Tag Archives: Ukraine

Pic Of The Day #1894

Ukraine’s flag flies proudly on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge today. Westport’s annual jUNe Day celebration is set for tomorrow (Saturday). (Photo/Amy Schneider)

Report From Ukraine: The Sequel

Mark Modzelewski read a recent “06880” story on Brian Mayer with interest. The Westport native described his work overseas, delivering much-needed supplies to Ukrainian citizens.

Mark — a past president of Westport’s Community Emergency Response Team, and board member for the American Red Cross Connecticut/Rhode Island region — worked with Brian, at the Ukraine/Poland border. Mark writes:

Since my return people have said, “It seems like so much charitable funding is already going to Ukraine. With all the options, where are donations most needed?”

Once I started to look into where to donate money, I was amazed at the number of different avenues. It would have been expedient to pick one and be done. But I was in a position to get directly involved to follow the money, and determine whether it was reaching those in need.  I now know where I would continue to fund.

If you are considering donating, I recommend putting the work of Brian at the top of your list.

Brian Mayer

He works incessantly. Between supply convoys, he shuttles passengers between the Przemyśl train station, the refugee transition center, and the border. The last-minute, critical supply convoys have gone directly to the border and deep into Ukraine, using funds Brian, I and others have raised.

I was gratified to be part of this humanitarian experience, because we served as “fixers” addressing the disruptions, gaps and lags in the supply chain.

Small- to mid-size NGOs on the Poland side have struggled to find transport vehicles and drivers to take donated goods across the border. With heavy use of WhatsApp, Google Translate and Google Maps, the dedicated collective of multinational, freelance volunteer drivers with rented and owned vans were on call and agile.

We organized convoys of supplies transported across the border to the last mile to those most in need (not just warehouses but orphanages, convents and people in bomb shelters). With volunteer drivers among various points in the supply routes, we got real-time reports on transport conditions and the needs of the displaced, which allowed us to supplement the next convoy of food supplies.

Volunteers load supplies.

From my disaster relief operations experience, there is almost always an imbalance of resources (supply v. demand), whether facilities, equipment, supplies, personnel or funding.

There are indeed gaps in funding for this operation. Ongoing contributions are critical, as funding in the initial stages of a disaster comes flooding in and then tapers off, presenting a planning challenge for ongoing service delivery.

Whatever charitable organization you choose, a steady stream of contributions is more helpful to the cause, as expenditures can be managed more efficiently to consistent trends of charitable inflows.

With Brian’s work and the collective work of the transport “fixers,” the funds go to work in a less-flashy and behind-the scenes manner, but with a more effective and immediate impact.

Brian has just established a US aid umbrella: Ukraine Aid International.  You can Venmo @ukraineaidinternational, or send tax deductible contributions to: Ukraine Aid International, 88 Partrick Road, Westport, CT 06880.

(“O6880” relies entirely on reader contributions. Click here to donate.)

A group of tired but committed volunteers. (Photos courtesy of Mark Modzelewski)

Brian Mayer: Report From Ukraine

In April, “06880” reported on Westport native Brian Mayer’s work in Poland.

iThe New York tech executive was there, helping deliver supplies for Ukrainian refugees, and the army.

He’s still at it. Here’s his latest report:

I’m writing to you from one of the countless border crossing lines I’ve waited on in the last 2 weeks. I’m on my way to pick up several more suitcases of specialty medicine from Sauveteurs Sans Frontières. Then I’ll take it back to Ukraine for onward delivery to the east. I’ve gotten pretty good at these crossings, and it helps to have priority access when laden with humanitarian aid. My record cross time so far is 28 minutes. But you don’t want to hear about border logistics.

Stalin said that one death is a tragedy, and a million deaths is a statistic. I thought about this the other day when driving through Ivano-Frankivsk. Traffic ground to a halt for a funeral procession: A hearse was led by a priest and a coterie of singing babushkas, with a young widow draped in black and two dozen family and friends in tow. It was simple but mournful, routine in any other place. But this isn’t any other place.

This scene is repeated thousands of times in every town and small village, every day across Ukraine right now. Wives are becoming widows and children are becoming orphans. People are going back to work to find desks of coworkers empty; so many poker nights are now short a player. And all for the sake of a completely unnecessary war, and a 19th century imperial fantasy in the deranged head of one wrinkly old crackpot in Moscow.

