Story by Mary Rose Kaczorowski
I am a first generation Polish American, and this was going to be the year for my first-ever visit to the place where my father was born. At that time, Tarnopol was part of Poland. Ternopil, as it is called now, is one of Western Ukraine’s major cities, and is a historic region that was once part of Galicia under the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The ever-shifting borders in this region
under past empires is complicated.
Alone we can do so little;Helen Keller
together we can do so much.
In 1939, the Nazi (Hitler) and Russian (Stalin) invasion of Poland that started World War II wreaked havoc across this region. My father’s family—my grandparents, aunts, and uncles—were all murdered by the Stalin regime. My father escaped this fate, only to be captured by the Nazis and forced into their system of slave labor. After being liberated by the British, he was brought to a displaced persons camp in Germany until a family in the U.S. sponsored him and welcomed him as a refugee. I looked forward to honoring my father and family by at last visiting their birthplace, then reluctantly, because of the uncertain status of the COVID pandemic, I decided to postpone my trip until 2023. Two weeks later, Putin invaded Ukraine—an unprovoked action that shocked the world. Like everyone, I was horrified and baffled about what I could possibly do to alleviate the suffering this reprise of 1939 was inflicting on Ukraine’s population, its children, its cities and villages, its entire culture, and democracy itself.
Then in early March, a network of international women’s organizations that I am affiliated with hosted a conversation on Zoom: “Women, Peace and Security in the Face of Russian Aggression: Perspectives from Ukraine.” We listened to heartbreaking stories of women who fled Ukraine to safety in other countries.
Mariya Tuczyk was still in Ukraine. She spoke to us from the municipality of Kopychyntsi. “We are already seeing the need for immense humanitarian aid for our internally displaced persons, most of whom are women and children,” said Mariya, “We see a lot of people are already focusing on refugees, but we need much more focus on helping Ukrainians who remain in Ukraine. Efforts [are needed] to help us provide better living conditions and improve the capacity in [the] western part of the nation, because many plan to return to Ukraine.” In discussing the spin of the news cycles, Mariya appealed to us: “Please don’t forget about us.” Several of us then decided to ensure that these women’s stories go further.
I called Alicia Bales at KZYX&Z Radio to ask if they could help. Alicia told me that Johanna Wildoak was planning to air a program about Ukraine on her “Wildoak Living” interview show. Serendipity! Johanna and I connected on the air on March 10 and we used the power of community radio to interview Mariya live from Ukraine. [Interview is still available on KZYX Jukebox, March 10, 9:00 a.m.] Mariya, under the constant threat of air raids, told us how she and her husband, the mayor of their town, were coping and had mobilized to supply the areas under siege. Thousands leaving from the war zones were arriving to stay with friends and family in Kopychyntsi or were on their way to surrounding areas or to the border. She spoke movingly of “communities helping communities.”
On a subsequent “Wildoak Living” program (March 24), we interviewed Lisa Harvey from the non-governmental organization (NGO) Nowa Ukraine. Nowa Ukraine, based in Stanford, California, is organizing relief efforts to help Ukrainian refugees, and is getting medical, surgical, and other critical items to key areas in Ukraine. We also gave an update on how our own Mendocino County community is stepping up to support the Ukrainian people.
Here are just a few:
- Harvest Market in Fort Bragg and Harvest at Mendosa’s in Mendocino partnered with the Mendocino Rotary Club to raise over $13,000. The donations were sent to the Rotary Club of Starnberg, Germany which is providing medical aid to Ukrainian refugees in Germany.
- The Adventist Health Spiritual Care Chaplains led a “Prayer for peace and healing in Ukraine” event at each of three Adventist Health hospital campuses in Mendocino County.
- Scott Miller has his mobile tool, scissors, and knife sharpening van at Fort Bragg’s Wednesday Farmers Market and at Ukiah’s Saturday Market. He has already donated over $500 from proceeds of his services to the International Rescue Committee’s emergency aid to Ukraine.
- Julie Apostolu, General Manager of Mendocino County Farmers Market Association, created colorful hand-painted stone paperweights with hearts and sunflowers and colors of the Ukrainian flag for a donation to benefit the World Central Kitchen, which has been serving meals to families traveling great distances and waiting for hours at border crossings in Poland, in Romania, and Moldova.
- Businesses along the coast are displaying Ukrainian flag colors, peace altars, donation cans, and other gestures of solidarity.
I wondered who was behind the blue and yellow banners and the Ukrainian flag festooning Rotary Park in the village of Mendocino? David Gross [retired MUSD educator] happened to be driving by as I was photographing a set of the banners, and it turned out that he and other locals were doing this. Later in a phone call, Dave explained that he, Barry Cusick, and Milt Mendez got ladders and put up the Ukrainian flag in Rotary Park with permission from the Mendocino Rotary Club. The flag was hand sewn by Dave’s neighbor Joan Venturi, made of material he bought at Sew and Sew, the local fabric shop.
“When I heard of the Russian invasion,” said Dave, “my first thought was what can I do?
