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'We can't send bombs, but we can send dollars'

St. Albert restaurant rallies to raise money for Ukraine
1603 Ukraine Fundraiser 2 ab CC
Orysia Wozniak and family, owners of Taste of Ukraine, are hosting Perogies in the Park, a fundraiser for Ukraine, on Sunday, March 20, 2022. ANNA BOROWIECKI/St. Albert Gazette

A family-owned and operated restaurant in St. Albert is helping raise money for Ukraine with their weapon of choice — great food and compassion. Orysia and George Wozniak, owners of the long-established Taste of Ukraine, are hosting Perogies in the Parking Lot on Sunday, March 20. 

“We are responding to the many calls and inquires we have received in the days since the unthinkable Russian invasion of Ukraine. What started as an unprovoked invasion of innocent, peace-loving people has now escalated into a full-out ruthless genocidal war of hatred against the Ukraine and its people,” said Orysia, the family spokesperson. 

Normally, Taste of Ukraine is closed on Sunday. However, the couple, their children and spouses are mobilizing all their talents in the kitchen and outside to create a successful fundraiser. Even chef Volodya Moroz insisted on working on his day off. 

“He said, ‘Take my pay,’ and he’s barely making ends meet. But he’s willing to donate his pay for the cause,” said Orysia. 

Although born and raised in Canada, the Wozniaks still celebrate close ties with relatives living in Ukraine. Some have escaped the horror. Others are trapped, fearful of their lives and those around them. 

“We are doing this fundraiser because we can’t sit here idle and commiserate. We need to physically do something. It’s a tiny drop in a big bucket. But if everybody does something, it will amount to something bigger and the help will go where it’s needed — to the people who have lost it all,” Orysia said. 

She admits to drinking more coffee than usual to stay awake for nightly transatlantic calls. And they are always filled with tears. Some stemming from anger and frustration. Others from relief. 

One family that escaped to freedom was Orysia’s sister-in-law, Olena, with two daughters Oksana and Masha. The trio lived in Odessa, a port city on the Black Sea in southern Ukraine. In dealing with the daily bombardment and terror, families in their apartment escaped to a restaurant constructed in the complex’s basement. 

“People brought all their supplies — whatever they had and put it in the underground restaurant. Every time the sirens would go off, they would make a beeline for the basement until the sirens were quieted. Fortunately, they never did get hit.”  

When the shelling started, a friend in Prague offered the trio sanctuary. At first, they hesitated, but constant sirens and shelling three or four times a night prompted the flight. It took four days to travel from Odessa through to Moldova to Hungary and finally the Czech Republic. 

“Imagine. Just three women and a dog. They couldn’t leave the dog.” 

Olenka, another elderly cousin, is still trapped in Ukraine. Olenka and her husband purchased an apartment in Kviv, the capital, to be near grandchildren. The apartment needed a great deal of work before it was completed. 

“They celebrated New Year’s Day in the new apartment. Two months later, they are displaced in a village close to the Slovakian border. The building is still standing and one of their contacts who refused to leave goes every day to water the plants.” 

Perogies in the Park is the Wozniaks' expression of love, empathy, and sincere concern for the well-being of all Ukrainians who are uprooted and suffer the atrocities of this war. 

“We will be grilling Ukrainian sausages in the parking lot and putting together take-away boxes of perogies and kovbasa sausage for people driving by who want not only to pick up a quick meal, but while doing so contribute to a humanitarian cause.” 

The charge is $20 per meal and 100 per cent of proceeds go directly to the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. The agency works for the Canadian-Ukrainian Foundation (CUF), the charitable arm of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. 

“People are going through waves of sadness and anger, and they build up. You can’t let one or the other overtake you. You must take the most effective route and that’s what we’re doing here. We can’t send bombs, but we can send dollars.” 

The fundraiser will run Sunday from 12 noon to 6 p.m. Taste of Ukraine is at 516 St. Albert Trail.   

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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