Hundreds of people showed up at the J.W. Lindsay YMCA in Halifax Saturday to stand in solidarity in support of Ukraine amid the almost three-month-long Russian invasion.
The ‘Halifax Stand With Ukraine’ fundraiser raised tens of thousands of dollars. The final total has yet to be revealed. Prior to the online auction closing, it had raised over $40,000.
For Kateryna Skipor, who was born and raised in Kyiv before moving to Nova Scotia in 2016, it was an opportunity to avoid watching the news and be able to feel the public’s support.
“My family and friends are still in Ukraine so this is very near and dear to me to be here,” she says. “(The fundraiser is) not only helping to raise money and showcase Ukrainian culture, and what we have to offer to the Canadian community, it’s about just keeping my mind occupied.”
While it feels that the Maritimes is far from the war, Skipor sang and played piano for the audience, giving them a sense of her country’s people.
“It’s about real people, real people who want to live a normal life,” Skipor says. “They need support and they need it now.”
It doesn’t have to just be financial support, she says. It can also be volunteering to support Ukrainians, supporting local Ukrainian artists or banning Russian products.
Thankfully, her family “is relatively lucky” because they were able to flee at the start of the invasion. She stays in contact with them daily.
Others, like Yana Kaplina, find themselves in different positions. Kaplina is thankful to have relocated to Nova Scotia two weeks ago with her two young sons.
“Since meeting my new friends in Canada, I have a new job, my (children) go to school and have new friends,” she says. But it’s not easy. Her husband and the rest of her family remain in the war-torn country.
“We have bombs, Russian bombs,” she says. “It’s very terrible. I’m worried about my family.”
Supporting Ukrainian culture and raising money is a way to help for people without ties to the country.
“The solidarity of presence, I think, is important and to say that ‘you are not alone,'” says Halifax resident Kim King.
“In whatever small way we can, that’s why we’re here — just to show support,” says her friend Karen Lorraine.
“I’m one of the many who have just kind of been jumping in and doing what we can,” says Justin Cottreau, a volunteer for the Halifax Stand With Ukraine fundraiser, “because they recognize the need for Canadians, Haligonians, to step up and do their part.”
The fundraiser started out as just a small community market, but it grew significantly, says Stanislav Serebriakov, an event coordinator.
“We could never expect it would be at this scale,” he says.
Proceeds from the event go to Come Back Alive, a charity supporting the Ukrainian forces and training.