I realized talking to my new friends here that the initial anger and shock that we all felt in the first couple weeks of this war has faded into the background. Anger and frustration are not productive emotions. You learn quickly that it doesn’t help make queues go faster or prices go down or gas become available or goods reach their intended destinations quicker.

Everything on the ground is harder than it should be, but you suffer it because you must, and there is no other option. You push forward because your anger has yielded to something more powerful and more useful: a desire to win, at all costs. A recent column said it best: Putin has to lose. There is no other option.

This is why so few expats I’ve worked with on the border have been able to stay away, even as some have taken much needed breaks back home in Europe or Canada or wherever they are from.

Many have pushed harder and deeper into Ukraine, taking on more and more dangerous missions, following the urgency: families that need evacuation, orphanages that need resettlement, soldiers that need medical care, children that need cancer treatment, villages and towns that need food, soap, toothbrushes, underwear and medicine, all before the Russians close in and martial law is imposed.

Brian Mayer

I am thankful I have a day job, which keeps me grounded and in a routine. After all, I have to be at a high speed WiFi connection at 4 p.m. Ukraine time every day. If I didn’t, I could see myself being pulled further east, as the demands from the front lines are impossible to ignore. ‘

Many of my new friends here quit their day jobs as receptionists and roofers and bricklayers and students and are now routinely dodging rocket strikes while shuttling crucial supplies across the pockmarked landscape. One of my new driver friends told me their joke: “In the UK, you drive on the left. In Europe, you drive on the right. In the Ukraine, you drive on the part of the road that’s still there.”

I’m closely watching how this war is affecting the expats here. There are no psychological services available for volunteers and aid workers, and certainly nothing to prepare many in civilian life for talking to rape victims or seeing corpses or having friends murdered.

When a volunteer Irish soldier showed me a picture of his mates and a Ukrainian family they rescued, then told me “10 minutes later everyone in this photo was dead,” and proceeded to tell me in excruciating detail what it was like to wear the same pair of underwear for two weeks and fight in the trenches with no food, because humanitarian groups consider feeding soldiers to be outside their purview — you don’t really have an outlet for hearing these sorts of stories, let alone experiencing them firsthand.

This is also the reason why everyone’s anger is pointed not at the Russians — after all, we are united in our common purpose against them and, as discussed, this anger is not productive — but at the governments and NGOs on our side that don’t seem to understand the reality on the ground. The governments continue to make humanitarian border crossings a nightmare, holding up trucks for days, especially the empty trucks going back to Poland to pick up more supplies.

Fuel price caps and various other regulations have worsened diesel shortages, and this whole supply effort runs on diesel. NGOs talk about donations going to “humanitarian purposes only” as if it is possible to separate civilian needs from the war effort. Humanitarian aid is useless if the Russians have cut off supply lines. Medicine is useless if the recipients are killed. Most importantly, soldiers are people too, and they need to eat and brush their teeth and have clean socks and underwear. Where is the help for them? And how can we possibly be expected to win this war without it?

I am also shocked by the failure of last mile logistics from NGOs here. I’ve now been at the warehouses of at least 4 major internatonal NGOs in Poland, all with the same general pattern: a supply drop of hundreds of pallets of humanitarian aid in a warehouse given to a project manager with absolutely no budget or even a plan for getting the supplies into Ukraine.

These poor project managers, many of them first timers, are being asked to move hundreds of pallets without trucks or forklifts or money or local contacts or translators, and many of them are even forbidden from crossing the border. How are these goods supposed to make it into Ukraine, let alone to the front lines where they are needed the most?

The truth is, that task is left to the volunteer drivers working here who are risking their lives every day to bring supplies to the front. They will receive no parade back home, no medals or recognition for their work, and certainly no accolades from the Ukrainian government. They’re paying for their own gas and lodging.

Aid convoys have been bombed and volunteers have been killed, and they will receive no military honors or benefits for their families back home. And many of these volunteers are expats who don’t need to be here. They are here because they see this war for what it is: a fight for our civilization and our values. And though diesel fuels their cars, it is duty that drives them to the front.

That is why we need your help more than ever, to cover food, medicine, and most importantly, diesel!

We just established our US aid umbrella, Ukraine Aid International, which means we can now take tax deductible contributions. Please Venmo @ukraineaidinternational or send tax deductible contributions to: Ukraine Aid International, 88 Partrick Road, Westport, CT 06880.

