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Ukrainian-Canadians at OCAD U lead fundraiser for those displaced by war

A man with facial hair stands in a professional kitchen wearing a white chef's uniform.

Image: Coordinator of Alumni Engagement at OCAD University, Danyil Panasyev stands in the kitchen at C'est What? restaurant where he is also the Kitchen Manager. Panasyev has been working in kitchens for 15 years and cooking for almost a decade. 
 

A fundraiser for those displaced by the war in Ukraine organized by OCAD U staff

Danyil Panasyev is the Coordinator of Alumni Engagement at OCAD University. He and his family are from Kyiv, the capital and most populous city of Ukraine, a country that has been upended by war since Russia’s invasion in February 2022. 

According to the United Nations, almost 13 million people have fled their homes in Ukraine since the war began. More than six million have left for neighbouring countries and at least another 6.5 million people are displaced inside the country itself. 

Aggrieved by the devastation he’s witnessed from thousands of kilometres away, Panasyev wanted to take action and help. He has teamed up with Natalie Pavlenko, Strategic Communications Officer at OCAD U who also has Ukrainian roots, to organize a fundraiser that asks, “C’est What? Can you do for Ukraine?”, presented by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. 

“I acknowledge that I have privilege living in North America. I came here with my mother, who raised me by herself,” Panasyev shares. “Now, more than ever, is my time to give back in any way I can. Never has the Ukrainian community, including those who have come and are coming to Canada, needed more support,” he continues. 

Guests are invited to arrive at the fundraising event any time between 6 to 10 p.m. on May 30 at C’est What? in Toronto, where Panasyev is the Kitchen Manager, in addition to his role at OCAD U. Located at 67 Front St. East in Toronto, a two-minute walk from the St. Lawrence Market, the restaurant jumped at the chance when asked to lend a hand. 

The dinner and concert will support people displaced by the war arriving in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) with very few belongings, through donations that will go to the Toronto Ukrainian Foundation. Tickets can be purchased in advance online for $100 and for $125 at the door and include a full-course meal and performances by StarDust Jazz Duo, violinist Viera Zmiyiwsky and Ukrainian folk band Korinya. The evening’s à la carte menu will include borscht, a traditional Ukrainian soup made with beets and typically served with sour cream. Dinner can be ordered until 9:30 p.m.

“My hope is that this event will raise much-needed funds for Ukrainians displaced by war and boost awareness of this massive humanitarian crisis,” Pavlenko notes. 

The fundraiser is co-organized by Irene Solomon, a friend of Pavlenko’s and a board member of the Toronto branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. Solomon is an active member of Toronto’s Ukrainian community in addition to her work in the television industry.

“My parents were born in Ukraine, and although I was born in Toronto, I grew up with deep ties to Ukrainian culture and the Ukrainian community,” says Pavlenko.  

“As the daughter of Ukrainian refugees who endured the horrors of the Second World War and the Holodomor (the Soviet-made famine of 1932-33), I am shocked and enraged that history is repeating itself,” she continues.  

For those who are unable to participate in the event in person you can still donate to the Toronto Ukrainian Foundation and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress-Toronto Branch’s joint campaign via their website. Funds will support Ukrainians affected by the war to settle in communities across the GTA.