The Citrus Heights Community Center was filled with Ukrainian orchestra music, prayers and presentations Thursday night, as churches, business owners and political leaders joined together to support the relief effort for those caught in war-torn Ukraine.
“We are Christian people, and our faith must be shown by acts of love,” said organizer Stephan Skots, of the Citrus Heights-based Ukraine Relief group who put on the event. “We live in America, and we have learned from our American brothers and sisters to help others.”
Showing the mixed heritage of many of the participants, the evening began with the national anthems of both America and Ukraine, before progressing somewhat like a church service, with opening and closing prayers, scripture references peppering speeches, and a call for donations.
As the orchestra played, the room filled with folks of differing ages and backgrounds, some dressed in traditional Ukrainian embroidered attire, called “vishivankas.”
Though different in background, they were united in purpose – to help the hurting in Ukraine, where more than six months of the violent conflict with Russia has resulted in thousands dead or injured, and hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled the war zone or had their homes destroyed.
Between presentations, attendees shared some food and fellowship, with an “old immigrant” from Ukraine, Paul Ilyin, sharing how his family had fled to China from Ukraine during the communist takeover, only to have the communists come to China later and force them to flee again — this time to South America. Eventually, he ended up in the US, but never forgot his roots.
“Nobody could understand Slavic people like Slavic people,” said Ilyn. “Most of us went through that [what Ukrainians are currently experiencing].”
With headquarters off Auburn Boulevard in Citrus Heights, organizers say Ukraine Relief is one of the leading US charity groups seeking to provide humanitarian aid for the victims of war in Ukraine – already having sent five large shipping containers full of relief from the Sacramento-area.
Residents and business owners from Sacramento’s large Slavic population have contributed shoes and other articles of clothing, and American companies have also donated food and funds for the shipment of aid, according to coordinators. Efforts are now underway to send off another container of mainly rice, as it can sustain the long transport time without spoiling.
Those interested in learning more about the local relief effort for Ukraine can visit www.UkraineRelief.org