Local organizations in Kelowna gathered together Saturday afternoon during an expo at the Ukrainian Catholic Church to showcase Ukrainian culture as a way to salute the country.
The expo was put together by the Bravery Foundation, which is a co-operative of local community organizations to support Ukraine and displaced Ukrainians who’ve fled the war and made the Okanagan home.
“Today is about bringing all the organizations that have been helping Ukraine, last year, together,” said Bonnie Penner, Bravery Foundation founder. “So that the people in the Okanagan can see what we’ve all accomplished and so that going forward, they can find a way to participate with helping Ukraine.”
The expo featured a variety of Ukrainian goods, including food, candy, clothes, and heirlooms. Everything was available by donation, and those donations will help Ukrainians both here and in Ukraine.
“All the money raised will go to various different initiatives — some will go to displaced Ukrainians here in the Okanagan, some will go to purchasing medical supplies for Ukraine itself,” said Penner.
As the war enters its second year, some fear support for Ukraine will begin to fade.
“The desire to help Ukrainians and Ukraine is hopefully coming back,” said Denys Storozhuk, President of Kelowna Stands with Ukraine.
“But what happened a year ago and the support that we get now is day and night, it’s much less. It’s completely psychological, people get tired of this war and I can understand that.”
Since the war began last February, the Kelowna Stands with Ukraine Organization has raised just over $400,000.
“Three-quarters of this money if not more was used to buy supplies for Ukraine — body armor in the beginning and then water filters, generators. But now we are more focused on helping Ukrainians here,” said Storozhuk.
Another local organization, which donated an ambulance to Ukraine last year, is in the process of purchasing another one that’s so big, volunteers describe it as a “hospital on wheels.”
“It can save lots of lives on the front lines, same with civilians. It can help more people. This bus can help five to seven people,” said Uliana Kotser, a volunteer with the group We Help Ukraine.