DENVER — The Russian invasion into Ukraine has forced thousands of people to flee their homes and start a new life in a different place. Many Ukrainians, who are not in their homeland, are doing everything they can to support the country they love.
It's the mission behind an art gala on Saturday with Ukrainians featured as the artists. Most of the art that will be at the gala has been transported to Denver from the heavily-bombed city Kharkiv by Maria Manuyelenko.
“The craziest part was when she got to the border, she had 10 suitcases with her and the customs, they didn't like something in her paperwork. And they pretty much made her turn around, get off the bus and go back alone," said Manuyelenko's best friend, Mariya Oleynikova.
Manuyelenko was helped by a driver who saw her at a train station and took her to a different checkpoint.
"This guy showed up and was possibly, you know, a miracle, sent to help me and get these paintings through the border," Manuyelenko said.
She arrived in America with her bags full of paintings from Ukrainian artists. One of the pieces is from an artist who is serving in the Ukrainian military.
“People want to move on to what's new, what else is going on? But, it can't become old news," Oleynikova said. “People who survive this, they have horrible trauma that they're going to have to deal with their whole life.”
The artwork will be featured in Art of Ukraine, a gala scheduled for June 11. Those with the exhibition said the money raised will go toward tactical support for Ukrainians. Manuyelenko will be transporting the supplies.
Some of the pieces in the exhibition will be from Anastasiia Petrenko, who has been living in Aurora since the war started. She has always been an artist, but since moving she's been painting more to help express her feelings.
“It's an opportunity to help my relatives over there and to help Ukraine. That's why I'm very glad to take part in this exhibition," Petrenko said.
Greg Gold of The Gold Law Firm recently returned from a trip to Ukraine where he brought tactical and first aid supplies to those on the front lines. When he got back to Colorado, he began networking with the local Ukrainian community and his firm is sponsoring the Art of Ukraine gala.
“It really does combine beautiful things: art and a good cause," Gold said. “The money that's raised is going to go to individual platoons, going to go to individual people, it's not going to be thrown into a pile.”
Gold, along with the Borgia Gallery, are donating an Andy Warhol print valued at $10,000 which will auctioned.
The gala will be held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Denver, and tickets are $65. To learn more about the event, visit the Ukraine Aid Fund's website.