ABQ residents offer Ukraine 'seeds of hope and help' - Albuquerque Journal

ABQ residents offer Ukraine ‘seeds of hope and help’

Among those who helped make batches of Putintaschen cookies are, from left, Helen Hordes,  Irene Walkiw, Pat Belletto and Paul Afek. (Courtesy of Dina Afek)

It’s hard to watch what is happening to Ukraine, each day bringing the increasingly grim news of the suffering and the inhumanity of war into our homes thousands of miles from the front lines.

What is happening is shameful, awful, cruel and criminal. But we have the luxury to look away while Ukrainians cannot.

So watch we must, with broken hearts and the shattering reality that it seems there is nothing we can do about it all.

And yet.

Dina Afek has been overwhelmed with that helplessness and despair. The Swiss-born Albuquerque resident has family from both Ukraine and Russia, and is horrified by what is happening.

So she creates.

“Going into my creative mode is a way of coping,” she said in discussing her mosaic “Tears for Ukraine,” which depicts a sunflower, the country’s national flower, against the blue and yellow background of its flag, blood dripping from the leaves and pooling at the roots.

When art wasn’t enough to allay her emotions, she began baking cookies.

But not just any cookie. She chose Hamantaschen, a buttery three-cornered cookie served traditionally during the Jewish holiday of Purim, which begins tonight. The holiday commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from the bloodthirsty tyrant Haman in ancient Persia, and the cookie is said to resemble Haman’s hat, or ear, essentially turning something evil into something sweet.

Afek renamed her cookies “Putintaschen.”

She began baking them by the hundreds, filling them with poppyseed, prune, apricot or raspberry, and selling them to friends for a minimum of $15 for a box of 12 cookies.

Afek estimates she’s sold about 47 boxes and has raised about $700, though she expects the final total to be closer to $1,000. Proceeds will be donated to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which provides emergency humanitarian aid to Ukraine refugees.

For her “Tears for Ukraine” mosaic, Dina Afek used tiles and Nespresso capsules affixed to a Joan Baez album. Art is one way she has worked through her emotions as she watches the war in Ukraine unfold. (Courtesy of Dina Afek)

“Some people think it is such a small effort for such a big problem, but even the smallest effort gives the feeling of doing something,” she said. “It gives me hope. It makes me feel a little less helpless.”

Mary Tovey of Albuquerque also knows that helpless feeling and that need to help in any way she can.

Tovey is known for her tireless work with Planned Pethood de Juarez, which rescues street animals south of the border. But, now, her sights have turned toward the east and the efforts of a sister organizer rescuing animals from Ukraine.

“Voice For the Needy is a nonprofit started by a veterinarian in Romania to help street dogs run by my friend Laura Fincu,” Tovey explained. “They are now taking in dogs and cats from Ukraine, and are in dire need of help.”

Fincu, who runs the Sache Vet Clinic near Bucharest, posted this week on Facebook about how resources and space are becoming limited because of overflowing numbers of rescued Ukraine animals.

“We no longer have the strength to fight, to get angry, to unload,” Fincu wrote, her words translated via Facebook. “We quickly overcome these emotions and wonder: So where do we put them?”

Tovey said she felt compelled to raise funds for Fincu after their bleak online conversation.

“I don’t know a solution now, we all wait for it to stop so we can see through the gun smoke,” Fincu wrote. “It is horrendous, it is horrible.”

Dina Afek of Albuquerque raised money for Ukraine refugees by making and selling hundreds of Putintaschen, a variation of the traditional Jewish cookie, Hamantaschen. (Courtesy of Dina Afek)

The horrors of war have also compelled Father Chris Zugger and his parishioners from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Byzantine Catholic Church in Albuquerque to do what they can by fundraising and by praying.

“As of March 2022, we are helping with assistance for refugees and displaced persons inside Ukraine,” a message written on the church’s website reads.

Biking enthusiast Jennifer Buntz from Duke City Wheelmen found a way to help by sponsoring a bike swap 9 a.m. to noon Sunday at Trek Bicycles, 5000 Menaul NE. The meet will raise funds for Ukraine through both the Global Empowerment Mission and Razom for Ukraine, Buntz said.

“Razom translates from Ukrainian to English as ‘together,’ ” she explained. “Together for Ukraine.”

Small things, together. Folks can help by planting sunflowers in solidarity with Ukraine, the profits from seeds sold by Perry-Morse being donated to GlobalGiving’s Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund through April 13.

Small efforts, yes. But these efforts are the seeds of hope and help. We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love. For now, it’s what we can do.

UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Reach Joline at 730-2793, jkrueger@abqjournal.com.

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