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It is said that “Anyone who saves a single life, it is as if they save the entire world”. At MHJC, we have the opportunity to do just that.We have “adopted” the Ukrainian family of Olha Kupriyan, her husband Sashko, and their seven-year-old daughter, Yasya.Olha is a Ukrainian writer of children’s and adolescent literature. In her early 30s, she recently fended off cancer, only to find herself displaced by war. While all men have been required to stay in Ukraine since the war broke out, Olha and Yasya were able to escape to Poland. Their village of Makovyshche, in the Kyiv region, is one of those that was brutally occupied and then vacated by Russian troops. Piecing together reports from the media, neighbors and family members who have since returned, Olha describes a house that, among widespread destruction, is miraculously still standing but has been broken into and that, to her mind, has been “raped and changed beyond recognition”.Yasya recently suffered a badly broken arm while playing on a playground in Latvia. While Olha has been able to obtain some income by working on some short-term creative scholarships offered by various institutions, to do so she has had to travel hundreds of miles to Latvia and then to Krakow. Such an itinerant lifestyle is not serving Olha and Sashko’s daughter well, as she’s experiencing difficulties adapting to every new and unfamiliar environment, each speaking a different and foreign language. Unfortunately, given her daughter’s poor physical and mental state, Olha is now unable to work at this time, as she needs to prioritize caring for her daughter.Meanwhile, Sashko remains in Kyiv and is trying to maintain his job as a typesetter. However, with much of the Ukrainian publishing and printing industry destroyed or gone fighting, he’s been told that it’s not clear if he will be paid.Olha and Yasya are remaining in Krakow through the end of July at which point they are hoping to return to Kyiv to reunite with Sashko. Of course, those plans could very well change if the war worsens in Kyiv.There are two ways in which we can help. The first is to assist them monetarily. Right now, they both continue to receive half of their Ukrainian salaries although they do not know how long that will continue. Since Sashko has some income to sustain his needs for the time being, we are focusing on the funds needed to sustain Olha and Yasya in Krakow. They need money for food, transportation, healthcare, psychotherapy, clothing and occasional childcare.The second way we can assist is to communicate with them via letter, email, etc. to provide emotional support. We cannot even begin to imagine what they are all going through. Yasya was not only uprooted from her way of life but, most importantly, cannot even be with her father. While going through her own emotional upheaval of missing Sashko and worrying about his safety, Olha has to remain strong for her daughter’s sake. We will post email addresses to contact the family soon.On behalf of Olha, Sashko and Yasya, thank you so very much for making a positive difference in their lives and helping them during this stressful time.
Thank you to those who have contributed to the Kupriyan Family Fund. From time to time, we will supply everyone with updates about Sashko, Olha and Yasya. Right now, there is no change in their situation. Olha is able to communicate with us via email. When Russ wished her a Happy Birthday, she responded “Thank you, dear Russ”. What was most poignant was the last line in Olha’s response to Sharon’s birthday wishes. She replied by saying, “Dear Sharon, thank you very much! It’s very important for us to see and as well feel your support. In my birthday, I wish the only one, but its for the whole country <3”
While we individually do not have the power to insure that Olha’s wish for her country comes to fruition, we can at least help out Olha, Sashko and Yasya. We have raised over $500 thus far and need to raise approximately $3500 more so that Olha and Yasya can meet their needs for the next two months. Donations can be made either through our website or via check. If you are sending a check, please put “Kupriyan Family Fund” in the memo portion of your check.
In addition, if you would like to contact Olha, you can do so by emailing her at email@example.com. We all pray for the day when there is peace in Ukraine, when Olha and Yasya can rejoin Sashko and live in freedom and when all others who are separated from their loved ones can do so as well.
In an email with Russ Blatt, Olha told him that Yasya’s cast came off her arm. It is not yet 100% healed, but much better than it was.
