Harlem Valley stands in solidarity with Ukraine

War highlights the worst in humankind. Yet it can also bring out the best.

Case in point? The tremendous efforts of some of our local residents, businesses, churches and other organizations that have been scrambling at breakneck speed to collect monetary donations; send emergency supplies and medicine; raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis; evacuate orphans; and assist the traumatized and terrified victims of the now-besieged nation of Ukraine from halfway around the world.

As of Feb. 24, Russia launched a military invasion of Ukraine, forcing more than 1 million Ukrainians to flee their native land, according to multiple media reports as of Friday, March 4. Even more incredible, according to Polish-born Millerton resident André Wlodar, almost 80,000 Ukrainian men have gone back to their homeland to fight.

“Have you ever seen bravery like that?” he asked. “The whole world is united… The outpouring of goodwill is amazing.”

Indeed it is, as evidenced by André and his wife, Kim Schmidt-Wlodar. The pair have been going door-to-door in the Millerton business district asking for contributions or any form of support toward the Ukrainian war relief effort that people can muster.

Whether that entails monetary donations; the selling of Ukrainian pins, flags or other materials to raise funds; or, come this Saturday, March 12, a fundraiser at the RE Institute from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Tickets cost $150.

The event will take place at the spacious barn-come-art studio of Millerton sculptor Henry Klimowicz, located at 1395 Boston Corners Road.

There will be food donated and prepared by some of the top chefs in the area, including from Jerry and Jack Peele of Herondale Farm; Mary O’Brien of Chaiwalla; Michel and Patricia from Champetre; and Jacuterie; as well as top art to admire and buy. All are donating their talents for one of the most dire humanitarian crisis we’ve had to grapple with in generations. To learn more, read this week’s front page.

Readers will also learn Wlodar has also been wiring money every few days directly to Ukraine and Poland, to help Ukrainian orphans re-establish themselves with helpers in Poland. He has also been collecting whatever support available, as we stated, from local businesses, organizations and individuals, who have been incredibly generous.

He is working with 501(C)3 organizations like Sunflower of Peace, the World Central Kitchen (founded by celebrity chef José Andrés), the Wayair Foundation and Razom, to ensure funds go to proven and vetted nonprofits. Both the Wayair Foundation and Razom are helping to evacuate orphans from Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities to Poland.

There have been other efforts around the Harlem Valley made in the past 15 days (as of Thursday, March 10, our publication date) since the war broke out to show local residents’ solidarity with Ukraine.

The South Amenia Church in Wassaic held a candlelight vigil on Sunday morning, Feb. 27. Pastor Zora Ficarra-Cheatham acknowledged few attended the intimate service, but said those who did had “a passion for peace and support for the courageous people of Ukraine.”

The congregants said prayers, sang hymns and lit candles while singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” Packets of sunflower seeds, the national flower of Ukraine, were distributed to all who attended as an offer of hope and peace during this time of suffering. The church plans to hold another service on Good Friday, April 15, at 7 p.m. All are welcome.

Just over the mountain in the village of Millbrook, a group of residents likewise gathered in solidarity against the Putin regime, at the corner of Front Street and Franklin Avenue. Their signs protesting Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine even caught the eye of one family at the Millbrook Diner, the mom originally from Ukraine.

Ruslana Rossi now lives in NYC with her family. They were simply driving though the Hudson Valley last week, stopping in Millbrook for lunch in the quaint village.

Having immigrated from Ukraine in the late ‘70s when only 7, thoughts of her homeland are never far away, she said, especially now with the war. So when Ruslana saw the group of protesters gathered near the bus stop on Sunday, rallying against the conflict, it meant a lot. She joined them, touched residents from our area took it upon themselves to make a stand about an issue on the other side of the globe.

Millbrook resident Lydia Anne Binotto had arranged the rally to show support for Ukraine and its people -— both those forced to flee and those who chose to fight.

All of these efforts — the fundraising, the vigils, the rallies — they show the true heart of the Harlem Valley.

We stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, and hope the war there will end quickly and the lives lost will be few.

As of Sunday, March 6, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that more than 360 Ukrainian civilians had been killed since Russia invaded their country on Feb. 24. Counts of Ukrainian and Russian troop fatalities vary according to the source.

We just want to see the war cease, and the humanitarian crisis end.

Those who can attend the March 12 fundraiser in Millerton are encouraged to do so; those who can’t may be able to support the war relief efforts differently.

To learn about other ways to do so, check out a few of these websites, just to get you started: www.sunflowerofpeace.com; www.unicefusa.org; www.doctorswithoutborders.org; www.icrc.org; www.unrefugees.org; www.give.internationalmedicalcorps.org; and www.unicefusa.org.

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