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Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Newfoundland and Labradorians across the province have been finding ways to do whatever they can to provide aid and support for Ukrainians. 

The largest conventional military attack on a European state since World War II, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has already caused thousands of deaths and created millions of refugees. Yet many millions remain still in Ukraine, either trapped or determined to help defend their home. Canada and other countries around the world have placed severe sanctions on Russia, hoping to pressure Vladimir Putin to end his war in Ukraine. But for over a month now, Ukrainians on the ground have had to fight—for their sovereignty, and for their survival.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the provincial government’s Office of Immigration and Multiculturalism announced the launch of a new Ukrainian Family Support Desk on March 2 to assist with immigration and employment. The service was expanded on March 17 to provide expedited in-person support from on the ground in Poland. “Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and people across North America are telling us that the Ukrainian Family Support Desk is absolutely essential to helping Ukrainians in their time of need,” says Gerry Byrne, NL’s Minister of Immigration, Population Growth and Skills.

Closer to the grassroots, different individuals, groups, and businesses have been raising funds or finding any way possible to support Ukrainians through this war (like this St. John’s woman who’s raised over $2,000 for the Canada-Ukraine Foundation by making and selling heart-shaped sealskin pins in the colours of the Ukrainian flag).

The Independent rounded up several examples that give a glimpse into the diverse ways people in NL are pitching in to do their part for Ukraine.

CBS bakery inspires with cookies

Krista Neville, the owner of Volcano Bakery in Conception Bay South, turned to baking to raise money that could support the Canadian Red Cross in providing humanitarian aid. On February 26, a post on Volcano Bakery’s Facebook page announced they were selling heart-shaped sugar cookies with the colours of the Ukrainian flag for $5 each and donating 100% of the proceeds—plus matching the total donation, dollar for dollar.

“We sold them for about nine days. I wasn’t sure how long I was going to be able to do it, because I still had a lot of cookie orders to do in between all of that,” Neville explains. “I didn’t know if people were going to be as affected emotionally as I was, but they were! One day we sold, like, 78 cookies in eight minutes, I think. It was crazy.” Even after the cookies sold out, Neville says people continued to come in and donate anyway.

Volcano Bakery ended up raising just over $3,000 in total. But beyond inspiring those who came in and bought cookies or simply donated money there, the CBS bakery also ended up inspiring other bakeries to follow their lead. “After doing them for about five days, that’s when other messages started coming in, from other bakeries,” says Neville. “They just really wanted to get involved. They wanted to get our permission if they could copy the cookies.”

Well-Bean Cafe in Labrador City tagged Volcano Bakery in a post on March 2, saying they’d “decided to follow suit.” Two Clarenville businesses—Mama Made That and Bare Mountain Coffee House—also credited Volcano Bakery when announcing their own Ukrainian cookie fundraising efforts. The movement even crossed provincial borders when Five Girls Baking in Liverpool, NS thanked Volcano Bakery in a Facebook post for the idea to raise funds through cookies.

“The whole experience actually surprised me, because I had no idea. I thought, you know, we’re just a little bakery in CBS just making these cookies,” remarks Neville. “To know that other people really really did want to help… I just thought it was amazing. It was very heartwarming, for sure.”

St. John’s-based Ukrainian band organizes benefit concert

Ukrainian speed-folk band The Kubasonics are based in St. John’s, and released a new album Kubasongs on March 4. In their online store where the album is available as a CD or on vinyl, the band has added an option that lets you donate to humanitarian aid in Ukraine as part of your purchase. Those online donations are being sent to the Canada-Ukraine Foundation to help people on the ground in Ukraine.

Given the happy, upbeat nature of their music, the band briefly hesitated over whether to go ahead with the album release. But Brian Cherwick, who performs vocals and multiple instruments for The Kubasonics, says they realized it was important to counter Putin’s narrative that there is no Ukraine or Ukrainian culture. “What we play draws on hundreds of years of culture that’s come before us,” explains Cherwick. “To say that it doesn’t exist makes no sense.”

The Kubasonics played two album release shows at The Ship in early March and ended up raising over $1,000 for the Red Cross. But others were ready to lend a bit of musical help, too.

“As soon as this happened, our musician friends reached out to us to say is there anything we can do, anything you need from us,” Cherwick recalls. With acts like Tim Baker and The Once reaching out to offer support, the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre also got on board and offered venue space. In less than two weeks, a benefit concert was speedily organized and held on March 20—raising over $30,000 for the Red Cross.

“We sold all the tickets. It was a sold-out show,” says Cherwick. “I think we sold, like, a third of them on the first day… It was out of this world. First of all, having the best of the best come to help you out was great. But the audience was also the perfect audience.” 

However, the band hopes to see support for Ukraine continue as time goes on. “One of the things that my family here, personally, is afraid of is that—like every other news story—it drops out of people’s consciousness,” Cherwick points out. “We just want to make sure that people still keep thinking about it.”

“We still need to do more. The West still needs to step up more… Write to your MP. Write to the Prime Minister’s Office,” encourages Cherwick. “If our government can say more Canadians all think this is important and we think we can do this because we’ve heard from them, that gives them more freedom to act the way they need to act.”

Fogo Island artist raises thousands through artwork

Just days after Russia first began to invade Ukraine, Adam Young—an artist living on Fogo Island—created a new, original, Ukraine-inspired painting titled “Hearts for Ukraine.”

On February 27 he auctioned the piece on Facebook to raise funds for Voices of Children, a Ukrainian foundation dedicated to helping children affected by the war. The auction closed that night, having raised $25,000 in a single day. In the Facebook post Young says his two daughters were too excited to sleep, clapping and cheering as the bids came in. “They are the same as the kids in Ukraine. The kids in Ukraine are the same as them,” he emphasizes. “We all have to do better, they are watching and they are learning.”