Here is an email received from Olha, sent to Sharon Dashow:
On behalf of Olha, Sashko and Yasya, thank you so very much to all who have contributed to their fund. We have now collected over $1,600 to assist them during this terrible time. We hope you will continue to assist them, as they are in need of more funds to meet their current expenses.Recently, Olha took part in the project “On Our Way Home / по дорозі додому / Po drodze do domu” by Jewish Museum Galicja. Olha sent us the article and accompanying pictures to share with everyone:“It’s not just the horrors of war. This is the time of the birth of empowering stories. The most important support for me is sisterhood, the strength of women who understand and help each other”.Olha, 34, is from Makovyshche, in the Kyiv region. She left Ukraine with her 7-year-old daughter.My least favorite way to wake up in the morning is getting an early call from family. I have been taking antidepressants for two years now due to anxiety. My dad called me and said, “The war has begun.” It was weird to hear this from him because he always assured me that nothing would happen. We live close to Irpin, Bucha and Gostomel and immediately heard explosions. I was still looking for the strength to joke, I told my husband, “Dear, will you have some coffee, or are you awake enough without it?” We hoped that everything would end soon. After the siren, we had to wake up our daughter, Yasya. We did not want to scare her, but she always asks direct questions, so she immediately understood everything from our serious tone. I quickly gathered up some basic things.Maybe I should thank my anxiety, because I always must have a plan. The day before, I got some cash, currency, bought energy bars.When the war started, a friend of mine and a writer Halya Tkachuk invited me to Lviv. The moment a person calls you to his or her place means a lot. Then I received a message from another friend that my daughter should not see the worst things of this war.We left on the third day because the air defense work was visible all around, and explosions were raging everywhere.After three weeks in Lviv, I applied for a scholarship in Poland, provided by the Pogranicze Foundation, in the village of Krasnogruda on the border of Poland and Lithuania. Then I felt great anxiety about the future. The plan was to have a literary residence in Latvia, in the house of writers and translators in Ventspils, and then we moved to Krakow. I would like to thank the Poles, all these places of great help, thanks to which we went through another difficult month of our lives abroad.Also, our sisterhood during literary residences helped in all this. We were like sisters, we cooked together, we cried together. It’s not just the horrors of war. This is the time of the birth of empowering stories. The most important support for me is sisterhood, the strength of women who understand and help each other.As always, should anyone want to contact Olha, you can do so by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Olha and Yasya continue to be separated from Sashko as Olha does not yet feel it is safe to return to Ukraine. As she stated in a recent email, one of the hardest decisions she had to make in the last three months was to stay in Poland. She made that decision based upon what she feels is best for Yasya. Nevertheless, she yearns to return to her home in Ukraine and be reunited with Sashko.
Due to your generosity, we were able to send Olha $1000. Olha has allowed us to share the email she sent to Sharon when she received the money. That email is as follows:
I’ve got the money from MoneyGram, there weren’t problem at all.
I want to thank you and all the people from your synagogue for help.
I will pay for the apartment from these money, I hope it will be enough for some months, and it would be very helpful for me and my daughter. I want you just to know that living in peace these months is something that I cannot explain in English. This feeling when you don’t afraid of fireworks and planes (oh, almost always I think), only sounds, but it’s not about your child. I appreciate this feeling very much and I want to thank all of you for this opportunity.
We have now raised approximately $1700 for Olha, Yaysa and Sashko. As we were finally able to work out the kinks in getting money over to Olha (the intermediary bank would not approve a wire transfer due to the unstableness in the area), we will be sending her the bulk of the remaining moneys soon.
As Olha has no choice at the moment but to stay in Poland, she desperately needs funds to assist her in paying her bills. As such, we are continuing to collect moneys for her and appreciate any contributions.
