Cases 15:27 12 Apr 2024

"Parcels of Victory": How Ukrainian handmade gifts inspire support for Ukraine abroad

Rubryka tells the story of the initiative that brought together craftspeople from all over Ukraine to find ways to motivate foreigners to support the Ukrainian army.

What's the problem?

Since Russia started its full-scale war against Ukraine in 2022, the war-battered country has been in dire need of support. Getting it isn't always easy, as fundraising is becoming increasingly challenging, even in Ukrainian society. In a previous article, Rubryka has already discussed ways to attract more donations to help local volunteers reach their fundraiser goals. 

As for foreigners, while other countries express their solidarity with Ukraine, turning words of support into action is sometimes a task with its own hurdles. Among the many barriers that may stop people worldwide from doing even the most minor acts of support are weariness from war news, the absence of Ukraine in top headlines or in media altogether, geographical distance, and the extra steps required to donate to Ukraine. 

What's the solution?

Parcel of Victory

Бандеролька перемоги

Toy horse created as part of the "Parcel of Victory" initiative

It's been over a year since the "Parcel of Victory" project was founded in Ukraine's western city of Ternopil by volunteers of the charity foundation "Promin Sontsia," which means "Ray of Sun" in Ukrainian. The initiative creates and sends handmade products abroad to collect donations for the Ukrainian Armed Forces. 

Olena Mudra, the foundation's leader, shared with Rubryka how the crafts of Ukrainian masters help support soldiers and introduce foreigners from different countries to Ukrainian culture.

How does it work?

What came before the parcels

Олена Мудра

Olena Mudra sends a parcel to the UK to volunteer partners Oleksii and Kateryna Smyk

"The 'Promin Sontsia' charity foundation was created to make the world a better place. That's what my son, Dmytro Mudryi, wanted, but he tragically departed this life at the age of 23, leaving this mission to his brothers and me," says Olena Mudra. 

Dmytro died from burns he sustained while rescuing two children from a fire. To honor his memory, Olena created the foundation to help burn victims and advocate opening a thermal trauma center in the region to prevent pediatric burn injuries. That's how "Promin Sontsia" worked until February 2022, when Russia started its full-scale war.

Since the first day of the invasion, Olena Mudra, along with a team of volunteers, has been working hard to support families with children who sought refuge from the war in Ternopil. They arranged overnight stays for displaced people, provided them with food and clothes, and opened a children's room in the foundation's office, where they occupied kids with exciting activities and workshops. Later, the foundation started offering aid to pregnant women by distributing postpartum baby boxes.

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Children paint gingerbread cookies in the foundation's playroom

The volunteers also made talismans — traditional Ukrainian motanka rag dolls called "Chasnykivny" because they had garlic (or "chasnyk" in Ukrainian) in their heads. These tokens were sent to Ukrainian soldiers at the front frontline for symbolic protection and as reminders of gratitude and support.

The first developed project to support soldiers was the "Victory Gingerbreads." Thanks to the cookies baked by one of the community's craftswomen, the volunteers earned their first money and bought T-shirts and many socks for soldiers serving at the front.

In the summer of 2022, the foundation came up with the idea of "Parcel of Victory" — sending handmade products abroad and finding new ways to support Ukrainian soldiers. Olena's friend Kateryna Smyk moved to the UK at that time and became the foundation's British project coordinator.

For those who want to help the army and can make something by hand

Бандеролька перемоги

Mugs painted by students from the front-line city of Sloviansk helped collect donations in Germany

"Parcel of Victory" has been working for a year and a half, collecting handmade products from Ukrainian artists and craftswomen from Ternopil and all over the country. Volunteers identify handcrafts, pack them nicely, and send them abroad to friends and partners, who sell them at charity events and fairs and use the proceeds to purchase needed supplies for the military. The foundation receives the aid back in Ukraine and delivers it to soldiers.

"[Artists] send us souvenirs, talismans, jewelry, gingerbreads, candles. We make such items ourselves, help craftspeople with materials, and involve talented young people — students, teachers, and more," says the project's founder, Olena Mudra. "These things are lovely and functional. Many such items are sold at fairs in Ukraine to support the military, but our goal was to collect donations for the Armed Forces abroad, where our products can raise more money because people are offered a gift for a donation, which can start from €5 and go higher." 

The project organizer says finding people who can create beautiful things is hardly a problem. Ternopil and its surroundings are rich in gifted craftspeople who love to embroider, sew, paint, make pottery, and create various rag dolls — horses, puppets, and birds. Students and generally caring people from all over Ukraine also answer the fund's call.

The foundation sometimes holds workshops. Volunteers recently conducted a workshop on painting eco-bags, which the project participants sewed themselves. Another time, they taught workshop attendees how to make decorative candles.

