Ukrainian NYC bar owner pours heart into help relief effort, ex-Gov. Pataki pitches in
A Ukrainian native who owns a Queens bar with his Russian wife held a fundraiser for his homeland Sunday — while ex-Gov. Pataki made another trip to the war-torn region to help refugees.
The fund-raiser at The Church in the Gardens in Forest Hills included traditional Ukrainian dancers, poetry readings, food and beverages and raised at least $10,000.
“We were shocked with the response we got, just how many people are here,” said organizer and Keuka Kafe owner Ollie Sakhno.
The volunteer dancers at the event dressed in traditional Ukrainian garb and performed the Pryvit, a dance that gets it name from the Ukrainian word for “welcome” and is often done at the beginning of weddings and festivals.
Dancer Olena Shevelenko, 25, who performed at the benefit, is a tutor in New York City, but her parents are back in Ukraine’s hard-hit city of Kherson.
“My dad is … a military guy. Even my mom was going to take a weapon to protect our country,” Shevelenko told The Post through tears, adding that she checks in on her parents every day.
The money raised will go to Razom, a nonprofit that takes its name from the word “together” in Ukrainian, Sakhno said. The group said it will put the cash toward helping hospitals and providing medical supplies in the besieged Eastern European country.
Sahkno’s cousin was forced to flee Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv with her two young children while her husband, who is in his late 50s, stayed behind to fight.
“They woke up one day, and [the Russians] were shelling their neighborhood,” Sahkno said.
“So the husband got in the car and drove them to Romanian border. They cross to Romania, from Romania, they went to Bulgaria and are safe,” he said of his cousin and her kids.
Sakhno said Bulgarians have been generous to his family members, giving them free groceries and money to get by.
Sakhno, 53, fled Ukraine when he was 21 before the Soviet Union collapsed. His wife, Olga, 49, left Leningrad in Russia when she was 16. The couple was among the 2 million Jews who emigrated from the former Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s looking for a better life in the US.
Meanwhile, Pataki, who has Hungarian relatives, has made his second trip to the Ukraine-Hungary border, where his foundation is building mobile-housing units for refugees.
“It’s still a war zone,’’ the former GOP gov said on Facebook. But “it is really inspirational to see how the people of Ukraine — from all walks of life — have come together to deal with this crisis.”
Pataki is also working with Ukrainian officials to create an entity to help rebuild parts of the country leveled by the Russian invasion, akin to the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. set up to rebuild downtown Manhattan after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The pol said his foundation brought 30 tons of food from Hungary to Ukrainian border towns.
“There are 5 million refugees who left Ukraine. But here you can see there are 10 million internally displaced refugees from eastern Ukraine who’ve relocated to the western part of Ukraine, and they need help,” Pataki said.