We have collected over $2500 to assist Olha, Sashko and Yasya. Some of that money has been released and the bulk will be sent to them this coming week. Please see Olha’s response upon learning that additional moneys were collected and will be sent to her.”Dear Sharon,It’s a pleasure to hear from you. And I am really glad that you are going on a family vacation, I miss such trips.Actually, I thought that the amount of money you’ve sent me was the final amount. So, it’s a surprise for me that you will send some extra money. I really appreciate it. Now I am totally thinking about the apartment deals — I need to find an apartment for us from October, and I need to find school for Yasya — I am very happy that I do not need to worry about money for the first time. I will not forget your help. And, of course, I will be glad to receive some letters from children from the synagogue (Yasya does not read in English, so I will help her).Tonight we are going to visit Lviv, the most Western city of Ukraine. I missed my husband, Sashko, and Yaroslava missed her dad. She said that she will hug him and won’t let him go. And it makes me almost cry because I have bought the tickets to Krakow today, and I am afraid to say goodbye again. It is hard to understand that you cannot go home safely, yet.In Lviv I will also see my father, I missed him too. Then I will go to my home in Kyiv to visit my orthodont, and Yasya will stay with her dad in Lviv. Such a strange feeling… I haven’t been there for a half of a year.How I am sitting in McDonald’s in Krakow while waiting for my daughter from the daily camp. I used to write a new book about three 14-years girls from Kyiv, who evacuated to Poland during the war. But I cannot even think about some artistic work now.Thank you for your help — again and many times.Sincerely yoursOlha”There is a saying from the Talmud that when you save one life, it is as if you have saved the whole world. Thank you to all who have contributed and who continue to contribute. As always, if you would like to write to Olha, you can do so by emailing her at email@example.com.
Please see below for the latest correspondence from Olha. As you will see from that correspondence, she appreciates both the financial support as well as the support we can give by communicating with her. Should you wish to contribute, you may do so though our website or by sending a check made payable to MHJC. If you send a check, please make sure to add Ukranian Family Fund on the memo portion of your check. Thank you for your ongoing support.
Thank you for your letter, it’s interesting to read about different traditions – and its very pleasant to know about the way you nurture traditions and family ties.
I miss my family so much, and I miss my language and traditions. It was needed to go to Ukraine to know that I cannot see me in different countries. That’s why it was very hard to come back to Poland.
Yaroslava is going to school here, but its also not easy with adaptation. I decided to be here only for six months, but it seems so long now.
Thank you for your support, not only financial. It’s really important for me to feel the connection along the distances.
I send you two photos – one with my family, from Lviv, and another from the first day of school in Kraków.
By the time you read the email below from Olha, she will have gotten another $1000 in aid, all because of the generosity of our MHJC family. We are continuing to collect money for Sashko, Olha and Yasya. Should you wish to contribute, you may do so though our website or by sending a check made payable to MHJC. If you send a check, please make sure to add Ukranian Family Fund on the memo portion of your check. Thank you for your ongoing support. As you can see from her email, corresponding with her also provides much needed emotional support. Should you wish to write to Olha, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you so much for helping Sashko, Olha and Yasya during this very difficult time in their lives.
I am really glad to hear about your family, and also about your traditions. Although not all of my family is with me, I am really pleased to read about happiness and peace. It’s the thing for which we struggle.
And I also want to wish you happiness with your closest people these days!
I think about your letter and all the time return to our life. We have fractured traditions because of the USSR, and Russia the same. During all of my childhood I felt the strict feeling of loss during celebrations. My parents, and their parents were taught to celebrate only “right” feasts. We needed to grow these traditions after the independence of Ukraine, in 1991. I was a child, though I remember everything. This kind of “construction” of memories and traditions.
Please, feel comfortable about stories of your family life. I read them as a writer, I take pleasure in them.
We stay in Kraków till the New Year. Did I say that we are living in the apartments of well-known Polish-American writer Czesław Miłosz? We are pleased to live in the centre of an old and beautiful city. But I understood here that every other city is interesting to visit as a tourist, but the thing which makes the city “home” is people. I am happy to have “my people” here in Poland. Otherwise, I would go to Kyiv, I guess. Though, my friends and my family in Kyiv live in quite different reality: they google what they should have in their suitcases in case of a nuclear attack. Anyway, we are trying to live our lives, to love and teach our children and to help our Army.
