It took just 18 days for Westport to reach an audacious goal — and help change thousands of lives.
On Friday, $6,525 poured into a fund established to help Lyman, Ukraine. That pushed the total raised since December 19 to $252,800. On that date less than 3 weeks ago, “06880” announced a target of $250,000 to help our new sister city.
Lyman — a town in the Donbas region — suffered mightily during 5 months of Russian occupation. Homes, apartments and schools were destroyed. Police and fire stations were stripped of vehicles and equipment. Even a new playground was demolished.
Without housing, heat or electricity, Lyman residents looked to a joyless Christmas, and a grim winter.
Donations paid immediate dividends. Brian and Marshall Mayer — Westporters who left secure jobs to found Ukraine Aid International — arranged for the surprise delivery of 400 homemade meals on Christmas day. They brought 491 gifts too — one for every child still left in the war-torn town.
Brian and Marshall are in Ukraine right now. They’re sourcing building materials and vehicles, to be delivered soon. Details will be announced later, due to security concerns.
When “06880” readers hear what their dollars have bought — and what UAI and their partners on the ground, the Alex21 group — have done to get it to Lyman, they’ll be awed.
And this is just the start.
The Westport-Lyman sister city partnership will continue, just as its inspiration — Westport and Marigny, France — has, for over 75 years.
In the years after World War II, our town helped the French village recover. They are joining us in our work with Lyman. Next week, the Marigny mayor announces their own aid effort.
Staff and students at Staples High School, and Bedford and Coleytown Middle Schools, have expressed interest in helping Lyman’s youngsters — much as Westport did with Marigny, decades ago.
The shape of that help will be determined soon. But harnessing the enthusiasm of Westport students is another important element of our sister city relationship.
New town-wide initiatives are in the works too.
The drive to $250,000 was a community-wide effort. 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker is solidly behind the effort, and has worked behind the scenes to involve other town officials and departments.
On a Zoom call with Lyman’s mayor Alexander Victoravich Zuravlov, she held up a sign that said, “We Stand With Ukraine.” Her counterpart in Ukraine was moved to tears.
Westport — plus former Westporters, and friends and relatives beyond our town — contributed that $252,800 almost entirely as individuals. There were no foundation grants, and only a couple from civic groups.
Of course, organizations will have their chance to help in the coming months.
“06880” is proud to have helped kick-start our drive to raise over $250,000 for Lyman. A working group including Mark Yurkiw, Steve Taranko, Polly Newman, Katya Wauchope, Kathleen Wauchope, Clyde Wauchope and Tom Kretsch joined with Brian and Marshall Mayer, the Alex 21 group’s Liz Olegov and Richard von Groeling, Tooker and other town officials to fast-track the fundraising, then get the goods where they needed to go.
Like all of Westport, that group — and “06880” — is in this for the long, long haul.
Our town will continue to assist our friends in Ukraine, always and in all ways.
We’ve only just begun.
Donations to Lyman are still welcome. Just click here for the credit card “Donate” button. Click the “I want to support” box; then select “Support for the City of Lyman.” You can also scroll down on that page for other donation options (mail, wire transfer and Venmo.) Or you can donate directly, via Stripe (click here).