Watch the Video Updates from Sviatohirsk Below to Learn More
The morning started out routine. I joined my husband for a coffee, and afterwards, opened my laptop to check student emails. I then signed into my class on Blackboard and experienced technical difficulties, so I created a ticket to Zoom with an ITS specialist.
As I was in the middle of my Zoom call, my husband came into the room to tell me that we had no water. Being on public city water from the nearby reservoir, I couldn’t imagine why. “Did you check all faucets?” “Yes,” he replied.
I finished up my Zoom with ITS and texted two of my neighbors who said they also had no water. I then went on a town Social Media site and learned that all of Easton, except for those with wells, was without water, which was unusual. It turned out there was a main water break coming in from the local reservoir. We were told by the local water company, Aquarion, that we should expect to be without water for eight or more hours. We were not accustomed to being without water, and our lives were quite inconvenienced, and somewhat upside down for that day. All public buildings and schools had to close. Water was restored to everyone that same evening, as promised.
Take the chaos on that Wednesday morning in Easton, and multiply it by over 500 consecutive days to date. One can only imagine the scenario on February 24, 2022, when Ukraine was initially invaded, and peoples’ lives came to a screeching halt with no resolution in site.
Thankfully, Easton, along with multiple other sister cities partnering with Ukraine Aid International, are making a difference in this ongoing day-to -day struggle for the people of Ukraine. The Sviatorhirsk-Easton Sister City initiative began when First Selectman David Bindelglass met with the UAI team who approached Easton to participate in an alliance with Sviatorhirsk, located in the northern part of the Donetsk region of Ukraine. Sviatorhirsk is a country town made up of more trees than people, farmland and a vast watershed area, and seemed to pair well with Easton. Bindelglass formed a Steering Committee by reaching out to people in town who showed interest, and the Easton-Sviatorhirsk Sister City was officially launched in March 2023.
So far, through the many events, mailings, additional fundraising efforts made by the steering committee, and many generous community volunteers, Easton has raised enough money for UAI to buy a dump truck to clear rubble, supply seeds for victory food producing gardens, and a water filtration system for clean water for the residents of Sviatorhirsk. The next goal is to purchase a large, centrally located wood pellet- producing machine for the town, in order to replace the coal they have been cut off from, which would ordinarily be used to heat homes.
Easton’s Sister City alliance has not only provided physical help to the citizens of Sviatorhirsk but also emotional support and hope, which is also vital in the time of war. When Bindelglass visited Sviatorhirsk with Ukraine Aid International in early June, he immediately bonded with the welcoming residents and the Mayor of Sviatohirsk, Volodymyr Rybalkin. Bindelglass and Rybalkin try to meet every several weeks via Zoom, together with the UAI team, mostly to check on the progress of things and how Easton can further help.
“We are trying to direct our resources to the things that are priorities for Mayor Rybalkin and Sviatorhirsk,” Bindelglass said. “It is hard to say why we hit it off the way that we did. In Ukraine, around the ceremony, we got some time to talk. There were official gifts exchanged, but I brought him a personal gift of an American football jersey, which amused him. He subsequently did some research on his own about football. He is a warm and friendly man, and I feel for what he has to accomplish. We have also had a little time to talk about children and personal things, which has been nice.
“The citizens of Sviatorhirsk do not want this to be charity. Mayor Rybalkin has said numerous times that he cannot wait for the opportunity to give back to Easton. He would love for the world to get to a place where he can come visit, and where there can be more mutual cultural exchanges. He appreciates the similarities between our towns; and most of all, he is so grateful, not just for the things we can give him, but also for the camaraderie and the feeling of connection. While I was there, he showed me a musical conservatory, which was completely destroyed. I believe he had attended it as a child, and there was definitely an element of anger,” says Bindelglass.
Ukraine Aid International, the Easton Sister City Steering Committee, and most importantly, the Easton community, have all worked hard at this initiative. Let’s continue to step up and help, keeping Sviatorhirsk residents, warm, fed, and giving their children hope towards the future.
Please visit UAI’s Website for more information and to make a tax deductible donation toward the pellet-producing machine, so that Sviatohirsk residents have heat for their families this winter:
Thank You Easton for your continued support and for making a difference.
Here are several videos of Brian Mayer, co-founder of Ukraine Aid International (along with his brother, Marshall Mayer), explaining what’s been purchased for Sviatorhirsk so far as a result of the benevolence of our Easton Community.