PORT ANGELES — Helplessness. It’s the feeling Sequim resident Mariia Bush said she struggles with the most when thinking about war and suffering of her loved ones and the Ukrainian people in general.
“There’s also survivor’s guilt that I touch from time to time,” said Bush, who grew up in Lutsk, Ukraine.
“I am certain I am not alone with these feelings.”
Bush is part of the organizing team that, along with many volunteers, brought the Ukraine at the Table fundraiser to Bella Italia in Port Angeles last April. That sold-out event raised $30,075.55, all donated to three charities helping the Ukrainian people in their fight against Russia — and feeding more than 120 people in the process.
Bush, chef Laurette Feit, artist Sharon DelaBarre and Neil Conklin, along with new event sponsor Erika Ralston Word of Windemere Real Estate, as well as numerous volunteers, look to bring Ukranian cuisine, a silent auction and conviviality back to Conklin’s Bella Italia, 118 E. First St., Port Angeles, for two evenings, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Reservations are $75 per person; social hour and silent auction time are between 5 and 6:30 p.m., with the first course served at 6:15 p.m. Call 360-670-7252 for reservations ASAP, maximum seating is set at 65 each night.
The Olympic Peninsula “Ukraine at the Table” community is raising funds to supply front-line MREs [meals ready to eat] to Ukrainian soldiers,” Bush wrote. Each kit that can feed a soldier for one day costs $6 to produce.
“Funds raised will go directly to the incredible volunteer group ‘Ukrainska Mriya’ [Ukrainian Dream],” she wrote. Additionally, like last time, some funds will go to World Central Kitchen.
Said Bush, “My desire to help is a selfish one: I want to contribute to Ukraine’s victory, I want to know with my heart that I’ve done my part to help save a life. I know I cannot do this alone.”
Since the start of the Russian war in Ukraine, Ukrainian Dream — an all-women organization from Lutsk in Western Ukraine — has provided more than 26,000 MRE packages, according to Bush.
“These packages were delivered to front line battalions in need of this life-saving nutrition when away from base camps on special missions,” she wrote. “Each MRE also includes a child’s drawing or card, sending a message of love and hope to add strength in the fight for freedom.” (See youtu.be/uDLPxCaTMow).
Bush said that if members of the community want to write notes to the soldiers, too, it would be appreciated.
“Geographically, Olympic Peninsula is almost on the opposite side of the world from Ukraine,” Bush said. “I’ve built my community and have met many kind people here. I am still amazed at the depth of compassion and giving of time.
“They care to help people they are likely to never meet, people on the other side of the world that speak another language, have different customs, eat different food. This gives me hope that there is more good in this world.”
Said Feit, chef at the April fundraiser, “It was such a great feeling this spring, first at the response to our fundraiser, and then when we cut the checks and sent them off to the three organizations we supported.
“To know that we were making a difference, even a small one, was such a great feeling. I was so proud of us, and happy at the immense turn out. This community really cares and shows up! This is what keeps us going.”
Feit and Conklin said the menu will include vinehret, a roasted root vegetable salad; Ukrainian borscht with pampushky, rolls with garlic and parsley; a main course of holubtsi (stuffed cabbage leaves with rice and meat in a tomato sauce); apple sharlotka cake for dessert created by Feit kompot, a hot apple drink; and a cocktail made with Ukranian spirits.
Bush said they expect to play a video about beneficiary Ukranian Dream, and likely a video message or letter from Myroslava Kozan, the main organizer of the nonprofit, as well as an abstract from a 12-year-old girl who escaped the invasion from North East of Ukraine and wrote a book-diary “You do not know what war is,” and likely a letter from another Ukraine refugee family that now lives in Port Angeles.
“I expect this to be an organic program, receptive to the energy in the room,” Bush said. “It’s an intimate space, so we hope to create a place to connect, share, and for guests to ask questions.”
DelaBarre is organizing the auction, one that can accept donations until today.
Contact her at 360-460-0753 or firstname.lastname@example.org to donate auction items.
DelaBarre said that donations so far have included a “wonderful” Ukrainian toy that is a die-cut “antique box” to be assembled without tools and Ukrainian cookbooks donated by Port Book and News, as well as gift certificates from restaurants, bakeries, massage businesses, bed-and-breakfasts, wineries, breweries, theater tickets, cooking classes, fiber arts and more.
“As we watch from a distance the horrors and brutality of this unjust and ugly Russian war, this effort gives us a meaningful way to contribute to the resistance,” Conklin said.
“As more Ukrainians arrive here on the Peninsula … we want to show them that Port Angeles is a community that cares.”
To donate, make checks payable to: Mariia Bush or Neil Conklin, with a memo line “Ukraine at the Table,” to: Ukraine At The Table P.O. Box 545, Sequim, WA 98382. Or use Venmo (@ukraineat thetable). Notes for soldiers can be sent to the same address.
Emily Matthiessen is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach her at email@example.com.