Ukrainian Cultural Center of New England

LEXINGTON, Mass. — Nearly two years ago, Russian forces invaded Ukraine.

“Everybody was saying Russia will take Kyiv in three days,” said Anton Khlebas, a Ukrainian American and U.S. veteran. “Or in two weeks, Ukraine will fall. The Russians are just happy now we couldn’t kick their butts all the way out.”

Khlebas still believes Ukraine can prevail — but ticked down a list of items Ukraine didn’t get from the west that would have helped — including F-16s and missiles from Germany.

Christmas is coming — but Ukraine is unlikely to see those high-tech armaments under the tree. In fact, a multibillion-dollar foreign aid package is stalled in Congress — and that’s reportedly having an effect on the ground. Some analysts are even predicting Ukraine will go down to defeat.

With that grim backdrop, local Ukrainians gathered for a Christmas Festival in Lexington on Sunday. Local small business people sold food, wine, Christmas ornaments and artwork to help raise money for Ukraine — and to keep its plight in the public’s mind.

The latter is a tall task — with Israel’s assault on Gaza sucking up an increasing volume of the media’s oxygen.

“The war did not go away,” said Ivanka Roberts, one of the organizers of the Ukrainian Christmas Festival. “War is there, war is active.”

And Roberts said Ukraine’s needs haven’t changed.

“They need help from the whole world,” she said. “Ukraine is not just fighting for its own territory. It’s also fighting for the values of democracy. Liberty. That a person’s life matters.”

Khlebas, who was playing St. Nick at the festival, agreed: “If we had more help, do you think we could have a better chance,” he asked.

In Ukraine, Christ is usually the centerpiece of the Christmas holiday. But for some Ukrainians, family back home will no doubt remain the focus this year.

Artisan Alona Papova is one of them.

“I have all my family, my parents, all my friends (back in Ukraine),” she said. “This summer I visited them because it was very important to me.”

Normally, that trip would have taken a day. But Papova said it’s now a five-day journey — involving a flight to Poland and then a variety of buses or trains to Kiev.

“I can’t help them,” she said. “But I can be there for them.”

Papova was one of several local craftspeople displaying wares at the Christmas Festival. Hers are called pysanky — intricately painted eggs that are most common around Easter, but have now found a place as Christmas ornaments.

Despite the ongoing war, Roberts saw the festival as a joyful opportunity to show how Christmas is done, the Ukrainian way.

“Christmas means so much to us,” she said. “We’re all looking for a little Christmas miracle.”


Original news article