Cupcakes topped with blue and yellow frosting – the colors of the Ukrainian flag – were among the abundance of treats on sale at a local cafe.
The cupcakes, pies and cakes were sold at a bake sale on Saturday to raise funds for body armor and other items for Ukrainian soldiers fighting against Russia.
The recent sale on the back patio of Zero Tolerance Coffee and Chocolate, 913 W Britton Road, was part of a series of fundraisers organized by members of St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The little church is led by Reverend Stepan Bilogan, a Ukrainian-born who came to Oklahoma about a year ago to become the new priest at Jones’ house of worship.
“The money we get, we buy things for the soldiers like helmets, bulletproof vests and everything that goes to Ukraine,” Bilogan said in Ukrainian, with church member Mikita Dzialendzik helping. to translate the priest’s words into English.
Maura Baker, another St. Mary’s member who owns the Zero Tolerance store, said people lined up outside the establishment before it opened on Saturday. She said the church is grateful for the support the community has shown the church and Ukraine through fundraising. The recent sale included dancing and live music, with Bilogan playing his accordion.
“It was full,” Baker said of the store’s patio. “A lot of people came to support us – the lady who runs the Russian grocery store came too.”
After:How to talk to children about the Russian-Ukrainian conflict: listen
Baker said the parish held a bake sale fundraiser at a Presbyterian church in Tulsa during the Lenten season and that the church pastor recently brought St. Mary’s $1,200 in donations that had collected through this effort. She said that in addition to the items mentioned by Bilogan, the funds help pay for the shipping costs of medical and food supplies that are sent to Ukraine.
Church members said the next bake sale will be held in June at St. Mark’s Catholic Church in Norman.
Grateful for the support
Bilogan said he was in daily contact with his mother and brother, who remain in besieged Ukraine.
He said regular phone calls with loved ones helped him and his wife, Iryna, cope with a steady stream of disturbing news reports showing Ukrainians fighting Russian troops, missiles destroying buildings and civilians fleeing the war-torn country.
He said he did not expect his mother to leave Ukraine because she is old and does not want to leave her home.
“She’s retired. She’s older, so it would be difficult,” he said.
Bilogan said he came to the United States on a religious visa to work as a priest at St. Mary’s. He said he was entitled to a vacation of two or three weeks, but he considers traveling to Ukraine too dangerous at the moment.
In light of this, the priest said he was happy to see so many Americans expressing their support for Ukraine and the country’s partner countries in the West, such as the United States.
“Americans are showing up to help. They are showing up with clothes, medicine to help,” he said.
‘No one knows how it’s supposed to end’:Why the Ukrainian-born coach finds solace in OU gymnastics
Bilogan said he was grateful for the support and encouragement of Oklahomans, who joined his parishioners at St. Mary’s, 409 Boston St. in Jones. He said he wasn’t surprised to see many Oklahomans giving to the Ukrainian cause.
“I really love Oklahoma. Everybody is fine, everybody wishes me luck,” Bilogan said.
As for his compatriots who are fighting to remain independent, Bilogan said the world can expect to see more of their courage as they push the Russians back from their land.
“I knew deep in my heart that the Ukrainian people love their freedom,” he said. “My country wants to be independent from Russia. Soldiers fight, it’s in our very blood.”
Keep the faith
The couple of Edmond Vasyl and Olena Nesin, both originally from Ukraine, have also served as translators for Bilogan since he arrived in Oklahoma from Ukraine.
The couple said news from their homeland is often worrying these days, but they managed to keep the faith.
“We believe in winning,” Olena Nesin said emphatically after a recent Sunday service at St. Mary’s.
However, she said the price of a triumph over Russia would be high.
“It is clear that the victory will be very heavy; there will be many casualties,” she said.
The Nesins were motivated to launch a relief campaign to collect efforts for the Ukrainians. They helped with the recent bake sale, and St. Mary’s members expect them to be at the heart of local efforts to help Ukraine.
For more information on bake sales and other fundraisers for Ukraine, visit the church’s Facebook page.