Edmonton sisters sell t-shirts to help those under threat in Ukraine

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The hearts, souls and boundless energy of two Edmonton sisters are working overtime to help Ukrainian friends and families threatened by Russian artillery and missiles.

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“I am very lucky to have a Ukrainian bank card and although donations to organizations are very important, I know that my funds will help people who are dear to us,” says Stefania Kostiuk.

Kostiuk and his partner from Edmonton, Johnnie Samycia, were both teaching in Kiev before fleeing to stay with a friend in the Italian Apennines just before the February 24 Russian invasion.

“The prospect of a major humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is growing as people have lived for days without gas, electricity, food and water,” Kostiuk says.

“I offered online lessons to some children in Kiev this week and I plan to continue doing so for the next two weeks. I believe it gives children the opportunity to meet each other and express their feelings or simply to take a break and distract from the sirens of war and air raid.

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“I have students calling me worried that their house will be bombed while they sleep. Fourteen-year-olds shouldn’t think like that.

Kostiuk and Samycia had planned to get married in Lviv, Ukraine next year, but their plans are now on hold.

“Depending on the end result of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, we will return to Kyiv when it is safe to do so or we will return to Edmonton and continue to support Ukraine from there,” he said. Kostiuk.

Kostiuk and her sister Natalia say their family spoke mostly Ukrainian when they grew up in Edmonton and celebrated or recognized many Ukrainian holidays or commemorations.

Natalia also returned to Edmonton last summer with her partner Dylan Cliff, after teaching in Kyiv, and says she was lucky to have Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s two children among her students.

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“Dylan and I are now leading a huge family effort to design and sell T-shirts in support of the extremely patriotic Ukrainian people,” says Natalia. “We hope to expand into making crewnecks, hoodies, hats and keychains..”

“Dylan’s parents are involved with mine, Melodia and Sam Kostiuk, who sing with the Viter Ukrainian Choir of Edmonton.

Natalia Kostiuk and Dylan Cliff wear the t-shirts they sell to support the Friends of Ukraine Defense Forces Fund.  T-shirts available at Standwithukraineproject@gmail.com
Natalia Kostiuk and Dylan Cliff wear the t-shirts they sell to support the Friends of Ukraine Defense Forces Fund. T-shirts available at [email protected] Photo by Fourni

The t-shirts were sold Saturday night at a Viter Ukrainian Dancers and Folk Choir’s Ribbons of Promise: An Evening of Solidarity party, held at the Meridian Banquets & Conference Center to raise funds for the Humanitarian Appeal for Ukraine.

Proceeds from the t-shirts will go to the Friends of the Ukrainian Defense Forces Fund to help supply Ukraine with non-lethal weapons.

“We bought blank t-shirts and added our original designs, with well-known images and phrases created during the conflict,” says Natalia.

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Phrases include: ‘In solidarity with Ukraine’, an image of President Zelenskyy with the words ‘I need ammunition, not a round’ and the Ukrainian Message from the soldiers of Smoke Island, “Russian warship, fuck you.”

The t-shirts range from infant sizes to 3XL and sell for $35. T-shirts can be ordered at: [email protected]

Former Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach and his wife Marie in Ukrainian national dress at the Ukrainian village.
Former Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach and his wife Marie in Ukrainian national dress at the Ukrainian village. Photo by Fourni

Stelmach reaches out

Former Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is mobilizing to help incredibly resilient Ukrainians who are fighting Russian forces seeking to take control of their country.

“The support from Albertans has been tremendous, with cash donations and many offers to welcome refugees here in Alberta,” said Stelmach, who was on the 13and premier of Alberta from 2006 to 2011.

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Stelmach is the volunteer chair of a sub-committee established by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress-Alberta Provincial Council (UCC-APC) in 1974 as a non-profit association.

“Today, our subcommittee represents over 360,000 Albertans of Ukrainian descent and we have a provincial mandate to raise public awareness and mobilize support among Albertans to defend Ukraine as an independent, sovereign and democratic,” says Stelmach.

“We are helping the UCC-APC to collect humanitarian aid now and we will continue after the end of the war in Ukraine. We will also help welcome and integrate war refugees into Alberta society.

There is no doubt that Stelmach is the right man for the job, say his fellow Ukrainians, noting that he is the grandson of a couple from the village of Zavedche, Ukraine.

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Stelmach spoke no English until he went to school and, as a Catholic, continues to attend church regularly, singing in the church choir and acting as a volunteer cemetery caretaker.

“The amount of aid we can offer Ukrainians affected by the Russian invasion is difficult to predict because no one knows when the war will end and how many people will be displaced,” the former prime minister said.

“But we are definitely reaching out to Ukrainians who want to help. People called from Hong Kong and offers came in from California and Florida.

To make a donation, go to Canada-Ukraine Foundation website.

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