Thank you for all your support. (Hat tip: Nancy Diamond)

Roundup: TTCS & Ukraine, RTM & Roe, Holocaust Talk …

The Conservative Synagogue continues to help Ukrainian refugees.

The congregations sponsored a planeload of 132 refugees. The flight left from Budapest on Tuesday, for Israel.

Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn reports that the families have been welcomed to Israel as new citizens.  Mazel tov!

From Ukraine to Israel — with help from The Conservative Synagogue of Westport.

=======================================================

The Representative Town Meeting’s next session is June 7.

In addition to the usual requests for appropriations and ratifications of Planning & Zoning Commission decisions, there is this agenda item: to adopt a sense of the meeting resolution “that Westport supports the constitutional rights and principles established in Roe v. Wade, and opposes the elimination of those rights by any subsequent Supreme Court decision.”

The town’s non-partisan legislative body has passed similar “sense of the meeting” resolutions before — including, in 1969, a resolution asking President Johnson and Congress to “take immediate action to withdraw from the (Vietnam) war.”

Joanne Woodward spoke in support. After 3 hours of long, impassioned debate, the RTM voted 17-15 in favor of the resolution. The New York Times ran a long story about it.

=======================================================

On Thursday, Holocaust survivor Judy Altmann gave an important presentation to all Bedford and Coleytown Middle School 8th graders.

The Westport school district has made the link publicly available (and posted it on their website). Click here for her talk. To learn more about Judy Altmann, click here.

Judy Altmann

===================================================

The Levitt Pavilion kicks off the holiday weekend with a pair of free “open house” concerts this weekend. No tickets are required for the 2 shows, today and tomorrow (Saturday and Sunday, May 28 and 29, 5 p.m. both days).

Tonight it’s Michael Coppola and Harvie S Jazz Duo. Tomorrow features The Esperanto Duo: Dave Giardina & Chris Payne (“old time and gypsy jazz”).

Click here for more information.

=======================================================

Just in time for Memorial Day, a new flagpole has been installed outside the Westport Weston Family YMCA.

Long may she wave!

(Photo/Dan Woog)

==================================================

Also just in time for Memorial Day: The ice cream hut at The Porch is open for business.

A servicemember and his family kicked off the holiday weekend yesterday, with a treat.

(Photo/Fred Cantor)

=======================================================

Jerry Kuyper snapped today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo in his unmown meadow (“aka yard,” he notes).

The snapping turtle’s shell was about 12 inches long. And, Jerry adds, “the scars on the back might be from a lawn mower.”

No wonder the turtle snaps.

(Photo/Jerry Kuyper)

=====================================================

And finally … on this day in 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act. It denied many Native Americans their land rights, and forcibly relocated them.

Thus began one of the most shameful parts of our nation’s history.

 

Arlene And Alexey: United By Ukraine

Nearly 15 years ago, Arlene Gottlieb waited to be seated at a restaurant in Rome.

She and her husband David are 50-year Westport residents. But that night, she was alone.

A young man tapped her shoulder. “Would you like to join my wife and me for dinner?” he asked.

She was surprised, but grateful. As they ate and chatted, they discovered a connection. Alexey and his wife Victoria lived in Kyiv, Ukraine — Arlene’s grandmother’s home.

A friendship formed. Over the years, Arlene and Alexey exchanged emails and texts. He invited the Gottliebs to visit.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Arlene asked how he was doing. He texted back: “It’s getting bad here.” He wanted Victoria and their teenage children to leave. She did not want to go.

Finally, she agreed. Alexey drove his family to the Polish border. Then he returned home, to fight.

Luckily, they’d just gotten Canadian visas. This summer, they planned to visit Victoria’s sister in Toronto. They moved up their departure date. As soon as they could, they flew to Canada.

A couple of weeks ago, Arlene called Alexey. He was underground in Kharkiv, as a sniper.

Victoria told Arlene he needed military equipment. It cost $6,200. Arlene promised to raise the funds.

The Gottliebs’ friends pitched in. A journalist friend of Victoria’s in Odessa made sure it was delivered to him.

The other day, Alexey texted Arlene. He sent photos, of himself with the equipment.

As she described the latest twist in this unlikely friendship, her voice broke.

“I still wonder how and why he picked me out to join him for dinner,” she says. “And how we kept up with each other, through all the years.

