The war in Ukraine remains very real and Ukrainians still need our help.
That’s why Christyna Prokipchuk is organizing Steppe Up for Ukraine to “keep the drum beating” while raising money and awareness for the embattled nation on July 23.
Prokipchuk envisioned the fundraiser as a way to remind people that the suffering of the Ukrainians has not diminished.
“War fatigue is real, especially with this nice warm weather coming. People are sick of hearing about the war in Ukraine. I’m sick of it too and Ukrainians in Ukraine are sick of it. They don’t want this to be happening,” she said.
Prokipchuk, a Niagara-on-the-Lake resident of Ukrainian heritage, said it is merely luck that has her on this side of the world while her parents’ homeland is under siege.
“Where we’re born is the luck of the draw. That’s something no one can determine,” she said.
Prokipchuk’s parents were both born in Ukraine and emigrated to Canada, where she was born.
“With privilege comes responsibility,” she said.
Prokipchuk said the ride is self-guided, with two routes laid out by the organizers for cyclists to tackle on July 23.
Both of the predetermined routes are in the Niagara region. One is 19 kilometres long and the other is 120 kilometres.
Because the rides are self-guided, people can start whenever they choose. There will be a gathering, however, at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, 6248 Main St., Niagara Falls, in the morning and after the ride.
“The church is going to bless the bikes. It’s actually a very traditional thing,” Prokipchuk said.
“You buy a new home, the priest comes over and blesses your home. For Easter, we prepare Easter baskets and the Saturday evening we get our baskets blessed and then we eat that food on Easter Sunday.”
“Blessings with holy water are a very traditional Ukrainian ceremony.”
After the ride, St. Mary’s priest’s wife will have the kitchen open and will be cooking traditional Ukrainian food for everyone, Prokipchuk said.
The cost to eat has not yet been determined but Prokipchuk said it would likely be around $20.
There also will be a silent auction online. The auction will remain live for several weeks after the ride.
Participants can sign up online https://www.justgiving.com/team/STEPPEUPforUkraine. Once registered, you can begin collecting donations to meet your team’s goal.
One fundraiser, Toine van der Knaap, has already raised more than $8,000.
The choice of the word “steppe” in the name of the event references the Ukrainian steppes, a natural grassland region in southern Ukraine with the country’s longest growing season.
“Not unlike our Niagara region,” the event’s webpage says.
Prokipchuk said the old-fashioned habit of being unconcerned with crises that don’t occur in your part of the world just doesn’t cut it these days.
“We are in a global world and it’s not a problem for ‘over there.’ It’s our collective problem. It’s not their problem,” she said.
Every person who tries to make a positive difference matters.
“I personally know people who have already come from Ukraine, whose kids are already in school because people are raising their hands to help. So, it does make a difference. It makes a huge difference.”
She said organized events are an important outlet for people’s compassion to become action.
“I know that there’s a lot of individuals doing things to help but collectively we can do a lot more. So, I’m really looking forward to people reaching out when they see this because they are also doing something,” she said.
Prokipchuk said anyone who needs to contact her can get in touch via the event’s webpage.
All the money raised will be going toward Help Us Help Ukraine, a registered Canadian charity. Donations can be made directly to the charity at https://helpushelp.charity/.