Then, maybe Mendocino can show some support for the Ukrainian people by putting up blue and yellow banners, the colors of Ukraine.” Dave has been working with Matt Rowland and other local businesses to do just that.
Meredith Smith, owner of Mendocino Café, after listening to the radio interviews with Mariya Tuczyk and Lisa Harvey, told me she, too, began thinking about what she could do: “Maybe a fundraiser—and what that would look like under COVID safety protocols for a large gathering?” Meredith floated ideas via email to the community and…the date is set! Mendocino Café and Mendocino Rotary are inviting all to the village of Mendocino’s Rotary Park on Sunday, May 1, from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. for food, drink, music, and a silent auction. Their “Stand with Ukraine!” community benefit will aid the people of Ukraine. Dave Gross is working on that, too!
I called Fifth District Mendocino County Board of Supervisor Ted Williams and asked if our county Board of Supervisors (BOS) could draft a proclamation supporting the people of Ukraine? He said Let’s do it, and I sent him some examples of proclamations that were being issued from around the world. Williams took it from there and drafted and co-sponsored a proclamation with First District Supervisor Glenn McGourty. Echoing my own outrage and sorrow, McGourty said, “This is a tragedy. If you look at history, this is like old Stalin tactics when Russia invaded back in WWII. Women were raped. Men were shot and whole families disappeared.” On April 5, the BOS ratified their proclamation: “Supporting and standing in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.” McGourty thanked the BOS for supporting this resolution, remarking, “I am second generation Ukrainian American, and this item is a small token of support for people subject to the horrors of yet another vicious person …And people must speak out to condemn this situation—[this] affront on humanity, rights, dignity, and democracy.”
On April 11, the Fort Bragg City Council followed with their own proclamation. Vice Mayor Jessica-Morsell Haye and City Clerk June Lemos helped to connect Mariya Tuczyk to the city council meeting and Mariya was able to deliver a powerful speech to the assembly, despite it being 4:00 a.m. in her time zone and under conditions of war. I was presented the proclamation by the Vice Mayor. I promised to get it somehow to the people of Kopychyntsi. In the meantime, I emailed Mariya a facsimile of the proclamation. In gratitude, I presented a Ukrainian flag to the city of Fort Bragg. Each council member and staff present at this meeting received a “Stand with Ukraine” poster designed by Janet Allinger of Santa Cruz, California, thanks to the thoughtfulness of Marylyn Motherbear Scott.
Marylyn, a well-known poet and writer based here on the coast, shared with me that in listening to Mariya on Johanna’s “Wildoak Living” radio show and the discussion of how to help Ukraine, Marylyn thought of her friend, Janet Allinger. Janet and Marylyn’s eldest daughter, Trynt, are best friends. “I knew Janet as an artist of both fine and digital work,” said Marylyn in an email she sent to me. “When I heard about the potential of creating a support group from our community to Ukraine, I got in touch with Janet and in a matter of days, she had turned her talents toward the tender yet bold poster.” The poster is an illustration of a child, and as Marylyn describes, “A poignant expression of the child touches the heart, [wearing] the jacket emblazoned with the cries for peaceful support, sunflower in the hat—we are drawn into the plight of the youngest of the war’s victims. The impact of art as a silent language, the language of heart and emotions, does work,” she added. The powerful posters are being shared online and are going into the windows of shops and restaurants.
Before going to press with this story, I met Fort Bragg Police Chief John Naulty and his staff outside the Fort Bragg Police Station, where they had just raised the Ukrainian flag. Naulty was at the city council meeting where I presented the Ukrainian flag to the council and had decided then to ask for the flag. “Putting a Ukrainian flag up, to fly it outside our building here at the Fort Bragg Police Department, is an honor for the staff and the officers,” he said. “When I saw Mariya Tuczyk speak to us, she talked about the fear, and I was thinking, What if something like that happened to us? Kudos to the Adventist Health hospital for having ceremonies to share thoughts and prayers for peace in Ukraine. I was honored to be invited to that. This gave people an opportunity to express their feelings.”
As we know, the need is greater than ever—the invasion and bombing of Ukraine has taken an unimaginable toll and, horrifyingly, is even intensifying, with five million fleeing their homes.
I have been in contact with Mariya’s brother who resides in Canada. He is collecting funds to get direct aid to Kopychyntsi. He explained to me that the donations are tracked and support managing the needs of internally displaced people, supporting those on the frontlines with medicine and food via partners in Poland who buy the supplies and bring them overland to Kopychyntsi. To help Kopychyntsi, I have set up a fund (not tax deductible).
To donate: Designate a check to: Mary Rose Kaczorowski, write in the memo: “Stand w/Kopychyntsi,” and mail to Mary Rose Kaczorowski, P.O. Box 1684, Fort Bragg, CA 95437.
Nowa Ukraine is also helping with animal rescue efforts and providing families with emergency water, sanitation, and hygiene kits. The Nowa Ukraine team will appreciate support from all of you. For general Inquiries, go to https://novaukraine.org