“There’s a Jewish word, ‘beshert.’ It means ‘meant to be.’ That’s all I can believe.

“I’m not a praying person. But I pray every day that he is okay.

“This is a love story, all around. I’m just glad we can help Alexey, and help Ukraine.”

David and Arlene Gottlieb

Roundup: Little Rock 9, Indie Movies, Lice …

Three years after Brown vs. Board of Education, public schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, were still segregated.

But on September 25, 1957, US Army soldiers escorted 9 black teenagers into Central High School. 14-year-old Carlotta Walls LaNier was the youngest

On May 24, 2022 (7 p.m.), Carlotta — now in her 70s, and the last survivor of that courageous group of 9 — will join her friend, Westporter Steve Parrish, “In Conversation” at the Westport Library.

Carlotta will describe what it was like to be escorted by armed soldiers through an angry mob, and what happened to her and her family in the months and years after. She’ll reflect on her journey — and ours, as a country and a society.

Click here to register.

Carlotta Walks LaNier

=======================================================

Staples High School’s Independent Learning Experience allows to move beyond the classroom setting, tackling projects or courses not otherwise offered there. Through an Independent Learning Experience, students spend a semester or full

Several students have produced films (giving new meaning to the phrase “indie movies”). They’ll be screened on Tuesday (May 10, 6:30 p.m., Staples auditorium). Each is about 10 minutes long.

Themes and filmmakers include:

  • An ex-criminal turned interdimensional defense officer investigates a lead on a former partner (Jacob Friedman)
  • Co-dependency and instability challenge 2 teens as they deal with daily life (Leah Chapman and Tate Mullineaux)
  • A high school girl struggles with mental illness (Elen Macaluso)
  • A couple preys on victims in a twisted game of betrayal, manipulation and psychosis (Ben Seideman).

A question-and-answer session and small reception follow. The public is invited.

=======================================================

I don’t have any young kids. Nor do I have much hair. So I would not know about what I’m told are lice outbreaks at some Westport schools (and pre-schools).

But Liz Solovay is on the case.

The Westport resident owns Lice Treatment Center. She’s been helping local families with in-home and treatment center services for over 15 years.

As if you don’t need more reasons to call Liz: This is Small Business Week. So while you’re taking care of some “small business” of your own, you’re also helping one.

=======================================================

Lynsey Addario has taken some haunting, harrowing photos of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

But one that the 1991 Staples High School graduate (and Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist) published in yesterday’s New York Times may be among her most sorrowful.

Nothing illustrates the depravity of the Russian invasion — and its toll on innocent people — more than this simple shot.

Aleksandr, a resident of Kramatorsk, sat in a room of his destroyed apartment after it was hit by a Russian airstrike yesterday. (Photo/Lynsey Addario for the New York Times)

Thank you to Lynsey, fellow Staples grad and Times photographer Tyler Hicks, and all others in the war zone, for showing the world what is going on half a world away.

To learn more about the history, geography and culture of Ukraine, listen to Professor Walter Zaryckyj at the Westport Library on Monday (May 9, 7 p.m., in-person and Zoom). He’ll speak on “Understanding Ukraine: Past, Present and Future.” Click here to register.

“06880” is a proud co-sponsor of this important educational event.

=======================================================

The 2022 rugby high school nationals will be televised.

That’s of interest to “06880” readers, because Staples High School will be in them.

The Wreckers — ranked #5 in the nation — head to Elkart, Indiana soon. They compete for a US title from Thursday to Saturday, May 19-21 (times TBD).

Can’t make it to “The RV Capital of the World”? Go to Little Barn instead. Matches will be shown there, on a big screen.

In March, a crowd gathered at Little Barn for the rugby team’s kickoff tournament in Virginia.

=======================================================

The Joggers Club is moving — from Compo Beach to the Greens Farms train station.

They invite everyone to stop by, every Saturday at 8 a.m. The first run is free. They offer a variety of distances and paces. All are fun.

Plus coffee, treats and music after each run.
·        When: Every Saturday @ 8:00am
·        Where: Green’s Farms Train Station

====================================================

The Westport Weston Family YMCA will offer 15 needs-based lifeguard certification scholarships this summer.

Applicants must be 15 to 23 years old, with strong swimming skills. There are 2-day courses May 7-8 and 14-15, and June 4-5 and 11-12. Click here for the application, and more information.

