What did Oresta Korbutiak, who owns an eponymous organic skin care boutique, know about organizing fundraising events? Nothing, but she and her younger sister, Laryssa Korbutiak, along with their childhood friend Larysa Rozumna, felt compelled to do something to help the besieged people of Ukraine.
“We were trying to make sense of what was happening and were feeling really devastated,” Oresta, a first-generation Canadian of Ukrainian descent, told OBJ.social. “We thought, ‘What can we do?’ ”
On Monday, the three women hosted PYSANKA: To Ukraine With Love Fundraiser at AllSaints Event Space in Sandy Hill and, in doing so, further galvanized the community into action. The evening raised $75,000 — 50 per cent more than the organizers’ original fundraising goal for the Canada-Ukraine Foundation, in addition to Defenders of Ukraine, a global campaign to provide protective equipment and medical supplies to Ukraine, where thousands and civilians have been killed or injured since the Russian attacks began in late February.
The sold-out crowd of more than 200 was introduced to Ukrainian culture through traditional folk art, dance and music. They had the opportunity to bid on dozens of donated silent auction items — including an oil landscape of Ukrainian farmers working in a golden wheat field. It was done by well-known Ottawa artist Christopher Griffin, who years ago spent some time visiting the Ukraine. His painting sold for $15,000 to Chrystia Mycyk and Mike Kolberg, who were happy to support the cause.
Carissa Klopoushak, a violinist with the National Arts Centre Orchestra and artistic director of Ottawa Chamberfest, gave a stunning performance, combining folk music with singing. She grew up in the prairie city of Saskatoon.
The evening’s program opened up with Ukraine's national anthem, sung by Oleh Replansky, and a folk dance from the Svitanok Ukrainian Dance Ensemble. There were also live demonstrations on how to make a pysanka, arguably one of Ukraine’s most famous Easter traditions. Supporters went home that night with a traditional Ukrainian Easter basket containing a handcrafted pysanka.
It was Kelly Mounce, an investor in Allsaints, who learned that Oresta was co-organizing a fundraiser to help Ukraine. She was able to offer up the venue. In fact, many people came forward and expressed their desire to help and contribute, said Oresta, who's originally from Winnipeg.
“What was really beautiful is that people came to us,” said Oresta, owner and founder of ORESTA Clean Beauty Simplified and its store locations in the Glebe and on Beechwood Avenue. Her sister, Laryssa, owns the ORESTA location on Wellington Street West. “People have been incredibly generous.”
Oresta ended up buying the yellow bicycle that Retro-Rides.ca on Sparks Street created and donated specifically to the silent auction. There was also a dinner for six at Riviera, tickets to the NAC and to the upcoming Sting concert, among other items up for grabs.
Business leaders seen supporting the benefit included Kathryn Tremblay, co-founder and CEO of Altis Recruitment and ExcelHR, Terlin Construction owner Terry McLaughlin, and Sheila Whyte, owner of Thyme & Again take-home food shop and catering company. “How can you not, with the state of what’s going on?” Whyte told OBJ.social at the event.
The powerful video montage played that night of the assaults on Ukraine and its people raised goosebumps and tugged at heartstrings. The crowd also listened to a special video address from Rozumna’s brother, Istan Rozumny, a film director and actor who lives and works in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Rozumny said: “I’ve had close friends killed. I’ve had close friends have their homes destroyed, their livelihood destroyed. But, I’ve been doing what I can to help Ukraine’s cause.”
Rozumny, who was born and raised in Winnipeg, also spoke of visiting the mass graves in Bucha. “It’s a sight that I will never forget. It will stay with me for the rest of my life; seeing bodies of tortured civilians piled up.”
He urged the crowd to continue pressuring the Canadian government to supply humanitarian and military aid. “We must stop this war,” said Rozumny, who — in a touching moment — offered reassurance of his safety to his mother, knowing she would be in the audience at Allsaints that night.
The support from the community has been heartwarming, Oresta told OBJ.social. “This is what being a global citizen is all about. It’s humanity. It’s kindness. Sometimes, when the world is in a bad place, it’s so easy to get caught up and think everyone is evil, but, no, goodness prevails and kindness prevails.”
The evening concluded on a beautiful note as the crowd sang along to John Lennon’s peace anthem, Imagine, while led by Klopoushak on guitar.