Longtime festival for West Hollywood’s Russian community pivots to help Ukraine’s refugees

As it has for more than two decades, West Hollywood had planned to put on a festival Sunday to celebrate Russian art and culture in honor of one of the city’s largest immigrant groups.

This winter, however, was the first since Russia invaded Ukraine. It sparked a war that killed thousands of people, and more than 6,000,000 refugees. “Russia” “festival”The same sentence was used to describe the taboo.

City officials instead recast this year’s event as a fundraiser for Ukrainian refugees, pairing free activities for children (face painting, magicians, carnival games) with a silent auction and exhibit booths for humanitarian aid groups to collect donations.

Dasha Orlova, left, attempts on a flower crown, a traditional Ukrainian headpiece. Angelica Kotliar assists in a fundraiser for Ukrainian refugees.

(Wally Skalij/ Los Angeles Times).

“The point of all of this is for us to help those who are in need right now,” said Eugene Maysky, who came to Southern California from St. Petersburg seven years ago and now chairs West Hollywood’s Russian Advisory Board.

West Hollywood has long laid claim to having the largest concentration of Russian-speaking residents outside of New York, with the city’s east end a hub of emigres from the former Soviet Union, including Latvia, Georgia, Russian Federation, Belarus and Ukraine.

“There’s no rhyme or reason or any point to do this, because we all have relatives in both countries,”Maysky spoke out about the ongoing war. “For us, it’s like one hand trying to kill another hand.”

Under the sun at Plummer Park, guests munched on pelmeni dumplings and Lithuanian ice cream at tables adorned in blue and yellow, in homage to Ukraine’s flag. Images of blooming sunflowers — Ukraine’s national flower — decorated the stage. Some people wore sunflower crowns, draped Ukrainian flags above their shoulders, and struck notes with their Tshirts that expressed pain, solidarity, defiance, and a touch humor. One read: “My wife is Ukrainian. Nothing scares me.”

Julia Stadnik (the Ukrainian word for bridge) was among the booths in the park. She is vice president at Meest shipping company. Since the war broke out, Stadnik said she and her family, who run a Glendale outpost of Meest, leveraged their decades of logistics experience and networks in Poland and Germany to help ship more than 100,000 tons of humanitarian aid — clothes, food and “anything for the army.”

The Matryoshka Kids perform at a fundraiser for Ukrainian refugees

The Matryoshka Kids perform during a West Hollywood fundraiser for Ukrainian refugees.

(Wally Skalij/ Los Angeles Times).

“It’s stressful,”Stadnik, who was raised in L.A. but whose parents are from Lviv in western Ukraine, said that he was born in L.A. Many relatives remain in Ukraine, although they are on the more tranquil west side. “But a cousin is getting trained for the army and prepared,” Stadnik said. “They are all worried.”

Stadnik let passersby know that they could buy care packages of food and flowers to send to Ukraine. The company also offered the possibility for the public to give money directly to it to help fund ongoing aid shipments.

“Humanitarian aid is still getting brought,”She explained that she was referring specifically to clothing and other goods donated. “But the funding to get it overseas is the difficult part.”

Volunteers were selling dozens upon vyshyvanka (a traditional embroidered shirt) at another booth. A Reseda physician, Dr. Alex Fridman, had purchased the shirts directly from Ukraine, and all the proceeds from Sunday’s sales were paying for refugee children to attend Camp Gesher, a Jewish summer camp in Malibu. The silent auction’s proceeds were also supporting attendance at the camp, said Dina Gontar, the longtime event producer.

The festival was a “huge”Gontar acknowledged that there has been a shift in the tenor over the years, but she was not certain what the future would bring. “Hopefully the war will be over, and we’ll live in a peaceful time.”

Victoria Pindrik found the fundraiser a way to remind people about the need to help. Pindrik started the Save Ukraine Relief Fund charity on the second day after the war. The group has since completed over 1,000 emergency evacuations and assisted refugees at U.S.-Mexico borders.

People enjoy the day at a fundraiser for Ukrainian refugees in West Hollywood Sunday

Some people wore sunflower crowns, wore Ukrainian flags draped over their shoulders, and struck notes with their Tshirts that expressed pain, solidarity and defiance. One read: “My wife is Ukrainian. Nothing scares me.”

(Wally Skalij/ Los Angeles Times).

Known as SURF — an homage to its base in California — the organization has become a hub for refugees in need of food, aid, jobs and help with paperwork. Though Pindrik observed a surge of support in the early weeks of Russia’s invasion, as time passes she sees diminished interest.

“It’s become a part of daily life — ‘Oh, another rocket,’ ”She spoke. “But for those with friends and family on the front lines, they don’t know if they’ll hear their voice tomorrow.”

Sunday’s festival and fundraiser, she said, was to remind people, “We are here and available.”

Maysky, Russian Advisory Board, extended the metaphor of family, hoping that in the face an “absurd”The fundraiser could encourage more unity among Russian-speaking people.

“We’ve always been siblings — brothers and sisters,”He said. “It’s not like everything’s always perfect, but like siblings, in the end, we stand up for each other because we love each other.”

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.