, equivalent to about $US1.5 million, to UkraineDAO on Saturday, one of a legion of crypto organisations raising millions of dollars in humanitarian aid and military funding for Ukraine. 

Another was Paxum, a payment app that allows cammers, streamers, and all sorts of creators to withdraw their pay from platforms like Twitch and MyFreeCams, from pretty much any region, without friction. Sometimes it’s used to bypass what can often be a rigmarole of cross-country fiscal regulation, so users from countries like Australia and New Zealand can get paid quickly. 

Over the weekend, Paxum sent out an email to all of its users, declaring the platform “Stands With Ukraine!”, and promised help to all members of the “Adult Videochat Community in Ukraine”, including performers “who do not use Paxum as a payment method.” 

Octav Moise, Paxum’s CEO, told VICE that the company is currently working with sex workers across the country who might not have the financial means or access to transport needed to evacuate. Their plan was to connect workers with transport at Ukraine’s border with Romania, where they would then be offered free accommodation. He said that, so far, the effort has helped more than 150 people, but “those numbers increase every hour”. The company is currently working to evacuate more than 1,000 others. 


On Twitter, sex workers can regularly be seen urging their clients and fans to donate to individual causes that are as narrowly targeted as a life-saving surgery, or as broad as a global campaign to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for victims of bushfires, as was seen in Australia in 2020. For those impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine the effort has been no different.

In Eastern Europe, hundreds of sex workers have converged to collect and distribute funding via Telegram groups and Twitter DMs, two of which have been seen by VICE. In these groups, all Russian-speaking workers are equal, each as terrified as the other of the long-lasting impacts Russia’s assault will leave behind and of the lives that are yet to be lost. 

For the most part, the support of Russian workers has been welcomed by those from Ukraine. 

“I have always worked with Russian people,” Xaen said. “And this industry, the whole Russian-speaking industry, we never divided who is from Belarus, who is from Russia, who is from Ukraine. We’re all Russian-speaking. And we have our network within the industry. We’re all interconnected.”

Security forces take anti-war protesters into custody in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Security forces take anti-war protesters into custody in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

It was a sentiment shared almost unanimously by Ukrainian sex workers. Some told VICE they struggled to square up their feelings about Russia, but wanted it to be known that Russians, particularly Russian sex workers, aren’t to blame for Putin’s assult on Ukraine. Others said they wanted to see the introduction of harder-line sanctions that would exclude Russia from platforms like OnlyFans and MyFreeCams.


“Otherwise, I’m worried this war might go on forever,” Xaen said. “And this is our big fear, because it can turn into Donetsk or Lugansk. At first, everyone is watching, everyone is concerned. And then a couple of months go by and everyone might say ‘We know about it, we go back to our normal life [now]’.” 

“I’m not directly against Russian people, as I said, I don’t have any direct hate for the Russian people,” Xaen said. “But overall, I believe they should be shut down from every possibility to earn money in the global market.”

During a 24-hour period earlier this week, some thought that sanctions had impacted Russian models on OnlyFans after all profiles based in Russia “went dark” and were later marked as inactive. The reactions were varied: some were quick to show solidarity with Russian models, who they said shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of Putin’s actions. Others were hopeful the outage could have been a sign of broader-ranging sanctions. 

A spokesperson for OnlyFans, whose majority owner is reported to be of Ukrainian descent, told VICE the platform stands by its Russian creators and understands they aren’t responsible for “these heinous acts”. 

“After experiencing financial restrictions we have been able to restore account activity for creators in all countries. Their accounts will have full functionalities as long as we continue to have payment methods to support them,” she said.  


“We were not terminating or suspending any creator accounts based on the creator’s location, and we are doing everything we can to support our community.”

Xaen was disappointed. She said imposing stricter sanctions would be just one of many things platforms based in the west, like OnlyFans, could be doing to mount more of a challenge in the face of Russia’s invasion. Apple, Facebook, and scores of others have already shown a willingness to do just that. But talking about her work – as a deluge of missiles rain down on the nation’s capital cities – feels proportionately insignificant to her.

Instead, Xaen’s focus is on staying alive and keeping her family safe. 

“Europe sees us as a human buffer zone,” she said. “They let us die for them.”

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