‘We feel so helpless’ – Ukrainian-American art teacher in Bulverde is heartbroken over suffering and damage

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Ukrainians are famous for their singing, according to Liliya Colston, a Ukrainian-American art teacher and US citizen living in Bulverde.

They sing during happy and festive times, at weddings and perform humorous tunes.

People from his home country also sing when they are sad.

Colston is heartbroken by media reports of bombings of Ukrainian museums and the destruction of famous Ukrainian works of art, such as paintings by Maria Prymachenko, by the Russian invasion.

“I want to cry,” she said of the news. “And I feel extremely sad because you can’t go back, you can’t replace. Yes, we have copies. We have reproductions. But the originals that are part of our history, that’s something we’re very proud of.

Colston started her business, Art Time Party, in 2004 because she wanted her daughter, who was a little girl at the time, to learn about art and create such works of expression. Colston’s classes have evolved into an educational art program with creative thinking as a primary focus.

She was shocked and heartbroken when Russia invaded and began bombing her home country. She was born, raised and spent the first 28 years of her life there and still has family living in the war-torn country.

Colston does everything she can to help her homeland. As one of the leaders of the Ukrainian San Antonio Society, she and the group organize fundraisers to send humanitarian and medical aid to her homeland, which has suffered catastrophic damage and at least hundreds of deaths. , perhaps much more, as a result. of the Russian invasion.

“We feel so helpless,” Colston, 52, said of herself and her fellow Ukrainians living in the United States. “We all have enormous guilt to be here safe. And (others) are there. Everyone feels the same.

“It’s a mixture of guilt, it’s a mixture of powerlessness…and it’s a mixture of not having enough power to make big changes. But we decided to do what we can do. »

A fundraiser will be held Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. at Europa Restaurant and Bar, 8811 Fredericksburg Road. It will include a Ukrainian fair and a painting workshop, during which people can paint blue caps in the Petrykivka style of Ukraine. All proceeds will be donated to the nonprofit Medical Bridges to purchase pallets of medical supplies, which will be delivered to Ukraine.

Another fundraiser — a brunch and Ukrainian fair — will be held March 26, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Hilton Garden Inn at The Rim, 5730 Rim Pass in San Antonio. This event will include six food stations, mimosas, a silent auction, a live auction, live entertainment and a Ukrainian market. Tickets for this fundraiser can be purchased online through Eventbrite. Profits will also be used to send medical supplies to Ukraine.

Colston’s friend Tatiana McGee, who founded the Ukrainian Society of San Antonio in 2015, said she counts on Colston’s help and considers her a partner in the band.

“Without her, I don’t know how I would accomplish all that has been done,” McGee said. “She is very sincere. She is very hardworking, dedicated. And he’s a very good person.

Colston came to the United States in 1998, settling in Texas, where she married her husband and had her daughter. His mother, sister, brother-in-law and 83-year-old nephew still live in Ukraine, in the western town of Ternopil. They are physically safe at this time.

But Colston’s family in Ukraine caught the COVID-19 virus before the Russian invasion and have not fully recovered. Colston wanted to bring them to Texas to stay in her home to be safe, but her loved ones aren’t feeling well enough to make the long trip.

“That kind of really breaks my heart,” Colston said. “Because we could make them go anywhere. We wanted them to go somewhere. But they can’t move.

She tries to stay in regular contact with her family in Ukraine, where she last visited in 2015. Sometimes they can talk on the phone. But communication has been sporadic due to technological difficulties.

“Sometimes the phone calls don’t go through,” Colston said. “And sometimes my sister sees that I called, but it doesn’t work. So the communication — I can’t say it’s excellent. But I can still text. So the texts I can see.

“I can’t complain about that. At least I know they’re okay.

When she and her family can hear each other on the phone, Colston said, “it’s very emotional.”

Ukraine has no bomb shelters, she reported. Colston has heard from friends and family that Ukrainians are crowding into unventilated basements in an effort to stay safe.

“My brother-in-law used to say they were like canned sardines – it’s like shoulder to shoulder,” she said.

She learned from a friend that a Ukrainian woman hid under a car in the street when the shelling resumed after a few hours of silence.

Watching the TV news about what’s happening in Ukraine has proven so upsetting and stressful for Colston that her husband now watches the news and follows the stories on Twitter, then updates her on the day’s events when she gets home from work. .

Colston was born in Lanivtsi, a town in western Ukraine. She then studied at the Ternopil National Pedagogical University to become a teacher of Ukrainian language and literature. She also taught Ukrainians how to speak English. Then she met her husband and moved to Texas.

“The first two years, I felt like I had moved to Mars,” she recalls. “It literally felt like that because the distance is huge. You can drive, drive, drive, especially when you drive like from Dallas (to) here. No houses, no cities. And it goes on and on and on. And it’s flat. And the trees are totally different. And there is no grass.

Colston is proud to live in Texas. She likes people. But there are still things he misses about Ukraine. The country prides itself on its food, which is a central part of large gatherings, as Ukraine has already experienced several famines in which millions died of starvation.

The Ukrainian native fondly recalled the lush landscape.

“It’s less humid, but it’s greener,” she says of her home country. “The area I’m from, the way it smells…It smelled of freshly cut grass all spring. Can you imagine that? Even in town, you can smell this freshly cut grass. You can smell the fresh air.

“I miss that smell – it’s something super special. Nature is way different. … It’s more something like you would see in New Hampshire.

Colston directed her attention elsewhere when asked what she thought of what might ultimately happen in Ukraine.

“I keep telling all my friends, all of our band members, we have to reach for the light,” she said. “Because so many bad things are happening. We spent days and days crying. … We must cling to the light. If we can do something with our thought and with our intentions and with our work to bring them closer to the light, that is our path.

[email protected] | Twitter: Peggy_OHare

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