Questions. Contact Julia Marshella by email (jmarshella@westporty.org) or phone (203-226-8984).

======================================================

The other day, our “Westport … Naturally” feature showcased a handsome swan, sitting on her eggs.

She must have been foraging for food yesterday. Here was the scene:

(Photo/Elaine Marino)

And we’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Don’t get too close! Give her and her cygnets-to-be plenty of space.

=======================================================

And finally … on this date in 1940, John Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath. It was a novel — but it cut very, very close to the truth.

 

Westport Firefighters Send Protective Gear To Ukraine

The Westport Fire Department has donated used personal protective equipment — including coats, pants and boots — to Ukraine.

Fire marshal Nathaniel Gibbons organized the project. Yesterday he delivered the turnout gear, to be shipped to Ukrainian firefighters.

Gibbons says, “Firefighters support one another around the county and the world. The men and women of Ukraine fighting fire under war conditions reached out for our support- so we responded. We support them and their fight for freedom.”

Fire marshal Nathaniel Gibbons and Uliana Khovanets, liaison with Ukraine Post, with Westport Fire Department gear headed to Ukraine.

Fire Chief Michael Kronick adds, “Imagine trying to put out a fire without the proper equipment. There are raging fires in cities, forests and fields from the numerous bombing attacks, which firefighters work around the clock to put out. We know that our equipment will save lives, and help the firefighters.”

Gibbons thanks Westporter Mark Yurkiw. Fluent in Ukrainian, he expedited the communication and logistics necessary to get the gear directly to Ukraine Emergency Services.

The National Fire Protection Association specifies that structural turnout gear should be retired when the garment is beyond repair and no longer able to pass the NFPA test. Though the donated gear is past its technical expiration date for use in the US, it is clean, in serviceable condition, and ready to provide protection to Ukrainian firefighters.

Roundup: Ukraine, Roe v. Wade, Art …

How does Ukraine’s geography impact its history? What about its natural resources? Why is it fighting so fiercely for its independence, and why does Russia covet it so?

In other words: What do we need to know about Ukraine’s past, to understand what’s happening there today and tomorrow?

This Monday (May 9, 7 p.m., in-person and Zoom), we can all learn together.

The Westport Library hosts “Understanding Ukraine: Past, Present and Future.” Professor Walter Zaryckyj — director of the Center for US-Ukrainian Relations — will provide insights into this fascinating and important country that most of us know only through recent news reports and images.

It’s a great way to learn about the geography and history — long-ago and just-before-February — that most of us never learned or knew.

“06880” is a co-sponsor of the event. I’ll moderate the discussion, and lead a question-and-answer period at the end with Professor Zaryckyj.

Click here to register for a spot in the Library Forum. Click here for a Zoom link. Click here to learn more about Professor Zaryckyj.

=======================================================

Spring is the perfect time for ice cream.

Actually, any time is the perfect time for ice cream.

But the coming of spring also heralds the arrival of Gofer Ice Cream. Westport’s newest shop opens soon at 1240 Post Road East. It takes over the former Silver Ribbon location, near (among others) Fortuna’s, Greens Farms Spirit Shop, a vape store and COVID testing center.

Inklings — the Staples High School newspaper, which first reported the story — says that when Gofer opens this spring, it will feature premium hard and soft serve ice cream, plant-based and fat-free options, smoothies, cakes and more.

Gofer’s other locations include Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, Ridgefield, Riverside, Stamford and Wilton.

What took Westport so long? What are we, chopped liver?

=======================================================

Yesterday’s “06880” story on Westport neighborhoods included this line about the “Private/Residents Only” sign on Saugatuck Island: “Fun fact: No other Westport neighborhood has an actual ‘entrance.'”

Ken Stamm sent along a photo showing another sign, a couple of miles away:

(Photo/Ken Stamm)

It’s not actually an “entrance” to Saugatuck — there’s no such thing — but it is certainly more welcoming than “Private/Residents Only.”

There’s only one problem: As Ken notes, the sign faces the I-95 on-ramp.

It should say, he writes, “Thanks for visiting Saugatuck!” Drivers who see it are those coming from Saugatuck, on their way out of the neighborhood.

On the other hand, it is a very handsome sign.

=======================================================

Just a few hours after news leaked of a draft of the Supreme Court’s decision in a case challenging Roe v. Wade, several protestors headed to Westport’s political town square: the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. A number of passing drivers honked horns in support.

