Community comes together to celebrate Ukrainian independence despite waging war

Published: Aug. 28, 2022 at 4:56 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 29, 2022 at 12:00 AM EDT
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WEST ASHLEY, S.C. (WCSC) - Ukrainian Independence Day and six months after Russia first invaded Ukraine both fell on the same day this week, now community members are coming together to honor the country.

Charleston residents who have family in Ukraine, are former citizens of the country or simply care about the conflict occurring, gathered at Euro Foods in West Ashley on Sunday. During the event, attendees reflected on Ukraine’s independence and the importance of not forgetting about the ongoing war.

Maka Aptsiauri, Euro Foods Owner, said she thought it was a great reason for everyone to gather together and show support to Ukraine during this difficult time.

“It’s definitely close to my heart,” Aptsiauri said. “First of all because my husband is from Ukraine and most of his family is still in Ukraine. Also, because I’m from the Republic of Georgia. My country was invaded by Russia in 2008. It was a five-day war, but it was still a lot of damage and a lot of death. I can really feel the pain of people who are in Ukraine right now.”

When the conflict first began between Russia and Ukraine in February, Euro Foods and a team of concerned individuals gathered to try to figure out how they could help. The organization, CHS4 Ukraine, focuses on the immediate needs of the Ukrainian people and putting medical supplies, technology and other essential needs items directly into the hands of those who need them the most, according to the organization’s website.

CHS4 Ukraine Treasurer, Kenneth Marolda, has visited Krakow twice, once in April and again in June, to help transport supplies from Charleston to refugees in Europe. He says the first time he visited, the situation was shocking.

“There’s a train station in Krakow that was being used as a refugee center by the city,” Marolda said. “I met with the city’s coordinator and there were just hundreds and hundreds of people who all have nothing. They are trying to book train tickets and everything else to get to their relatives and trying to find safe places to live, trying to find even something as basic as a shower or food.”

The organization works with aid groups inside the country to deliver relief packages. Marolda and the team at CHS4 Ukraine said the help from the community has been encouraging.

“We were in the airport once and this guy saw our shirts and he just came up to me $50; he said ‘I hadn’t heard of you guys before but I really like to help and this is what I have on me,’ Marolda recalled. “So, he just handed me a $50 bill and the donation was just wonderful. That type of energy and enthusiasm to help.”

The Euro Foods owners contacted artist, Amanda Williams, to create a mural at their business to commemorate the story of Ukraine’s strength.

The mural took the artist, Amanda Williams, a few weeks to complete through rain and sunshine...
The mural took the artist, Amanda Williams, a few weeks to complete through rain and sunshine in order to be finished by August 24.(Live 5)

She said the flag unraveling shows transition, the hands with the needle and thread symbolize rebuilding everything again, and the sunflower fields are indicative of peaceful times.

“It was very important to me because I think that we’ve all been affected by the horrors that are going on over there,” Williams said. “It’s touched the whole world and I just think that every single person, whether you have family over there or you’ve been watching the news or the media, we’ve all just felt the presence of this situation. I was honored when they reached out to me.”

To donate to CHS4 Ukraine, money can be delivered to Euro Foods or donated online. Artist Amanda Williams can be found on social media or on The Traveling Canvas website.

Ukrainian Independence Day is held annually on Aug. 24.