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Longboat Key Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2022 5 months ago

Ukrainians on Longboat Key organize donations, information

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As they try to help their people from afar, Longboat Key's Ukrainian community have become de facto experts.
by: Nat Kaemmerer Staff Writer

The more Easter eggs, or pysanky, are made the story goes, the tighter the bonds on an evil creature of Ukrainian legend get, and the less evil flows through the world. The fewer the eggs, the looser the bonds and the more evil seeps out. Roksolana Tymiak-Lonchyna is hoping to help tighten those bonds to help her homeland as war in Ukraine rages on. 

“Easter eggs were banned in the USSR, so after its collapse people started to bring out the old traditions. … The egg is the power of life and the yolk is like the sun,” Tymiak-Lonchyna said. “It’s a very powerful talisman.” 

She’s made many and put them in Design 2000, owned by fellow Ukrainian Irina LaRose, and in Driftwood Beach Home and Garden, where she taught a class on them last year. For a donation of $50 that goes to Ukrainian orphanages and funds for soldiers’ equipment, those interested can pick an egg that Tymiak-Lonchyna made herself. It’s not the only talisman of hope and support she’s tried to bring to her community; she’s also made blue and yellow ribbons for LaRose to pass out at the salon. 

“I had the idea when I was sitting in traffic to do ribbons for awareness, like for breast cancer,” LaRose said. “I called Roksolana (Tymiak-Lonchyna) whom I’d only met about twice and by the time I made it through traffic she had brought a batch.” 

The Ukrainian community on Longboat Key may be hurting, but they’re trying to put their grief into donating, educating and speaking up to try to help their people. Oksana Bashuk Hepburn, who has lived in Longboat Key for 30 years, said her friends are holding demonstrations, talking to reporters and calling colleagues in Ukraine every day. The social and political will to help has to stay strong, she said. 

“I think we know how to help and we’re good at it, but the bottom line is to stop Putin,” Bashuk Hepburn said. “The big players need to step in because our help is wonderful, but it’s not the way to stop it.” 

There’s a sense of deja vu amongst Ukrainians, who heard their parents’ stories of fleeing as teenagers and watched the Revolution of Dignity in the mid-2010s. Social media has helped the world tune in and realize what’s happening, and Anisa Mycak has seen friends and neighbors acting as a microcosm of the global desire to help as the reality of the situation sinks in. Ukrainians have been fighting for their independence for years and the world is now tuning in. 

“It’s already been a difficult century,” Tymiak-Lonchyna said. “Their first attempt at independence was thwarted … Stalin instituted a forced famine on Ukrainian farmers and he destroyed the Ukrainian churches … and Russia took over parts of Ukraine they had not previously controlled. So it’s been a difficult history, so when Putin says he wants to destroy the country, we believe him. Previously it was soldiers and propaganda and exile and now it’s like total destruction.”

Ukrainians such as Mycak, Bashuk Hepburn, LaRose and Tymiak-Lonchyna have been serving as the resident experts on Ukraine of their individual communities. They’re directing friends where to donate, and there are plenty of places. One pressing need is equipment for soldiers, Mycak said, and the need for humanitarian aid and medical supplies is dire as well. 

“One friend said to me a week or two ago, ‘What can I do to help? I would really like to buy a Javelin (anti-tank weapon) to send it straight up to Putin,’” Mycak said. “We can’t send that kind of equipment out of the country, it’s illegal, but as of yesterday I know how he can buy armor and vests and helmets, so I’m going to give him that information and hopefully that will satisfy him.”

There must be a creative international solution, Mycak said, and more must be done. Otherwise, there will be no end, said Bashuk Hepburn. Ukrainians need help to try to prevail, and the best citizens can do is try to step in and urge the globe’s big players to do the same.

“You don’t have to be Ukrainian to fight for democracy,” Bashuk Hepburn said. 

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