These are the things which keep me strong these days.
Dear Sharon, you wrote that you’ve sent me money. Thank you and all the kindest people of the Synagogue. Should I have some number to take the money, as it was the previous time?
I wanted to share with a friend of mine, who lost her husband recently. Her husband worked in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, he defended our country from 2014. She has two children. This is her story shortly (but in Ukrainian). I just wanted you to know that your money is spent in the right way.
The following email from Olha was sent on October 11th. Due to the holidays, we were not able to publish it earlier. As can be seen from Olha’s letter and, of course, the news reports, the Ukrainian people are in dire straits. As always, your continued support of Olha and her family is very much appreciated. Contributions to the Krupiyans can be made through our website or by check. When sending a check, please add Ukranian Family Fund on the memo portion. You can write to Olha via email at email@example.com.
We had a very hard morning today in Ukraine. Sorry for such sad news today. Two days ago we were extremely happy because of the Krimea Bridge, and today the terrorist state is doing its horrible job.
Over 80 rockets from Russia, over 41 shot down by the Ukrainian defence.
My husband Sashko called me in the morning, we call each other every day, and I heard the explosions by the telephone. He came to work and immediately went into the metro station in order to be in safe. My family is okay, but all my friends showed me the fotoes from their windows, the smoke and the fire all over the Kyiv city.
Its from my Facebook-friend: “The biggest shelling of Ukraine is happening right now.
Dozens missiles all over the country, targeting critical infrastructure and cities’ centers in rush hour, when people are going to work.
My Facebook is full of messages “we are alive”, mutual support and rage.
I don’t know how to work and how to breath today.
Kyiv, Lviv, Khmelnytskyi, Zhytomyr, Dnipro, Ternopil, Kropyvnytskyi, Poltava region, Vinnytsia region, Kryvyi Rih, Ivano-Frankivsk region, Odesa, Rivne region”
Wishing you happy and peasefull days,
Thank you for so detailed letter, for me it is something like that what you read in books in early childhood (actually, I saw it in American films), and now it turns out that it is a real life.
I am sorry for the late answer. I was very exhausted with Yaroslava’s school things. We both have difficulties with adaptation, and we both now are working with the psychologists.
Yesterday we had a great day here, in Krakow. On Saturdays we go for literary workshops. We adore people which make these workshops. Yesterday it was a big present for me – we read my book in Polish translation. I love my work with children and books so much.
Sometimes I think that life is going with its turn. But then I read news, or receive messages from home, from my family and friends. I miss them so much.
It’s really nice to live in Krakow, in this beautiful city, in this apartment in the centre of the Old Town. But I cannot live the whole life here, because it is not my choice. I feel like I am between the worlds, and I cannot plan something. Though, life is going on, and we are going to some concerts of Ukrainian singers here, in Krakow. They collect money as volunteers in order to help our Army. So, I send you a photo with one singer, Maria Burmaka.
I wish you all marvelous vacations
I am very sorry, I couldn’t answer to your letter (and the letter from another lady from the synagogue).
It’s hard time for us with all this adaptation in the new country. My daughter needs much time, and patience, and we should go to the psychologists (both of us). Now we are sick (again both), and I don’t have much energy 🙁 I am sorry, because I didn’t want it to be like I just stopped to answer.
Today I bought tickets to Ukraine for us. We missed home so much, even though there is no electricity, and water, and there is cold there. It’s constant feeling of missing something. I just want this time to see my husband. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to take tickets for holidays, so I will have a chance to celebrate Christmas in Poland. It should be interesting I am looking forward to see this tradition. In Ukraine, we have have very strong tradition of celebrating Christmas, but it’s about the ancient times, when it was called Kolyada. We cook 12 dishes (it means 12 months in the year), we sing special songs. It’s even more ancient than Christmas
I love my work, too. I am working in the literature, I write for children and teens. Now I am writing two books, one of them is for 7-years-old children, like my daughter. What an interesting age! I help the teacher with the children once a week while the class is going to the ice-rink, so I often talk with children. It gives me much inspiration
Also, I have meetings with Ukrainian children by zoom or not. I like these days very much.
