Wisconsin Ukrainians Inc. fundraises to buy items for Ukrainians harmed by Russian invasion
Some of the estimated 10,000 Wisconsin residents with past and current family ties to Ukraine say they haven't forgotten the Ukrainian people affected by the nearly five-month-long armed conflict with Russia.
A fundraising picnic drew several hundred supporters to Croatian Park in Franklin Sunday.
A youth group performing a Ukrainian folk dance provided some of the entertainment. Food and home-made items were for sale.
Olga Halaburda Hietpas is vice president of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization Wisconsin Ukrainians Inc. Her parents were born in Ukraine. She says the U.S. and other nations are sending a lot of military aid to the war-torn country, but grassroots efforts like her group's can meet other needs.
"We're trying to think of an individual who's out there, who's suffering. We're thinking of helping that one person make it through the day a little bit easier." She continues, "We've done things obviously in the medical space, where we've bought massive amounts of tourniquets and we're sending individual first aid kits to soldiers, helping them in their time of need. We're also helping orphans just have summer outfits they didn't have. You know, they came with nothing from the hard hit areas."
Halaburda Hietpas says Wisconsin Ukrainians Inc. also bought a washer and dryer for an orphanage. "Because theirs was old and breaking down and they have so many more kids. I think of the woman who has to do all that laundry. To make her life a little easier that day of doing laundry, that's what we're about," she says, her voice choking with emotion.
Money raised by grassroots efforts in the U.S. is sent to trusted partners in Ukraine or Poland, who then buy the goods and see that they're delivered, Halaburda Hietpas explains.
Ukraine native and Milwaukee-area resident Halyna Salapata is also on the board of Wisconsin Ukrainians Inc. She says, "We know exactly who we are helping. We are helping our cousins, our neighbors, small groups of people, who in order to get to get money from a big foundation, you have to apply for a grant as you do here. But in the case of us, it's much easier to ask for two pairs of boots, which seems funny. It's not expensive. But, if you have 20 or 25 asking for boots, you have to help them."
Salapata says she's committed to doing additional fundraising, convinced that Ukraine will win the conflict with Russia. "I have no doubt. The only question is, what price do we have to pay? How many people have to die in order to win this war?" she asks.
For Olga Halaburda Hietpas, the end is more murky. "I pray, and leave it in God's hands, because I don't know how this could end. We could not accept anything less than Russia leaving Ukraine, and the world should not accept anything less. And so, how is this going to end? You tell me," she says.
Another performer at the picnic in Franklin, Zorian Duffek, offered optimism, as he sang in Ukrainian about the sun rising over Ukraine.