For over a month, Oksana Tyulyu has arranged flowers in jars and bouquets that she has created and placed them in a makeshift stand outside her home on upper Queen Anne in hopes that people take the blooms and leave a donation to benefit people in her native Ukraine.
Tyulyu, who moved to the United States at 16 from Ukraine, still has family and friends living there, as does her husband, Bogdan.
She said ever since Russia invaded Ukraine, things have been very stressful, and creating the flower stand seemed like a good way to help.
“I am just going crazy reading all the things and talking to my family in Ukraine,” Tyulyu said. “I just wanted to do something to remind people about it. The flowers let me do something to keep my hands and mind busy.”
Russia invaded Ukraine two months ago, and Tyulyu fears people’s interests in the European country are waning as time goes on.
Tyulyu said the flower stand is a way to remind people who pass her home on Third Avenue West, between West Blaine and West Garfield, that Ukraine is under siege and its people need help.
“You hear, you sympathize, and then life goes on, but that’s not the case for us because it’s where our loved ones are, and people are suffering,” she said.
Tyulyu needs no help remembering. She said she speaks with her aunt, who lives in the small town of Druzhkivka in eastern Ukraine, daily and hears about what is going on in the country.
April 8 was a difficult day for the family. The Russian military launched a missile strike that killed at least 50 people at a train station in the town of Kramatorska, which is 10 minutes away from Druzhkivka.
Tyulyu said that her aunt went to the train station after learning about the strike to see what she could do to help and was horrified by the destruction.
Tyulyu said she can’t help but share the pain.
“I feel like yes, I was born there, but it feels very, very scary that this can happen in our day and age, and I feel really helpless,” Tyulyu said through tears.
While some of her family members have evacuated, Tyulyu said her aunt and uncle are community leaders and won’t leave until everybody else does. Her sister, Alina, a photographer, has also visited Ukraine since Russia invaded and has taken photos to share. Tyulyu said her flower stand is a way to do her part.
Even before the carnage April 8, Tyulyu had created small bouquets with feathers in them April 7 to represent children who were killed in recent violence.
“It’s been healing for me to do this particular display,” she said. “I think you don’t have to be a parent to feel the pain, but because I have a kid, he’s going to be 3 in May, it makes me feel even more I want to save and help the kids.”
Any money Tyulyu raises through the donations is being given to a friend in Seattle, who runs a non-profit, Grace Tea, www.gracetea.org, with 100 percent of the money raised going to community partners in Ukraine to help buy food, water, medications and necessities for people.
A portion of the donated money will be spent on gas and transportation to evacuate civilians.
Tyulyu said none of the money being collected is going toward military supplies or operations.
Tyulyu said the kindness and generosity she has received from her neighborhood through the flower stand thus far has been wonderful, and she intends to keep the stand up for as long as she can.
“I think once it gets warmer, it will be easier to maintain the stand and keep it there throughout the weeks,” Tyulyu said. “I was hoping it was going to be for a short time, but that doesn’t seem likely now.”
To learn more about Tyulyu’s mission, visit her webpage, linktree.com/ukrainian.bird.
People can also follow her Instagram account @Ukrainian.bird. Tyulyu said people can also visit her sister’s Instagram, @alinatyulyu, to see photos her photographer sister has recently taken in Ukraine.