ST. PAUL - As Canadians gathered to celebrate Canada Day July 1, across the world the war in Ukraine raged on into its 124th day. The embattled nation continues to rely heavily on the goodwill of countries around the world to support its citizens, many of whom are fighting on the front lines or helping those that are.
For St. Paul resident Amil Shapka the war is never far from his mind and while it may no longer be the lead story for many news outlets, Shapka and many people like him with Ukrainian heritage and others, continue to do what they can to keep the need for supplies front and centre in people’s thoughts.
Last week, he was eager to share the news that fund-raising efforts in St. Paul have led to two used ambulances purchased from a hospital in Italy being delivered to the Donbas region in Ukraine along with desperately needed medical supplies.
In what Shapka described as a perfect example of a grassroot “boots on the ground” approach, acquiring the ambulances came about through a network people in Ukraine, Europe and Canada who all had a part to play. Two recent fund-raising efforts in St. Paul yielded in excess of $50,000 thanks to the support of area residents, contributing the necessary funds for the purchase.
“It inspires me to do more because every cent is going to exactly where it is needed and it’s making a difference right where it is needed most.”
While there is opportunity to donate through registered charities like Canada-Ukraine Foundation and the Red Cross, Shapka said there is a “ton of support going into Ukraine just through friends, family and connections. As they develop a need, they just phone through to their contacts and say this is what the guys on the front line are asking for – can you help.”
He said there are Ukrainian nationals working all across Europe who are tapping into their contacts to make things happen and getting supplies to where they are most needed. It is a similar situation in Alberta, where people are gathering what they can to support people in Ukraine, including families who have members fighting without basic gear like helmets. While it may not be the most conventional way of donating, it is helping to make a difference.
“The need remains high, perhaps even more now because of the horrific numbers of wounded and displaced and so we will be continuing to do what we can from here, with other fundraising events being planned,” Shapka said.
“When the families from there are begging the families from here to send over a helmet and a set of boots and mosquito repellent, those kinds of items, it really personalizes it.”
While he said it is human nature for people to make a one-time donation and move on with their lives, Shapka said for those who are connected to Ukraine they remain passionate about doing what they can.
“We’ve just got to keep working. There is a lot at stake here.”