Mark Strong is lending his voice and celebrity to help raise money to renovate a bomb shelter for 327 school kids in Ukraine. The actor recently joined the Ukrainian government’s fundraising platform United24 as an ambassador and has signed on to help create a safe and protected space for children at a school in Uman to study without being afraid of missile strikes from Russia amid the ongoing war.
“They’re trying to continue with their education, but the trouble is they’re in an area where there’s a risk of ordinance landing on their heads,” Strong tells The Hollywood Reporter. “They have a [bomb] shelter, which all the schools now have that are in danger zones, but it’s in really poor condition. We need $60,000 in order to make it habitable really, so that should they be in danger, they can go down there and continue with their education. I feel very strongly that I want to be able to help some children who are in danger.”
Strong calls the fact that the war in Ukraine is nearing the two-year mark — Russia invaded the country on Feb. 24, 2022 — “outrageous and disgusting.” He added, “Whenever I read the news and hear what’s going on there and how hard people are fighting basically to reclaim their sovereign land because … Putin’s decided that he wants to have it, it just makes me terribly sad.”
According to an estimate in June by Denise Brown, the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine, among the estimated 70,000 Ukrainians killed and more than 100,000 citizens of the country wounded, at least 1,500 of the deaths and injuries have been children. Per a report by Save the Children last spring, more than 20 schools in Ukraine have been attacked on average every day in the country, more than 450 education facilities have been destroyed and 5.5 million schoolchildren in the country have had their education disrupted.
Strong’s sincere hope is that concerned citizens around the world continue to support the Ukrainian government and its fundraising to help its population affected by the war and Russian aggressions — even despite what he acknowledges is “compassion fatigue,” which he calls “a very real thing. Frankly, in this age of instant access to media, everybody’s fighting to be heard.” Strong is an ambassador for the Education and Science platform of United24, whose celebrity supporters have also included Barbra Streisand, Liev Schreiber, Mark Hamill and Katheryn Winnick.
When he signed on to work with United24, Strong had a 40-minute video chat meeting with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. “He was really lovely. I was amazed that he took the time out to talk with me,” says Strong of their conversation, adding that, “We got on really well because obviously he used to be an actor, and we had a laugh.”
That laugh was prompted by Strong referencing the fact that he’s currently shooting Max’s Dune: Prophecy series in Budapest. In that upcoming TV show, the actor plays Emperor Javicco Corinno. Strong said in their chat that prior to becoming the actual president of Ukraine, Zelensky had “played the president of his country in a TV program that he was doing. So, I mentioned to him that I’m currently playing the emperor of the universe in a TV program that I’m doing, and I basically just in a rather ridiculous way, asked him whether I might actually become the emperor of the universe one day. He thought that was quite funny.”
Strong encourages anyone who wants to support United24’s fundraising efforts to go to u24.gov.ua.