Friday, September 22, 2023 | 06:01 WIB

A fundraiser for Ukraine a year after Russia’s invasion

IO – On Saturday, the 25th of February, the Ukrainian Embassy in Jakarta held a charity event to raise funds for Ukraine’s First Lady, Olena Zelenska’s charity foundation. The event, ‘Charity Dinner: Soul with Soul’ included a dinner with live music followed by a raffle and charity auction at Zaza’s Boutique in the Elysee Building in SCBD, Central Jakarta. The restaurant which is partly French owned, and which has a truly delicious menu offered each guest a free glass of wine – a glass of coca cola however, had to be paid for – they are French after all.

Beside the normal fare on the menu at Zaza’s, there were also three Ukrainian dishes on offer. The best was the varenyky or Ukrainian dumplings filled with mashed potatoes and mushrooms and served with sour cream and mango chutney for the Asian palate. Ukrainians love potatoes which is fortunate as Ukraine abounds with them and so Zaza’s also served up derunyn which are a type of crispy Ukrainian pancake made of finely grated potatoes, onions, flour and eggs. These are apparently, usually eaten for breakfast.  The third Ukrainian dish on offer at Zaza’s, was the famous Chicken Kyiv. It is not clear how this popular dish of the 1970s originally obtained its name, but it consists of flattened chicken breast spread with a garlic herb butter, which is then breaded and fried.

Ukrainian Ambassador to Indonesia, Vasily Hamianin auctioning for charity. Photo credit: Tamalia Alisjahbana/IO

Ukrainian Ambassador to Indonesia, Vasily Hamianin auctioned off various objects after the dinner including several paintings by Ukrainian artists, Ukrainian postage stamps with several of Crimea when it was still in Ukrainian hands, Ukrainian vodka and wine and a Ukrainian traditional embroidered blouse to raise funds for the Olena Zelenska Foundation for Ukrainian humanitarian efforts. The Indonesian ambassador to Ukraine was also present at the event.

The most interesting item auctioned was a painting by Ambassador Hamianin’s daughter, Varvara Hamianin which depicted two very different scenes. A tree divides the painting in two. The right side of the tree has green leaves and stands against a background of the Ukrainian countryside. It is a sunny scene filled with flowers amongst which Ukraine’s iconic golden sunflowers and the blue and yellow colours of the Ukrainian flag, standout. The picture on the other side of the tree is of dead branches bereft of leaves, standing in front of a desolate and lifeless landscape. A hangman’s noose hangs from the branches of the tree and below it is the cross of a grave. The whole scene is painted in red and black and in the background, crimson flames light-up a dark sky. The subject is clear, and it is sad to think that a young person painted it based on their own experience of war and destruction. Ambassador Hamianin’s wife and older children remain in Kyiv working for the government, trying to help defend their homeland.

Pak Marianto with Varvara Hamianin’s painting. Photo courtesy of Marianto.

The painting was auctioned for Rp 15 million and was bought by Mr Marianto who is a friend of Ukraine. He said, “I have seen this painting before, and I immediately wanted it for I feel a connection with Ukraine. The bright half of the painting represents Ukraine whereas the red half represents Russia and all its destruction. The painting moves me deeply and I was in fact prepared to pay up to Rp 50 million for it.”

“So, will you donate the rest of the money to Ukraine?”

“Of course,” he responded without hesitation.

The Olena Zelenska Foundation – where the proceeds of the auction and dinner will go – is a fundraising platform created by Ukraine’s First Lady, Olena Zelenska to restore the human capital of Ukraine. She says that it is enough to be human to save a child’s life. This reflects the value Ukraine cherishes most namely, the value of each individual; for what Ukraine has come to realize is that it is the effort and help of each person that truly matters and makes a difference. As the First Lady of Ukraine put it, “I believe that the restoration of the whole country begins with the individual.”

Ukrainian Ambassador Vasily Hamianin writing on auctioned painting for Pak Marianto. Photo courtesy of Marianto

The Olena Zelenska Foundation was established on the 22nd of September 2022, at a charity evening in New York attended by former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Foreign Minister James Clever. President Volodymyr Zelensky attended the event online from Kyiv.

