Sebastopol World Friends responds to the Ukraine crisis

By Steven Levenberg, Sebastopol World Friends, March 9, 2022

ukraine flag

Editor’s note: In mid-February, Steven Levenberg of Sebastopol World Friends penned an article about Ukraine-Russia tensions. A follow-up to the initial article, sent to SoCoNews on March 8, is below.

The unprecedented, horrifying and rapidly changing events in Ukraine have galvanized individual members and leadership of Sebastopol World Friends (SWF) into action. Sebastopol World Friends is the organization in Sebastopol that coordinates Sister City activities with Sebastopol’s two Sister Cities — Takeo, Japan and Chyhyryn, Ukraine.

Here are some of the things we know, some of the responses to this situation, and some things we can all do to help.

What’s going on in with friends in Chyhyryn and elsewhere in Ukraine?

We do know that armed conflict has not occurred in Chyhyryn, but there are some reports that there may be some limited conflict around Cherkasy (Santa Rosa’s Sister City), about 25 miles west of Chyhyryn.

Some friends who had been in Donbas, in Eastern Ukraine, have been able to get to Western Ukraine. They are contemplating whether to continue to Poland.

Another friend in Kyiv, a single father with 8-year-old twin daughters, whose recently deceased wife was a frequent visitor to Sebastopol with Open World groups, was able to keep us updated while he, the girls, and their cat made a harrowing, multi-day journey to Poland. There, he has been able to find lodging with the family of friends from Chyhyryn. The contacts for all this were possible only because of their connections with SWF. It is truly a testament to the value of citizen diplomacy. As we know it, more information about current events in Chyhyryn will be posted on the SWF website at sebastopolwf.org

Recently, SWF’s Board and its Chyhyryn Committee members met and crafted this statement regarding the Ukraine crisis:

Our hearts and minds reach across the distance to be with our friends in Chyhyryn and all of Ukraine at this time of peril.

We wish for their safety and for peace.

As always, Sebastopol World Friends’ primary guiding principle is to support “World Peace, One Friend at a Time”.

Now, more than ever, that gives us hope, but our hearts break for the insecurity that our friends are experiencing.

The Sebastopol City Council unanimously enacted a resolution in support of Ukraine and our friends in Chyhyryn at it meeting on March 1.

What can you do?

There has been a tremendous outpouring of concern from the community regarding the crisis in Ukraine. Overwhelmingly, people want to know what they can do to help. Given our distance and the circumstances involved, it is not easy to know what we can “do” to help. Initially, monetary donations seem to be the most important and useful tangible response. SWF has collected a list of relief organizations where donations can be directed. That list is available on the home page of the SWF website sebastopolwf.org. We certainly encourage everyone to give generously. The humanitarian impact of this situation is huge, and the need will be ongoing.

Even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, SWF and the Sebastopol branch of the Sonoma County Library had been planning a month-long event during March for Sonoma County residents to decorate peace flags which will be sent to Chyhyryn, Sebastopol’s Sister City. Our friends in Ukraine have confirmed that this kind of tangible show of solidarity is important for them — lifting their spirits and sustaining their resolve to defend and protect their country knowing that we in Sebastopol care.

Sebastopol World Friends will have these window flag posters so that everyone can show their support for Ukraine. The flags will be available at the Sebastopol library with the peace flag project. Please pick up one and display it. You’ll see them in the windows of multiple Sebastopol businesses. Thank them for their support!

Sebastopol is not alone in its horror and the drive to help our Ukrainian friends. On March 3, a group of representatives from over 20 U.S. cities across the country which have Ukrainian Sister Cities met to share their experiences in reaching out to their Ukrainian friends and to explore the ways in which we all can collaborate to support friends from our Sister Cities and throughout Ukraine. The list of cities includes those as large as Chicago, Baltimore and Pittsburg; and as small as Sonoma, Modesto, and Sebastopol and as far-flung as Tacoma, Washington; El Paso, Texas; and Corning, New York. Having this diverse group galvanize, and meet, will certainly be one of the silver linings on the cloud that is the Russian invasion of Ukraine.