Ukrainian Summer Festival raises funds for Kharkiv hospital
CINCINNATI — The smell of butter, potatoes and fried dough wafted through the air at Cincinnati’s Kolping Center, Sunday, as hundreds lined up for a taste of authentic Ukrainian cooking, each getting their own cheerful greeting from Oksana Sergeenakova, front and center at the serving counter.
It was a part of Hope4Ukraine’s Ukrainian Summer Festival. In a typical year, the festival would mark the nation’s independence day, Aug. 24, but six months into the Russian-Ukraine War, the group wanted the event to raise awareness of the ongoing conflict, and raise funds for those who need it most.
Their focus was Cincinnati’s sister city, Kharkiv.
“It’s six months of the war and every day the city was shelled heavily,” Sergeenakova said. “Hospitals in Kharkiv desperately need equipment to help civilians who suffer.”
Hope4Ukraine has been in direct contact with some of those area hospitals, hoping to raise thousands for equipment like an X-Ray machine, operating room lamps and a generator.
For Sergeenakova, the issue hits especially close to home. She’s from the northeast Ukrainian city of Sumy, close to Kharkiv, but even closer to the Russian border. She said her mother is still there and plans to wait out the conflict for the time being.
“Right now she’s making a victory garden,” she said.
Food made up the largest part of the festival, with organizers like Sergeenakova spending much of the past few weeks prepping to feed hundreds.
“We made 4,500 pierogies, around 2,000 stuffed cabbage rolls and a thousand and half cutlets,” she said.
The rest of the festival was dedicated to art, dance and music, helping to share and promote Ukrainian culture.
With hundreds trickling through the hall throughout the seven-hour event, Sergeenakova said the support was humbling.
“I am so grateful for people to show up and for the support they’re doing for Ukraine,” she said.
Organizers said they likely won’t know how much money was raised until later in the week. Their last event in April raised more than $35,000.
While this year’s festival was focused on fundraising for medical equipment related to the war, the organizers say they want the event to become an annual tradition, even in peacetime.