Krakow is very beautiful city, it’s rather small, smaller than Kyiv. But its cozy and shiny, now it’s very festive.
Thank you, dear Sharon, for your letters and constant support. I cannot write long letters now, but it’s a pleasure to me to read about your life.
it’s not a silly to write about your life, I am very interested in it. It is something quite different from that I have, though I saw many serials about judges in USA. So, it seems to me, that they were showing the life)))
I am very sorry, I didn’t write the letter about Moneygram. I received money, thank you very much. Thanks to these money I can support my colleagues and their families, too. And I have some money to rent an apartment when it would be needed.
You know, I want to come back home so much, but every day Russia sends bombs in random order. There is no safe place in my country, unfortunately. These days they bombed Dnipro, many peaceful people died, children also. We have dark days know.
It is really hard winter, of course we knew that it would be like that. We were preparing, but it is very exhausting to find some moral strength now. So, sometimes I let myself to lay and do nothing, and then I get up and do my best. Thanks for Yaroslava, I need to get up early and provide her to school. It helps me not to fall down in the sorrow.
Please, know that me and my family are very thankful for your help. We are waiting for the package, and I will tell you as fast as I receive it.
We came back to Krakow ten days ago, and since then we are ill. Adaptation back in Poland was awful. We were at home for two full weeks, between the shellings. It seemed that we can be used to everything. But we cannot be used to leave home, again and again.
Now Yaroslava has a terrible ear ache, but now I finally give her proper medicine, so it would be better soon.
You are right, this week would be one year from the that terrible day of 24th of February. Psychologists aware us about the anniversary syndrome. We became nervous and stressed even more than every day. But today we all are glad about Mr Biden’s visit of Kyiv. It was a big secret and surprise, and also it was very vital and hopeful. Thank you the support of your country’s government
Good news! I had my new children book published in Poland, in two languages, Ukrainian and Polish. It is about one kitty which had lost in the evaluation train. It is funny, though it is about our experience of evacuation from Kyiv.
Now I want to write a book for grownups, sometimes I will do.
(Please see below for the latest correspondence from Olha. In it she mentions a package that Sharon sent. Included in that package were cards created by our Religious School children. Clearly those cards meant a great deal to Yasya and Olha.)
I finally got the package, and it gave me so much emotions, I am very touched. Children are so cute.
I read some letters to Yaroslava (next part will be read soon), and she chose her favorite one (it is on the photo).
She also is very touched with the Boo. She gave him a name Koski (I don’t know why).
I read your letter with a pleasure. No matter that it was not handwritten (I love to type because the system corrects my mistakes on other languages).
Today we got the information that we can live at this place till may. It’s a great help for us. Now I want to wait here in Poland until the end of the school year. Not sure that it would last one year more, because I cannot stand to be so far from my home.
Nonetheless I have a great time now. I am trying to do my best in this situation. I work and take care of my daughter, volunteer for the Ukrainian children here, in Krakow. I began to write the new book for children, and I have some ideas for grown-ups.
Thank you again for your support
Thank you for greetings! I also wish you happy Pesach and happy family time. Unfortunately, I didn’t managed to send my greetings on time because of holidays and work. Here, in Poland, we are between two calendars, so in Poland we celebrate the feasts earlier, and in Ukraine a little bit later.
Last Sunday we celebrated Polish feast Wielkanoc (Easter), and this Sunday we will be celebrating the Orthodox Easter, we call it Welykden (a Great Day), but it is the same.