‘Deb Noonan and Nancy Aldrich were among the protestors yesterday on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.(Photo/Bobbi Essagof)

Last week, Connecticut’s General Assembly passed a first-in-the-nation bill. It will protect medical providers and patients seeking abortion care here, who may travel from states that have outlawed abortion. It also expands the type of practitioners eligible to perform certain abortion-related care in Connecticut. Governor Lamont has said he will sign the bill.

=====================================================

Our town has plenty of art shows. One of the best is at the Westport Woman’s Club

This year’s event is May 21 and 22 (2 to 6 p.m.), at their 44 Imperial Avenue clubhouse.

Among the local artists there with their works: Ola Bossio, Trace Burroughs, Ann Chernow, Susan Fehlinger, Larry Gordon, Tom Kretsch, Arpad Krizsan, Paul Larson, Erzsebet Laurinyecz, Jena Maric, Jon Puzzuoli, Peter Savarine, Gay Schempp, Oksana Tanasiv and Larry Untermeyer.

There’s music by a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee (guess who!), and refreshments too. Proceeds support the Woman’s Club’s charitable work — now in its 115th year.

The Westport Woman’s Club opens its doors on May 21-22 for their annual art show.

=======================================================

Boys lacrosse gets plenty of press (and the Staples High School team is one of the best in the state). But what about girls lax?

Last Saturday was PAL Appreciation Night. Families of young players tailgated, then supported the high school varsity  and JV girls teams against Trumbull, under the Paul Lane Stadium lights.

The PAL program’s mission is to create a fun, safe and respectful environment for girls to learn skills. The goal is to instill in players of all abilities a for the game, respect for teammates, personal responsibility, a healthy competitive spirit, an understanding of good sportsmanship and fun for everyone.

Teams are open to girls who live in or attend school in Westport. New players are welcome. No one is cut.

For information on summer clinics and the fall program, email  westportpalgirlslax@gmail.com or click here.

Westport PAL lacrosse players, at Paul Lane Stadium.

=======================================================

MyTeamTriumph — the great organization that pairs children, teens and adults with disabilities (“captains”) with volunteers (“angels”) who help them participate in triathlons and road races — invites everyone to a jewelry party fundraiser.

Allison Daniel/UpNorth CT hosts the social event-and-more on June 8 (4 to 7 p.m., Sconset Square). There are great designs, in a tremendous variety, at many price points, plus snacks, wine and fun.

Attendees receive a 10% discount on jewelry. A percentage of sales goes to myTreamTriumph-CT. Click here for ideas.

======================================================

Mark Mathias spotted today’s “Westport … Naturally” scene near downtown.

There will be baby cygnets soon. If you see the mom now — or her and her babies later — please keep your distance!

(Photo/Mark Mathias)

=======================================================

And finally … on this day in 1953, Ernest Hemingway won a Pulitzer Prize for The Old Man and the Sea.

Who of course was a completely different guy from …

 

Roundup: Ducks, Ospreys, Kindness …

The Great Duck Race returns this year. But — just as ducks migrate — so does the popular Westport Sunrise Rotary fundraiser.

From 2008 to ’19, thousands of yellow ducks bobbed in the Saugatuck River. COVID forced it into a virtual format the past 2 years.

On July 9, the Great Duck Race will be run as a giant water sluice on Jesup Green. Tomorrow (Sunday, May 1), the Rotarians will see how it works as a duck race track. AJ Penna is providing a truck and front loader. Water comes from the Westport Fire Department.

Everyone is invited to watch tomorrow. “Ducks” in full costume will pose for photos.

======================================================

Also on Jesup Green: The Westport Library Book Sale.

It opened yesterday, with the usual packed crowd. It continues today (Saturday, April 30) until 5 p.m. Tomorrow (Sunday, May 1, noon to 5 p.m.) all items are half price. On Monday (May 2, 9 a.m. to noon), fill a bag for $5, or purchase individual items for half-price.

The Westport Library Book Sale yesterday. (Photo/Dan Woog)

=======================================================

Kindness is always on the Porch menu. Everyone feels comfortable at the Cross Highway café.

Tomorrow through May 15, they’re running a “Kids Kindness Contest.” Everyone in grades K-12 is invited to share a story of how they are kind to friends, strangers or within the community.

