Eden Prairie is thousands of miles away from the turmoil in Ukraine.
But, Camp Eden Wood provided the setting for many immigrants from Russia, Ukraine, and other countries once part of the former Soviet Union and their families to show unity against the war and give financial and emotional support for the Ukrainian children caught in the crossfire.
Russian Camp MN rented the facility Sunday afternoon for its “Kids Against War” fundraiser of food, music, crafts, chess, and camaraderie. Children who attend Russian Camp MN summer camps come from many backgrounds to learn the Russian language and culture. (Camp Eden Wood is operated under the umbrella of True Friends but is also available for rentals.)
“Let us show that politicians and tyrants can not divide neighbors and pit them against each other,” stated a Russian Camp MN Facebook post on the event. “We must stand strong as friends in a community of shared language, cultures and traditions and remain united as a community with our friends. We want to help heal the wounds of war.”
Tamara von Schmidt-Pauli, the Russian Camp MN program director, said the fundraiser was put together quickly. She is devastated by the war but proud of her camp’s community to gather together to help on Sunday.
“No to war in all the languages our kids speak!” she wrote on Facebook.
Those attending the fundraiser live all over the Twin Cities. Originally, though, campers’ families hail from such places as Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Georgia.
“There are Russians here. There are Ukrainians here. There are Belarusians here,” said Mila Krol, a volunteer at the event. “There are people who were all born and raised with ‘No more and never again’ after World War II. In addition to the money to support the victims of the war, this is also important right here, right now in uniting ourselves against the war.”
Krol’s presence at Camp Eden Wood was purposeful.
The Minnetonka resident, who came to the U.S. as a child from her native Belarus, said she is against the war on Ukraine. But, she added, that’s not enough.
“There’s also peace,” she said.
Money donated to global response team
More than $2,000 was raised from selling about 500 blinchiki (a Ukrainian version of thin pancakes), cooked pirozhki buns and pastries, along with donated items from a silent auction. Russian Camp MN made it about $4,000, with a matching donation.
That money will be donated to a non-profit global response team of medical personnel from Russia and Ukraine. People from that team are now in Poland helping Ukrainian refugees.
The fundraiser also aimed to teach the kids about compassion, love and togetherness. That included writing cards to Ukrainian children.
“We were able to protect many of the kids (here), fortunately,” Krol said. “There isn’t military in the streets. In many ways, they see the emotional parents, the emotional adults. But thankfully, they don’t understand. This is a specific way to support our children.”
Alexander Sick, 18, of Maple Grove, thinks it’s a strenuous time for those waiting for news in the U.S. about people they know in Ukraine. Born in Minneapolis, Sick’s mother is from Siberia.
“There’s such a (geographic) distance between these people that the majority of Americans just don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “So, when you do hear about your friend or your family (member), the little bit of information can make your imagination run wild, and that just makes it so much worse.”