The Korbutiak sisters are well known in Ottawa for their skin care boutiques and their focus on organic beauty.
The daughters of Ukrainian refugees are now helping those in their ancestral homeland who are enduring the devastating ugliness of war.
“As Canadians of Ukrainian descent, to see what was happening in Ukraine, the horror and devastation, and feeling completely helpless and not knowing what to do, we said, ‘We can do something! We can’t create a no-fly zone over Ukraine but we can raise funds for the Ukrainian people’,” explains Oresta Korbutiak.
Oresta, her sister Laryssa Korbutiak, and their lifelong friend, Larysa Rozumna, have organized “Pysanka: To Ukraine with Love”, a fundraiser for April 25, Ukrainian Easter, at allsaints event space in Sandy Hill.
“We have family who have stayed. Some have fled. Larysa (Rozumna) has her brother, who has been there for 15 years. He feels he cannot leave,” says Laryssa Korbutiak. “He’s helping Ukrainians, to move them away from the hardest hit areas, to get them help and to raise awareness around the world about how to help Ukraine.”
“The event is on April 25th, which happens to be Ukrainian Easter Monday. It’s to not only raise funds for Ukraine but really celebrate the beauty of Ukrainian culture,” explains Oresta Korbutiak, proudly wearing her “vyshyvanka”, a traditional Ukrainian blouse.
The famous, beautifully decorated Ukrainian Easter eggs are known as Pysanky.
A single egg is Pysanka, meaning ‘to write’ and the designs on the eggs tell traditional stories with symbolic meanings, through their beeswax relief and colourful dyes.
“Pysanka has always been referred to as a talisman of peace, and for protecting against evil—for helping with good health, wealth, a bountiful harvest but, today, now the Pysanka has become a talisman for peace,” emphasizes Oresta.
Tickets for the event are $500 for two people. All funds go to the Canada-Ukraine Foundation. Every ticket holder will receive a traditional Ukrainian Easter basket containing a unique, handcrafted traditional pysanka (Ukrainian Easter egg). Tax receipts will be issued. There is a silent auction.
“This foundation gets the funds to Ukraine,” explains Laryssa Korbutiak. “They so far already delivered $6 million. $1 million was delivered in the last week. They are donating to the hardest hit cities right now—humanitarian aid, medical aid; they also donated money to people who have fled, displaced persons from Ukraine, to offer them support and help,” says Laryssa Korbutiak.
The Korbutiaks’ parents, Marta and Stephan, both came to Canada as Ukrainian child refugees in 1949. They then raised their family in Winnipeg and moved to Ottawa after retirement, to be closer to two of their three daughters, and granddaughters.
For the Korbutiaks, like so many Canadians, especially those with a refugee experience, what is unfolding in Ukraine is painful and triggering.
“They lived through the (Second World) war. They’ve been refugees. They know how difficult the journey is for the Ukrainians who’ve had to leave their homeland, and the journey they are awaiting is going to be a very difficult one,” says Oresta Korbutiak.
That understanding of the refugee experience has prompted an outpouring of generosity, support that Oresta Korbutiak describes as overwhelming.
“Just a few weeks ago, we did a medical supplies drive,” explains the organic beauty entrepreneur. “One of the people who actually reached out, a complete stranger, who heard that we were collecting supplies, was a pharmacy owner. When he came to the door with an arm full of supplies he said, ‘I am a refugee from Uganda. I know what it’s like to be a refugee. I know how difficult the journey will be. I’m here, Ukraine. I’m here for the Ukrainian people.”
As Easter approaches, the Pysanka—what appears to be a fragile egg—is, for people around the world, so much more—a true reminder of strength and a hope for peace.
You can also learn more about tickets by calling: 613-231-7022 or visit oresta.ca/fundraiserforukraine