Over the next few days, posts from the Young Studios Facebook page earned hundreds of comments and thousands of shares. With the winning bidder’s consent and in partnership with Moncton-based printer INCOLOR Inc, Young also sold 200 limited edition prints of “Hearts for Ukraine.” By March 1, Young had raised $65,000 in total donations through his artwork.

“The response to this piece has been totally insane,” says Young on Facebook. “I need to thank everyone for their outpouring of support and love for this fundraiser.”

“This has shown me that kindness is contagious and extremely powerful, especially in these times.”

‘Flooded with donations’: Local Ukrainian women ship vital supplies

Anna Moiseienko is a Ukrainian living in St. John’s. Moiseienko came to Newfoundland and Labrador eight years ago with her husband, who is also Ukrainian, and she now works for Eastern Health as a Licensed Practical Nurse. When another Ukrainian woman living in St. John’s (who is also named Anna, but whose last name is being withheld for safety reasons) organized a rally downtown in support of Ukraine, the two Annas realized they wanted to do more.

“We looked at each other, like, this is beautiful but this is not enough,” Moiseienko recalls. “People showing up is a beautiful act to support us here, Ukrainians here, but it doesn’t do much for those who are actually in the bombings and the shelters and the basements, and hungry with no medications… So without any idea how we were going to ship it or how we were going to collect it, we just started throwing ideas at each other—like, what do we need?”

One of the care packages from kids in NL. (Photo submitted.)

Knowing the critical need for medical supplies and basic necessities like clothing or diapers, Moiseienko first turned to a Facebook group of nursing students to ask if anyone could spare any wound care items. “Probably 40 minutes after I sent this little ad on the Facebook group, one of my classmates showed up at my doorstep with $20 and a dressing kit. Since then, things were just dropped off at my house every hour, every day,” Moiseienko says. 

After posting in the nursing students’ group, she decided to post on her profile that she was looking for donations of medical supplies to see if any of her friends could help. But word spread farther and faster than Moiseienko expected. Support began to pour in from all kinds of individuals, businesses, and groups.

“People, total strangers, sending EMTs. Total strangers dropping off items at my doorstep… I was flooded with donations,” describes Moiseienko. Another Ukrainian woman who lives in Harbour Grace also put out a call for donations on Facebook, to add to Moiseienko’s shipment. “We had to make two trips to Harbour Grace to get everything out of there. Two! It was that much.”

It didn’t take long for small acts of support to add up. “We announced that we were going to be collecting donations on February 27, and by the beginning of March it was already gone and done and full,” recalls Moiseienko. “Every little drop made an ocean for our first donation… We had 1000 lbs and we got it packed, labelled, and shipped—in less than five days.”

That speed turned out to be important, as Moiseienko feels the first shipment went out with “perfect timing” before shipping became much more complicated. Now, although they’ve collected another nearly 3000 lbs in donations, it’s taken almost two weeks trying to work out the shipping logistics. “Being a mom and a nurse and packing things and labelling boxes, it’s a lot of work,” admits Moiseienko. But she’s been determined to help because she knows just how dire the situation is on the ground.

“Most of our orphanages in Ukraine have been evacuated. But my city where I’m from, it’s been occupied in a very tight circle and the kids were not evacuated. So there’s an orphanage there with over 50 babies from [age] 0-3, who have nothing,” she explains. “A volunteer called me… pretty much crying, and he’s like, I’ve seen on Facebook what you do. Please, send us some diapers. I have 15 diapers left for the entire orphanage. That’s all I have. I have 15 diapers, can you please send me diapers?” When Moiseienko offered to send money directly so the volunteer could purchase diapers right away, he told her there are no diapers left in the city. 

“So when people bring a bit of baby clothes, a bit of baby shoes, it’s so tremendous. Out of 50 kids, one has shoes now. And that’s a lot, even if it doesn’t sound like it. That child did not have shoes before, and now he does.”

With financial donations, the pair of Annas also enabled a hospital in Ukraine to purchase badly needed anaesthesia. “There was a mass shooting in Nikolaev and there’s a lot of severely wounded kids. The wounds and the damage to the bodies is so extensive that the local hospital just can’t provide any of their care. They have to move those kids to a different city to get them help,” Moiseienko explains. “But before they were able to move those kids, they needed to give them some pain relief—and they had none. They had no anaesthesia at all. No anaesthesia at all. And we’re talking missing limbs, torn-off arms, missing legs, deep deep wounds… Ukraine completely ran out of medicine.”

The experience has been overwhelming, but Moiseienko says it’s also been filled with amazement and gratitude. “It’s amazing how community came together,” she remarks. “They don’t know me. They don’t know my country. They never knew I existed. They never knew Ukraine existed. But they found it in their heart to take those baby shoes and drop them off, to add that pack of socks into their grocery cart and take time and gas to drop it over to my home. People of Newfoundland are—I’ve never, ever heard of anything like this before. Never.”

“I really want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything. For every little donation, for the thought, for the prayer, for money, for baby formula, for diapers, for hugs, and questions on how we’re doing and how we can help. Just a big thank you. I’ve never met a community like here in Newfoundland, never ever. It’s a complete and absolute miracle what I’ve witnessed and I’m honoured to see this unfold right in front of me.”

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Meagan is a writer, thinker, actor, speaker, and sometimes-poet from Cape Breton. Meag calls St. John's home now and works a day job as a tech marketer. They cover undertold or under-rug-swept stories with a penchant for trampling taboos and shining a light on uncomfortable issues.