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More than 1,000 wait in line for perogies to support Ukraine

Taste of Ukraine's fundraiser, Perogies in the Parking Lot, raises $40,600

Enduring a morning snowstorm, day-long blustery winds, cold feet and stiff legs, supporters waited patiently on Sunday, standing in solidarity with Ukraine’s soldiers and refugees.

“I’ve never seen anything like this for a fundraiser and we’ve lived here 50 years,” said Fran Rokosh describing Perogies in the Parking Lot, a fundraiser hosted at Taste of Ukraine. 

The St. Albert senior and her husband Dale were just two of more than 1,000 people who stood in two- and three hour-lineups waiting to buy meal boxes of perogies and kovbasa in support of a battered Ukraine. 

When the Gazette spoke with supporters, there was unity in their underlying messages. 

“We’re supporting this because of what [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is doing to Ukraine’s people. He’s murdering Ukrainian people. It doesn’t matter if they are old, young children, pregnant mothers. The pictures on TV the other night of empty strollers in a square showing the children killed. I can’t believe anyone would do that,” added Rokosh.

When the Wozniak family, owners of Taste of Ukraine, planned the fundraiser, they tapped into a well of anger, frustration, and helplessness that rippled across people. Word of Perogies in the Parking Lot spread like wildfire across social media and people responded.

They lined up Sunday morning at 11 a.m. and the restaurant served its last meal at around 8 p.m. By closing time, the restaurant had served 1,320 meal boxes, a new record in one day. About $26,400 was collected from diners and an additional $14,200 was received from individuals who dropped by to make cash donations. The grand total raised is $40,600.

"I called my relatives to brag," said Orysia Wozniak. "They couldn't speak. They were so emotionally moved. They didn't realize they had so many friends in Canada, in St. Albert."

As for the Wozniak family, "We are pleasantly overwhelmed and surprised with the outpouring of humanitarian support on various levels from volunteers to people who stood in the cold. And the Sign Guru who donated signs. There are so many people who contributed. We never imagined we would receive so much support," said Orysia.

In looking back, the lineup was populated with individuals prepared to do the right thing.

“We’re committed to helping,” added Scott Nameth, whose ancestors are Hungarian. Hungary is one of Ukraine’s neighbouring countries accepting refugees. 

Standing beside him, Laurent Charron added, “I wanted to be part of the solution. I keep praying for a resolution. It’s got to end. Somehow God is going to redeem the whole situation. I trust him.” 

Diane and Larry Matier arrived expecting a drive-thru and subsequently were not wearing warm winter clothing to match the weather. Diane donned a blanket from the car to stay warm and shrugged off the cold. 

“We’re going to think of Ukraine as we stand in line and empathize with the many Ukrainians standing in line in the cold. If they can, we can,” Diane Matier said.  

Further down the line, Sonia Hunt recalled stories of her Ukrainian grandparents’ and mother’s immigration to Canada.  

“I’m grateful for what I have. I’m here and this is my way of doing what I can for my part. But we have to take action. Why can’t the rest of the world have the same spirit as this little country? It’s hard to see their spirit crushed, and for what?” 

Throughout the interviews, people described the war as “disgusting,” “sad,” “surreal,” “heartbreaking,” “devastating," and “helpless.” Everyone felt an overwhelming desire to do something — anything — to assist the humanitarian crisis.  

Hunt’s coworker, Rocky Cochrane, standing beside her did not mince words, and echoed the sentiments of many. 

“Why are we allowing this to happen? We’re sending aid, by why can’t we attack? As a civilization, as a humanity, it shouldn’t be happening. It doesn’t matter if Ukraine isn’t part of NATO. We should be attacking. This is all so wrong.” 

Throughout the fundraiser, a lineup snaked around the building of Taste of Ukraine and extended one block north up Liberton Drive. As the day progressed, it became more than a show of support for the ravaged European country. It brought strangers together.

Individuals shared stories of ancestry, travel adventures, and children with strangers standing next to them. Some even spoke about staying in touch and exchanged contact information. As often happens, the lineup took on a life of its own and morphed into more than buying a tasty meal. In the end, it became an emotional outlet so many desperately needed to express their concern about world affairs and our place in maintaining balance and harmony. 

In closing, Wozniak said, "We fed people more than food. We fed spirits and souls. And we're going to feed people and spirits across the ocean."

The fundraiser is extended until Saturday so interested parties can pre-order meal boxes of perogies and kovbasa for $20. Monetary donations are also being accepted until this Saturday, March 26. Taste of Ukraine is at 516 St. Albert Trail.


Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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