You can walk down the same street for years, but then something happens. The something can come in any size, but it will change how you walk down that street. I’ve walked down North 5th between Bedford and Driggs Avenues at least ten times a week for the past two decades. I’ve seen eyecatchers there, usually in the form of unique and joyous fashion statements. One time I saw a woman riding a motorcycle with a large bouquet of flowers tucked under her arm; it was a Mother’s Day. Although these stay in my memory, after each I’ve walked the stretch as I have before.
What I’m getting to is this: at the central point in this section of street is the Holy Ghost Ukrainian Church (the south side of the street) and the Holy Ghost Ukrainian Church rectory (the north side of the street). For two decades I’ve seen the yellow and blue flag of Ukraine partnered with the American flag guarding the door to the rectory, and recently another set of these flags has been placed on the church. Seeing these two flags together reminds me of what America is about, the melting pot, which is arguably a good vessel for a delicious borscht.
After President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to invade Ukraine in the third week of February, I avoided walking down North 5th. Not because I was turning my back on the part of Ukraine that is my neighbor, but because my arms weren’t big enough to hug both a church and a rectory, and that was all I wanted to do as I walked by. I returned to my usual path after a week, and I noticed I’m not alone in wanting to hug Ukraine.
The North Brooklyn community has become a font of individual and group acts of support for Ukraine. I see yellow and blue nods to Ukraine everywhere. Some from Mother Nature as blue violet crocus and yellow daffodils bloom together as first flowers of spring.
Archestratus Books & Foods (160 Huron Street) held two bake sales (March 6 and March 13) inspired by #CookForUkraine. This initiative was created by friends Olia Hercules (a Ukrainian chef/cookbook author) and Alissa Timoshkina (a Russian food creative), both based in England, to unite the world through food and fundraise for those in crisis due to the war on Ukraine. Archestratus’s two bake sales brought in $12K of donations that went to UNICEF’s Ukraine Appeal via #CookForUkraine.
There is more. At the start of the Russian invasion, a Ukrainian flag has been seen flying above scaffolding on Calyer and Lorimer Streets. There are several others popping up throughout the neighborhood. The scaffolding has since been removed, but the flag remains. A child’s hope drawn in blue and yellow crayon was taped to a Metropolitan Avenue apartment window. A GoFundMe (https://www.gofundme.com/f/neighbors-uniting-for-neighbors-in-need-ukraine) set up by Greenpoint neighbors to support Ukrainian refugees arriving in Poland has raised $23,760 — as of this writing.
Sustainable United Neighborhoods, The Bushwick Generator joined the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce for a refugee relief drive in partnership with the Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. They are collecting medical supplies, non-perishable food essentials, dry pet food, batteries, etc. Donations received by April 1 at 215 Moore Street will be part of the first shipment flown to Poland and Moldova for distribution to Ukrainian refugees. The group are continuing to collect donations through April.
There is also prayer. The Our Lady of Mt Carmel-Annunciation Church has posted a banner outside their church that beckons passersby to pray for peace. The Brooklyn Diocese and Catholic Foundation for Brooklyn and Queens have organized a fundraiser to bring aid to refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine. Donations are collected at churches and online here. On the evening of April 5, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel/Church of the Annunciation held a mass led by Pastor Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello. Yellow and blue lights were projected onto the exterior front of the church; many churchgoers were wrapped in Ukrainian flags. When the world’s problems seem too big, there is always something we can do.