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Utahns gather to raise money for Ukraine through poetry

Posted at 5:29 PM, Apr 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-02 19:52:33-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A small group came together in Salt Lake City Saturday to show their support for Ukraine in a unique way.

Yulia Holko, from Ukraine, has lived in Utah for almost 20 years.

Gathering with fellow Utahns to read poetry in her native language was emotional for Holko.

“I’m just stopping tears because I read this in my messages from friends, and in conversations from them, I hear the same things," she said.

Holko has watched the conflict through the lens of her loved ones still living there.

“We just had one aunt in Ukraine," she said. "A couple of days after she left, her street was destroyed by bombs."

Holko has found solace in poetry.

Nearly 80 tickets were sold for the poetry reading fundraiser put on by Chris Cokinos.

“It just felt like it was time to do something more than a donation," said Cokinos.

Cokinos is an English professor who teaches at the University of Arizona from the Beehive State.

Though he doesn't know Ukrainians or know anyone personally in Ukraine, Cokinos knows the power of words.

“We can take poetry for granted, that it doesn’t tap into the deepest most important currents of our lives, but it does," he said.

Art has been something Cokinos has turned to for peace and reflection.

"We wanted to bring those words to the community, so that we have a wider sense of sharing through poetry of the kinds of things we can do to help each other," he said.

It is much-needed help for those like Maryna Storrs, whose family has decided to wait out the war in Ukraine.

“Ever since the war started and I realized my family is just going to stay put, I threw all of my efforts into helping," said Storrs.

This helps Storrs to stay hopeful as she waits to hear how her mother, brother and aunt are doing in Ukraine.

“That makes my heart ache just a little bit less every day, knowing that I am surrounded by love and appreciation and attention," she said.

Surrounded by strangers, gathered to hear words from Ukraine — poetry read in Ukrainian written in World War II — captures the expressions felt in the room.

“It’s been very heartwarming, and I can’t even express the gratitude of the Utah community that they came together to help," said Holko.

All the funds collected will go to humanitarian needs, but they are collecting donations for military supplies.

LINK: Utah Ukrainian Association