The K-2nd grade and 3rd-5th grade winners each earn an ice cream social with 9 friends. The middle and high school winners each get a fun lunch with 3 friends.

Forms are available at the Porch, or by clicking here.

The Porch is always “kind” of cool and great.

=======================================================

Want to surprise the woman in your life the day before Mothers Day?

Take her to “Supper & Soul” next Saturday (May 7).

It’s a great event, with lots of reasons she’ll be thrilled. The 8 p.m. concert — remember live concerts? — features Cris Jacobs. He’s back in Westport, after a searing show at the 2018 Blues Views & BBQ Festival. The opening act is Gnorm.

The show is at the Westport Library, where the new, state-of-the-art sound system will blow you away.

Tickets ($90) include a 3-course dinner at a downtown restaurant (6 p.m.; list below), including tax and tip (though drinks are on you). $40 concert-only tickets are available too.

Participating restaurants include:

  • 190 Main
  • Amis
  • Arezzo
  • Basso
  • Capuli
  • De Tapas
  • Don Memo
  • Manna Toast
  • Spotted Horse
  • Wafu
  • Walrus Alley

And … after the show, your ticket is good for happy hour pricing on drinks at any of the participating restaurant. Try a different one than dinner!

Click here for tickets and more information. Click below to see Cris Jacobs. The event is sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, and the Westport Library.

=======================================================

There may be no free lunch. But there was a free sapling giveaway yesterday.

Dozens of Westporters took advantage of the Arbor Day gift at Town Hall, courtesy of the Tree Board.

Residents Robert Sohmer and Debbie Fisher showed up — then offered to help. They’re shown in the photo below, as Tree Board members Alice Ely and Monica Buesser prep saplings.

======================================================

Speaking of nature: Recent reports of the Fresh Market ospreys’ demise are premature.

Carolyn Doan reports: “All is well with the pair. They are incubating now, which means they sit very low in the nest and are impossible to see.

“They are really a really strong pair, and are co-parenting. They give each other breaks while one is in the incubating position. They call out to each other when one needs a break or is hungry.

“Yesterday I watched the female sit at the top of a dead tree behind Terrain. and preen herself for 45 minutes. After faint calls from the nest, she went back. Then the male popped up. He went to a nearby perch and preened.

“The ospreys returned a week early this year, so chicks may come sooner than usual.”

A Fresh Market osprey, yesterday afternoon. (Photo/Carolyn Doan)

=======================================================

Remember the Yarn Bomber? In the darkest days of the pandemic, she brightened the town with her late-night creations.

Molly Alger was not the Yarn Bomber. But — responding to an “06880” offer — she took “secret” lessons, via FaceTime.

The actual Bomber left yarn on Molly’s porch in the middle of the night. Molly  created 2 bombs for her own trees, and 2 for friends.

She also did one for the Senior Center. I lasted through 2 winters and one summer, since November 2020. But it was looking a little ragged.

Now — just in time for spring — Molly has created a new Senior Center yarn bomb.

The pandemic has eased. But the Yarn Bomber — and her protégé — live on.

The Senior Center’s new yarn bomb.

======================================================

29 Staples High School students and 6 adults returned recently from 10 days in Spain. It was the first overseas trip for a large group in a decade.

The packed itinerary included visits to Granada, Cordoba, Seville, Madrid and Barcelona. Highlights included Alhambra, scavenger hunts in cities, an olive farm, guided city tours, a flamenco lesson and show, the Prado Museum, a churro breakfast and cooking class, Sagrada Familia, Las Ramblas, a Good Friday religious procession, and the first women’s soccer match ever played at Camp Nou — with a crowd of 91,000.

Future trips planned by Staples’ World Language Department include Germany next spring, and a February journey to Panama focusing on STEM topics.

Cheering for the Barcelona women’s team at Camp Nou.

=======================================================

Staples High School’s boys basketball team will have a new look next year.

Head coach Colin Devine is stepping down, to pursue administrative positions. In 15 years at the helm, he built the Wreckers into an FCIAC contender.

Coach Colin Devine (far left) and members of the 2018 Staples High School boys basketball team took the #ALSPepperChallenge.

=======================================================

Services have been announced for Charlie Capalbo. The former Fairfield Ludlowe High hockey player battled 4 cancers before succumbing last week, one month before his 24th birthday. He is the grandson of Westporters Richard Epstein and Ina Chadwick; his mother Jennifer Wilde Capalbo is a Staples High grad.