The Olena Zelenska Foundation differs from Ukraine’s other main aid organization, United24 which is a global initiative by the Ukrainian authorities to raise funds to support Ukraine during the Russian invasion. At United24 all money raised goes to the National Bank of Ukraine which transfers the funds to one of three relevant ministries in Ukraine i.e the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Health or the Ministry for Infrastructure. The funds are then used for projects related to three main areas namely, defense and demining, medicine or the reconstruction of Ukraine. President Zelensky announced the creation of United24 which was launched by the Prime Minister of Ukraine, Denys Shmyhal on the 5th of May 2022. Unlike United24, the Olena Zelenska Foundation does not raise funds from governments but limits itself to foreign private and non-governmental donors.

In creating the Foundation Mrs Zelensky, is trying to use the resources available to her as the First Lady of Ukraine as well as her international connections to try to attract foreign donations and investments to restore and improve people’s lives in Ukraine. Her Foundation has already managed to carry out a number of projects which have important social significance. These include such things as purchasing medical equipment, delivering humanitarian aid and the evacuation of Ukrainian children in danger from the war, abroad. The Foundation is rebuilding a hospital in Izium where 140,000 patients were left without medical care after the hospital was destroyed by Russian missiles. It is trying to supply 38,000 laptops to teachers in the 12 regions in Ukraine most affected by the war. However, perhaps the most important mission of the Foundation during this last winter has been in providing generators, batteries, sleeping bags, and insulation to people in the regions of Ukraine where these are most needed.  This was to try to supply heat for the Ukrainian population as Russia focused much of its missile attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure, destroying the power plants so badly needed during winter. Olena Zelenska is determined to help restore the human capital of Ukraine.

Last year on the 24th of February, Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine from three fronts. Russian troops and armour invaded Ukraine from Russia, Belarus and Crimea, and fired missiles at several locations close to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. Most analysts assumed that Russian troops would rapidly overpower Ukraine however, that proved not to be the case. To many people’s surprise, Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the autumn of last year succeeded in reclaiming large parts of the areas captured by Russia.

Varvara Hamianin’s painting of the war in Ukraine. Photo credit: Tamalia Alisjahbana/IO

It is now a year later and what many had hoped would be a short war, continues with no immediate end in sight. Many military and political analysts have expressed doubts about the outcome of the war and concern that the West may tire of helping Ukraine, that President Biden who has just visited Kyiv in a show of support may be replaced by another president in 2024 who is unwilling to continue supporting Ukraine with arms, or a congress or senate unwilling to do so. They say that even if Russian leader Vladimir Putin is replaced, a new leader may still wish to continue the war. All this is of course possible, and it may take a long time nevertheless ultimately, the Ukrainians will win. Why? Because they have had enough of Russian tyranny, and they are united in wanting to be free. Also, the Ukrainians are not only a very determined people but moreover a very resilient and strong people. It took Indonesia nearly three hundred years of rebellions to ouster the Dutch but when Indonesians finally united as a people and a nation, we were able to free ourselves. Ultimately, no one can really stop a people determined to be free and the Ukrainians are no less determined than the Indonesians.

President Volodymyr Zelensky and First Lady Olena Zelenska. Photo credit:, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If we look at the Afghans, no one was supplying the Taliban with the sort of weaponry and funds that Europe and America are providing Ukraine. The Taliban just waited and prayed and created what havoc they could and in the end their patience won the day. The Americans withdrew of their own accord.  The Ukrainians have it right when they say that it is the individual that is important. In Ukraine, individual Ukrainians are united in their determination to fight and to be free of Russia – and that’s ultimately what it takes. They have a highly intelligent and capable leader in President Zelensky and when the First Lady of Ukraine says that the restoration of the whole country begins with the individual that also applies to being a free and independent nation. They have it right in cherishing each individual as their nation’s highest value – that is the essence of democracy. (Tamalia Alisjahbana)


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