I am not very religious, but these days are special for me because my child memories. I like painted eggs and Ukrainian tradition of drawing pysankas, I like ritual bread, which is called ‘paska’. Thought, I didn’t bake it myself. I liked the tradition to come for vacations to the parents home. I miss it so much. I was not there from 2020, it is because of family matters with my mom, not because of war.
I made a decision to come back to Kyiv in summer. I need to be in Krakow till the end of the school year because of my daughter Yaroslava, but I cannot be there one more year. I want my family back, I miss my husband so much. We had an anniversary last week, 10 years from our marriage day.
I am glad that I had this year here, in Poland, but my home is in Ukraine. Though, if something would go worth, I know the safe place and could be go here again.
I am so glad to hear from you. It is a hard time for each person of my country. Last week russians blew up Kakhovska GES, it is a great tragedy for the ecosystem, and also for people who live there. I could not think about anything a couple of days. It is so strange that physically we are far from our cities but still mentally stay home.
You know, despite of many grief, Ukrainian people have something unbelievable. We can laugh in the very bad situations, it’s so called “black humour”, it is deeply in our culture. I think about it when I feel muted with horrible news, but still can laugh with my very close friends.
I also find strength in taking care about my daughter. She is already 8, you know. On this weekend I had an interview on a workshop for students. They asked me how am I talking with my daughter about the war. I told them about the animals which drowned in the zoo. She is very empathic with them. She told me that she is very sorry about the animals, because people could swim, while some animals couldn’t.
Anyway, we are going to spend our summer in the most happiest way. On Thursday we are going to my friends Michał and Iryna, thanks to them we contacted last year. I know them many years and looking forward to seeing them.
As for the weather, we live in Krakow now, and it is said that you need at one time a coat, a sunglasses and an umbrella in this city.
Unfortunately, I did not get any massage from your friend. But it is good that you have asked. We have changed an apartment, now we have a different address:
Zachodnia 10/52, 30-350
To end with some good news, I will tell you about my work. I am writing a new book here, in Krakow. It would be a chapter book for 6-8-years children. The main character is called Yasya, and mamy adventures I borrowed from her life. Writing gives me resource to see the positive side of the life routine.
I also work with books for adults as a content editor. Now I am working on a non fiction book about adopting child. It would be a challenge and problem in Ukraine for some years, unfortunately.
I am sending you some photos, too.
[This] is my address until the end of July. Then I was planning to go to Kyiv with Yasya. It is not an easy decision, but there are no easy ways during the war. I missed my husband, my home and my people so much, that I cannot stand being abroad anymore.
These days I have a lot of work, too. I should manage to end my book for the scholarship, and some other projects. Yasya has her happy time in city camps. Though, I also feel like summer is ending and I cannot catch it.
I wish I someday will study to drive and will go to see every beautiful place that I want.
I got the money yesterday, but didn’t manage to complete the letter. Thank you and your friends from the synagogue
I saw the new letter, oh, I appreciate your help so much. I want to write a big letter to tell you how I will spend the money – for helping people from another regions, for rehabilitation of our soldiers, for little cultural festivals in small towns. Maybe, later I will write
Now just thank you and your friends.
Yasia and I are already in Kyiv, with our daddy and husband Oleksandr, Sashko.
It wasn’t the easiest decision, but I want to be with my family, in my home city, which is being protected every day by the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
This week Yaroslava was with my parents, in my home village. While me and my husband, we had both an opportunity to be alone. We had some dates))) It was for the first time in a very long time.
Thank you for helping us all this time. I really appreciate it.
Later I will send you some photos and tell you about life in Kyiv.
From September email:
I am really sorry for the delayed answer. We managed to travel a little with my husband and daughter.
We traveled by car with a friend of mine, that was a beautiful end of summer.
Then we moved to another apartment, had some mess with the documents for school.
Now, Yaroslava went to the school near the Dnipro river, the school has a shelter.
There were such crazy days!
You know, I am happy to be at home. I am sending you some photos.