Because it has for greater than twenty years, West Hollywood had deliberate to placed on a pageant Sunday to have fun Russian artwork and tradition in honor of one of many metropolis’s largest immigrant teams.
However this winter, after Russia invaded Ukraine, initiating a warfare that has killed hundreds of individuals and created greater than 6 million refugees, point out of “Russia” and “pageant” in the identical breath turned taboo.
Metropolis officers as a substitute recast this 12 months’s occasion as a fundraiser for Ukrainian refugees, pairing free actions for kids (face portray, magicians, carnival video games) with a silent public sale and exhibit cubicles for humanitarian help teams to gather donations.
“The purpose of all of that is for us to assist those that are in want proper now,” mentioned Eugene Maysky, who got here to Southern California from St. Petersburg seven years in the past and now chairs West Hollywood’s Russian Advisory Board.
West Hollywood has lengthy laid declare to having the biggest focus of Russian-speaking residents outdoors of New York, with the town’s east finish a hub of emigres from the previous Soviet Union, together with Latvia, Georgia, Russian Federation, Belarus and Ukraine.
“There’s no rhyme or motive or any level to do that, as a result of all of us have family in each international locations,” Maysky mentioned of the continued warfare. “For us, it’s like one hand making an attempt to kill one other hand.”
Underneath the solar at Plummer Park, company munched on pelmeni dumplings and Lithuanian ice cream at tables adorned in blue and yellow, in homage to Ukraine’s flag. Photos of blooming sunflowers — Ukraine’s nationwide flower — embellished the stage. Some attendees wore sunflower crowns, draped Ukrainian flags over their shoulders and struck notes of ache, solidarity, defiance and a contact of humor with their T-shirts. One learn: “My spouse is Ukrainian. Nothing scares me.”
Working among the many cubicles lining the park was Julia Stadnik, a vp on the transport firm Meest, the Ukrainian phrase for bridge. Because the warfare broke out, Stadnik mentioned she and her household, who run a Glendale outpost of Meest, leveraged their a long time of logistics expertise and networks in Poland and Germany to assist ship greater than 100,000 tons of humanitarian help — garments, meals and “something for the military.”
“It’s traumatic,” mentioned Stadnik, who was born in L.A. however whose mother and father hail from Lviv in western Ukraine. Many family are nonetheless in Ukraine, albeit on the comparatively calmer west aspect. “However a cousin is getting educated for the military and ready,” Stadnik mentioned. “They’re all anxious.”
On Sunday, Stadnik was letting passersby know they may buy care packages of meals, even flowers, to ship to family members in Ukraine, and that the general public may give cash on to the corporate to fund ongoing help shipments.
“Humanitarian help remains to be getting introduced,” she defined, referring to donations of clothes and different items. “However the funding to get it abroad is the troublesome half.”
At one other sales space, volunteers had been promoting dozens of vyshyvanka, a conventional embroidered shirt. A Reseda doctor, Dr. Alex Fridman, had bought the shirts instantly from Ukraine, and all of the proceeds from Sunday’s gross sales had been paying for refugee kids to attend Camp Gesher, a Jewish summer time camp in Malibu. The silent public sale’s proceeds had been additionally supporting attendance on the camp, mentioned Dina Gontar, the longtime occasion producer.
The pageant was a “big” change in tenor from previous years, Gontar acknowledged, and she or he was unsure about what subsequent 12 months would carry: “Hopefully the warfare will likely be over, and we’ll dwell in a peaceable time.”
For Victoria Pindrik, the fundraiser provided an opportunity to remind the group concerning the want for assist. Pindrik based the nonprofit Save Ukraine Aid Fund on the second day of the warfare, and the group has since accomplished 1,000-plus emergency evacuations whereas additionally helping refugees on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Referred to as SURF — an homage to its base in California — the group has develop into a hub for refugees in want of meals, help, jobs and assist with paperwork. Although Pindrik noticed a surge of help within the early weeks of Russia’s invasion, as time passes she sees diminished curiosity.
“It’s develop into part of every day life — ‘Oh, one other rocket,’ ” she mentioned. “However for these with family and friends on the entrance strains, they don’t know in the event that they’ll hear their voice tomorrow.”
Sunday’s pageant and fundraiser, she mentioned, was to remind folks, “We’re right here and obtainable.”
Maysky, of the Russian Advisory Board, took the metaphor of household additional, hoping that within the face of an “absurd” warfare, the fundraiser may foster extra unity amongst Russian-speaking folks.
“We’ve at all times been siblings — brothers and sisters,” he mentioned. “It’s not like every part’s at all times excellent, however like siblings, in the long run, we get up for one another as a result of we love one another.”