Ukrainian event promo poster
A poster for Sunday's event seen in downtown Los Gatos. (Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

On Tuesday, Morgan Hill-based woodworking business California Craft House had to pull out of Sunday’s fundraiser for Ukrainian refugees set to be held in Felton, co-founder Iryna Kulchytska explained.

“We had a death in the family in Ukraine related to war,” she said Wednesday. “My husband’s mother passed away yesterday.”

The news underscored how the ongoing Russian invasion continues to touch communities here in the Greater Bay Area, even for people like Kulchytska who’s been in America for 19 years.

This Sunday, the first Santa Cruz Ukrainian Cultural Festival is going ahead at Hallcrest Vineyards at 379 Felton Empire Rd.

There will be folk dancing from Billy Prusinowski, Tatiana Burdiak and STEPPE, music from Hanna & Spivrobeatniky and food from Pierogi Peddler and Chicken Foot.

Also on the bill: Motanka Doll Workshops by Art of Ukraine, Slavic apparel and merchandise for sale from Recultured Designs and blue-and-yellow T-shirt tie-dying.

While there’s no cost to attend, organizers are encouraging people to make donations, which will support the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council, a volunteer-based 501(c)(3) charity headquartered in San Francisco.

They’re providing local refugee support, assistance to territorial defense forces, and direct aid to Ukraine, according to the Facebook page for the event.

Cheyanne Donald, an event organizer for Hallcrest, says it’s been exciting to see the handful of organizers working together to make the festival a reality.

“It’s not just a fundraiser where you’re going to give money,” she said of their approach to making a difference. “We want to do it through cultural education.”

Erin Buchla, owner of Cruise Coffee Co. is donating some gift cards.

“We have a lot of Ukrainians in town right now,” she said, adding she wants to help out where she’s able. “Anything I can do—as small as it is—I like to do.”

Buchla says she’ll definitely be attending the event herself.

“It’s gon’ be fun,” she said. “They have great wine up there. The cause is awesome. The food is awesome.”

Cruise Coffee recently held a fundraiser for customer Jodie Fillhardt’s trip to Poland to help Ukrainian refugees.

“She’s literally there right now,” Buchla said, of the Skypark neighborhood resident’s voluntourism project.

During the interview, Ukrainian-Russian resident Anna Gorban, 33, appeared with her children.

She lives in Scotts Valley now, but is from Taganrog, Russia originally—just two hours east of the destroyed city of Mariupol. Her oldest daughter was born overseas, and they have family in Odesa, Ukraine.

“Of course, we try to support them as much as we can,” she said, adding sometimes it’s hard to know how. “We have a really strong Russian-speaking community here—with lots of people from Ukraine and lots of people from Russia—that does not support everything that’s going on.”

Gorban has a lot going on herself, as the mother of three children, but she says she’s hoping to make it out to the event in Felton on Sunday.

“It’s really a huge support for all the people in Ukraine that are here right now,” she said, sharing about one family she knows who moved to the area after fleeing the conflict zone. “We have a really amazing community here in Scotts Valley.”

You can find out more information about the event, which runs from 12-5pm here:

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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


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