Crafts of Victory

Бандеролька перемоги

Sunshine Horses and Birds of Happiness at the Fair in Great Britain

During the project, the foundation created an assortment of souvenirs that appealed to people abroad and motivated them to support Ukraine. One perennial favorite item is the Sunshine Horse of Victory. Lilia Korobko, a displaced artist from the front-line city of Kharkiv, taught the volunteers from Ternopil to make it. According to an ancient tradition, the victorious horse is made of burlap and adorned with embroidery, tassels, and bells.

"With our volunteer chaplain Volodymyr Andrukhiv, we turn the cloth from coffee bean sacks into cute little horses and teach others this art," says the project's leader, Olena Mudra, adding that sometimes, toy horses have medallions with the trident, a Ukrainian national coat of arms symbol, made by Oksana Kupetska, a master embroiderer from Ternopil. 

"We attach coins out of circulation so that the side with the trident is visible. Such a coin attracts attention. It's immediately clear that this horse is from Ukraine," says Mudra. "We also decorate the horse blankets with embroidered ribbons. We always include a description with each horse explaining why it's a talisman and a note with a prayer for the soldiers."

українські вироби ручної роботи

These Easter eggs are embroidered by the employees of the Ternopil National Medical University Library.

Masters of all kinds contribute to the project — library workers at the medical university embroider Easter eggs and Christmas decorations, students from local universities and colleges paint kitchen boards and T-shirts, schoolchildren from Sloviansk paint mugs, and soldier Mariana Lesyk helps sew special eco-bags with pockets made of camouflage fabric and hanging rag dolls.

українські вироби ручної роботи

Kitchen boards decorated by students of the Ternopil Vocational Cooperative College

Thirty artisans from all corners of Ukraine — from the cities of Ternopil, Sumy, Kyiv, Sloviansk, and more — have joined the "Parcel of Victory" initiative. They craft, bake, knit, and paint, creating fascinating items to help the Ukrainian army. The organizers say foreigners eagerly buy some products at the fair just after seeing photos on social media.

By the way, each item has a QR code that leads to the project's social media page, where you can learn the name of the artisan who made the craft and see their other works.

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Natalia Poturai, from the town of Velyki Birky in the Ternopil region, made candles to raise funds for the Armed Forces. The craftswoman purchased the materials for the candles at her expense.

"We try to show our artisans everything we buy for the military. We recently met to bless the purchased Nissan jeep, which has been sent to the 47th Artillery Brigade," says Olena Mudra. "So, by helping soldiers, the 'Parcel of Victory' also unites many people, even on the home front."

Does it really work?

Бандеролька перемоги

The flags and chevrons of the Ukrainian brigades are the most valuable rewards for the craftspeople 

Over the past year and a half, the "Parcel of Victory" souvenirs have been sent to many places worldwide—Poland, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Great Britain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the US. Volunteers in some countries have proactively collaborated with the project, and others have responded only once. In each case, the handcrafted items benefited Ukrainian soldiers.

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A fair in Germany

"Our volunteer friends, Ukrainians who are now abroad, thank us for the chance to work with the 'Parcel of Victory.' Participation in the project allows them to communicate with people in other countries and tell them what is happening in our country and what tragedy has come to our lands with the Russian invasion. People ask Ukrainians how they can help and what the volunteers will spend the money on," says Olena Mudra.

Each item contributes at least €5 to the project, but the donations are often much more significant — from €100 to €4,000, Olena Mudra says. The first items that volunteers purchased using proceeds from the fairs were power banks with solar panels. The foundation still receives great feedback from soldiers about them — the power banks work and efficiently charge phones from the sun, providing communication and lighting in dugouts.

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Photo report from soldiers

The "Parcel of Victory" project has procured reusable heaters to ensure that soldiers were warm at the front and individual water filters, vital for those going on reconnaissance missions, to drink water from any puddle or body of water safely. Volunteers also purchased tourniquets, burn dressing pads, and occlusive adhesive dressing. 

Recent donations helped the initiative acquire boots, knee pads, army seats, folding mats, camouflage robes, tactical gloves — everything that protects against cold, injuries, and hypothermia. Soldiers also requested radios, thermal imagers, and collimator sights. Volunteers contributed their own money to fund batteries and binoculars. The project's largest purchases have been a strike drone and two Nissan jeeps.

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The initiative delivered one of the jeeps to the 47th Separate Artillery Brigade soldiers

"Since founding, we have procured about 15,000 US dollars or euros worth of useful items for soldiers. This is with minimal financial investments because we buy threads, fabric, paint, boards, foam bases for products, ribbons, and wax," says the project manager, Olena Mudra. "Everyone invests their own money into their crafts, but the fact that we can later buy much more expensive items delights us all. It feels incredible that we can significantly help soldiers and respond to their requests. Our entire team is grateful to everyone who donates abroad."

Even more helpful solutions!

українські вироби ручної роботи у Британії

A fair in the UK

The "Promin Sontsia" foundation invites volunteers from other countries to participate in the "Parcel of Victory" project. Help transform handmade crafts, like traditional rag dolls and other talismans, into many more helpful things Ukrainian soldiers need. If you are willing to help the project by organizing product presentations, contact the project on their social media page.


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