By Christie Vogt
When Russia invaded Ukraine, Erika Hovland Bahij, a St. Anthony Park native, sent out a message to supporters of her business Rose and Redwood.
The Pennsylvania-based company, which has products and programs designed to help people “connect with their strengths and values,” had been working with a Ukrainian illustrator since 2019, and Hovland Bahij wanted to make her supporters aware of the connection.
“The response I got from the email I sent out was really beautiful and overwhelming,” Hovland Bahij said. “Then, it was out of my hands and in the hands of my mom and her friends.”
Enter Hovland Bahij’s mother, Karen Hovland, who has lived in St. Anthony Park for 46 years and raised her daughter in the neighborhood.
When Hovland and her friends Bea Krinke and Joan Sykora learned about the Ukrainian artist, Evgenija Burchak, they wanted to find a way to support her and the people of Ukraine.
“What we decided to do was commission her to create four pieces or works of art that represent her interpretation of this invasion and what gets you through these things that are happening,” Hovland explained. They provided Burchak with four words as prompts: strength, hope, courage and resilience.
When the artist came back with her creations, the trio decided to package and sell the artwork as greeting cards in order to raise funds for Ukrainian relief efforts.
The set of four greeting cards can be purchased for $15 at the following establishments: boréal, The Little Wine Shoppe, Gypsy Moon, Next Chapter Booksellers, Hang It and RoseAndRedwood.com.
“This is really a community effort of friends that just want to do something,” Hovland said. “Like almost everything good in the world, I think it comes from a community effort.”
Hovland Bahij added, “This is a really simple way to do something that directly impacts the people who are under attack. I think we all want to do things to help.”
As of the Bugle’s press deadline, more than $1,000 had been raised for Stand With Ukraine MN, an initiative that provides humanitarian aid to Ukrainians and is administered by the Ukrainian American Community Center, a Minnesota nonprofit, RoseAndRedwood.com.
In her artist statement, Burchak writes, “There are times when darkness envelops us and everything seems to go wrong. But, it must be remembered that our inner energy of light and good is stronger and brighter. The main thing is to hope, be courageous, resilient and strong.”
At one point, Burchak was going back and forth between her home and bomb shelters several times a day.
But she still wanted to work on her craft. “I continue drawing. It is a shelter for my soul,” she wrote to Hovland Bahij in March.
Burchak remains in Ukraine and continues to provide updates about the ongoing crisis. In October, she wrote about the fear of attacks but also shared a message that is reflected in her art: “I believe in our people and hope for the best.”
Christie Vogt is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to the Bugle.