Community support for Ukraine continues to grow

Elizabeth Kulinska, centre, waves with her rolling pin during a pierogi-making day for CWL members at Queen of Peace Church in Sarnia. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson 

For Joanna Kazanecki, the war in Ukraine is personal.

The Sarnia woman was working in her church kitchen preparing pierogies to raise money for Ukrainian refugees when her sister called from Warsaw.

“My husband’s cousin and her husband had just walked in the door from Kyiv,” said Kazanecki.  “I can’t imagine what they are going through.”

The cousins, travelling by train, were late and the wait was nerve-wracking.

“I never thought we’d see this in our lifetime,” said Kazanecki. “Of course we studied history when I was growing up in Poland and we know what happened during the Second World War but to see them bombing the hospital, killing innocent people now.

“I don’t know how (Putin) can sleep at night knowing he has killed so many.”

Kazanecki, who immigrated to Sarnia from Poland in 1979, is one of 17 members of the Catholic Women’s League at Queen of Peace Church, which held the pierogi fundraiser on March 12.

They had sold the stuffed dumplings before, of course, but what happened that day was stunning.

The 2,500 pierogies sold out in a flash. Many people arrived simply to give. One man placed $500 on the table and said he just wanted to help Ukraine, said Kazanecki.

The lineup of would-be customers stretched out the door and into the parking lot. Not wanting to disappoint, the team started taking orders.

This past week, the women have been busy filling back orders at the church. The total – an astonishing 11,520 pierogies.

Knights of Columbus groups and individuals from Queen of Peace donated the ingredients.

“We never dreamed we’d have this response,” said Kazanecki. “We are so thankful for the people in Sarnia.”

She’s met many generous folk since moving here, she said, but the outpouring for Ukraine has been different.

“It’s a sign that there is still a lot of good in our world.”

Kazanecki grew up in Hrubieszow, Poland near the Ukrainian border, and still has family there.

“I’m scared because you don’t know what (Putin) will do next,” she said. “We can just hope that it will be over soon.”

The pierogi sales have raised $7,000 to $10,000 for refugee centres in Poland.

At St. George’s Ukrainian Church, Sarnia’s Father Bohdan Winnicki said more than $14,000 has been donated to the church’s effort to help Ukraine’s refugees.  All funds e-transferred to saveukraine@stgeorgessarnia.ca will be distributed to refugees coming Canada, probably in the next few months.

The money will be given to any who settle in Sarnia, but it’s not known if refugees will arrive here or remain at larger centres with Ukrainian schools and community centres, said Father Winnicki.

He is receiving emails from Sarnians offering free housing to any Ukrainians who find their way here, he said.

“I have a couple dozen names, some offering housing for six months, some saying it is for as long as needed. I am amazed by the people of Sarnia.”

If no refugees come the donations will be sent elsewhere in Canada for resettlement, said Father Winnicki.

Another fundraiser to benefit Ukrainian Humanitarian Relief Efforts is planned for April 22 and 23 from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. at DeGroot’s Nurseries.

The garden centre is teaming up with the three Rotary Clubs of Sarnia and selling potting mix for $25 per bale.

Isabella Czainski, working in the kitchen at Queen of Peace Church.
Cathy Dobson