Charlie’s wake is Wednesday, May 4 (2 to 8 p.m., Penfield Pavilion, 323 Fairfield Beach Road, Fairfield). A funeral mass is set for Thursday, May 5 (10 a.m., St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, 1719 Post Road, Fairfield). Burial will be private.

Charlie and his mother, Jennifer Wilde Capalbo.

===================================================

Today’s New York Times carries one of its most harrowing stories ever on the war in Ukraine. It begins:

 The wind carried the smell of death across the street. The body of the dead man, burned, mutilated and barely recognizable, was taken from the refrigerator and laid on a metal gurney. The coroner smoked a cigarette and unzipped the black bag.

It was a beautiful spring day. There had been no shelling that morning. And Oksana Pokhodenko, 34, gasped, blinking, at the charred corpse. That was not her brother, she told herself, that was not Oleksandr. That was barely a human.

Her brother lived once. The family patriarch for 20 years since their father died, he called his sister every day after the war started as he fled with his family to a village, Husarivka, wedged between rolling wheat fields. He kept calling — “Hello, Little One. We’re good. How are you?” — but never mentioned that the Russians had overrun the village where he was hiding.

Ms. Pokhodenko, in black jeans, a black jacket and barely laced sneakers, struggled to keep looking at the body. Her brother had taught her how to ride a bike and had loved to watch cartoons for hours with his son. To his sister, he was a “stone wall.” This was a charred husk. Half of the man’s skull was gone, and his chest cavity was splayed open.

The photos are as chilling as the writing. They’re all by Tyler Hicks, the 1988 Staples High School graduate and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. Click here for the full story, and Tyler’s images.

Some of Tyler Hicks’ latest photos, illustrating atrocities in committed in Ukraine. (Photos/Tyler Hicks for the New York Times)

=======================================================

“Westport … Naturally” waves goodbye to April (and hello to May!) with this gorgeous image from the Library Riverwalk:

(Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

=======================================================

And finally … on this day in 1803, the US purchased the Louisiana Territory from France. We spent $15 million — and more than doubled the size of our nation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Olga’s Story

“06880” reader Olga Olha Kyrychenko writes:

I am a Ukrainian, American, Odessian and Westporter, all at the same time. This is my story.

My family left our home in Odessa and came to United States about 2 years ago. Back in Ukraine my husband had an office job as a tariff broker. I was raising our 2 sons, preparing to return to my career in telecommunications.

We thought we had a good life, but we also had a feel it could be over. It was scary to leave all behind and come to the US, but we did it for our boys, for the future, for a better life. We embraced the American dream so many seek.

Olga and her sons.

We arrived in the US in the middle of the COVID pandemic with no language, jobs, or home of our own. Even though it has not been an easy journey, we were incredibly grateful to begin a new life in such a diverse and compassionate community as Westport.

Olgla and her husband, in the US.

Within a week my husband joined a construction crew, even though he had no idea how to handle tools. I have been helping our boys with the cultural transition and learning English. Not long ago, I began babysitting to contribute to our family income.

As challenging as it has been for us, we struggled to accept that our home, Ukraine, would be engulfed in war soon after our departure. Our families have been forced to leave their homes and communities, and lost all sense of safety and security. Their children live in constant fear and confusion. We have been trying to help them any way we could.

As if navigating these events weren’t enough, on April 23 we found ourselves staring at our own home in Odessa being televised on fire, and posted on every social media platform. It was destroyed when an errant missile slammed into the side of our apartment building.

One view of the bombed apartment building in Odessa …

You may have seen the news that a little baby girl and her family died in that building. They were our neighbors.

More people died who the news did not cover. Even more are out of their homes. Close to 200 people don’t have a place to live.

… and another.

Our hearts are breaking for our neighbors whose lives were lost or changed, and for the reality of homelessness for our nephew and his girlfriend who miraculously escaped.

We consider ourselves lucky to be here and alive, and desperately want to help in any way we can. But we have very limited resources. With humility, we ask you to please consider donating anything you can. This money will go directly to the families of the victims, and toward rebuilding a place we used to call our home.

Please click here for the link to a GoFundMe page I started.

Thank you, and God bless!

(Hat tip: Elena Shmonina)

Memorial to victims outside the Odessa apartment building.