I’m incredibly grateful for all the cash donations I received from my Pilates students, friends, colleagues, and members of my family. Thank you for caring for Ukraine. Because of your generosity we were able to raise $2,350 in 10 days. On May 16th, the money was sent by MoneyGram directly to the DOF Volunteer Center in Mykolaiv.
A strategically valuable ship building city on the Black Sea, Mykolaiv is situated in the south of Ukraine, right near Russian-occupied Kherson. It is also a ‘stepping stone’ for Russia to get to Odessa, the largest Ukrainian seaport, and as a consequence has been under attack from the beginning of the war.
Victoria Goncharenko, the Pilates teacher who helped me set up this initiative, sent me an email on May 12th about Mykolaiv: “The region is under constant attack and sirens are non-stop in the city. They haven’t had running water for weeks now and the infrastructure is barely hanging on.” (The city’s water pipeline was damaged in the fighting.)
Victoria was born and raised in Mykolaiv. She spent time in Kyiv, where she pursued a career as a professional ballet dancer, before immigrating to Canada in 1998. She remembers a beautiful old city nestled around two rivers; the main ship building core with an important Shipbuilding Museum. She shared memories with me of seeing enormous ships passing on the rivers from or on the way to the Black Sea. Many of her relatives still live in Mykolaiv.
The DOF Volunteer Center in Mykolaiv, where our donation was sent, has a team of volunteer specialists, from engineers to locksmiths, who go out and help soldiers and their families. They also distribute food and supplies to the civilians who serve as the area guardians when they’re on duty, as well as the elderly and sick, and other people in need. Dmytro Davydenko, a ship pilot turned volunteer, and a main coordinator for the DOF center, wrote Victoria to say they will use our donation to purchase much needed military sleeping mats for the heroic men and women who are currently on the frontline trying to protect their city. Although the DOF website is in Ukrainian only, at the bottom of the home page there is a short BBC video about the dire situation in Mykolaiv at https://www.dof.mk.ua/. There are some compelling photos of the work the center does on the DOF Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/dof_center/. The photos above were was published in The Kyiv Independent on May 25th, 2022. www.kyivindependent.com
From the story told on our television screens and media feeds, we often get the impression that all civilians have left Ukraine. This is not the case. Many people have stayed behind, even in dangerous places like Mykolaiv. Know that your generous cash donations will be put to great use. If you missed this chance to help, please contact me. Cash donations can still be made as the need for provisions and medications is great. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
On another note: I have not been able to locate the Ukrainian artist, Zinchenko, whose paintings I bought on my visit to Kyiv. He was selling his paintings right on the pavement of Kyiv’s cobbled tourist street Andriyivky Uzviz (Andrew’s Descent.). While many artists sell their work on this street, Zinchenko’s large stunning oils jumped out at me because of their colours and the emotion they conveyed. I hope and pray that when I return to Kyiv one day, I can find him there again. One of Zinchenko’s joyful paintings of flowers: