Before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the town of Sviatohirsk in the Donetsk region had a population of 8,000. Now only 700 residents remain, most of them elderly people whose lives have been significantly transformed by the ongoing war.
“The region, once a haven for relaxation, has been marred by the scars of war,” said Marshall Mayer, founder of Ukraine Aid International. “The situation in Sviatohirsk can be very difficult for seniors with disruptions to their healthcare, social security payments, running water, and food supply.”
In March, Easton began a Sister City program with Sviatohirsk, managed by Ukraine Aid International. Shortly after, the Easton Sister City Steering Committee was formed to support the partnership.
To date, Easton residents have donated enough money to Ukraine Aid International for a dump truck to clear rubble, garden seeds, and a water filtration system for clean water for Sviatorhirsk.
Currently, Easton residents are encouraged to write to the seniors remaining in Sviatohirsk through a Pen Pal program the town has started. The letter-writing effort is open to any resident who wants to participate. All letters will be directly delivered to seniors in Sviatohirsk. Letters for Ukraine can be dropped off at Town Hall.
“The biggest thing is to just let them know that there are people who care about them, who are like them,” said First Selectman David Bindelglass, who visited the war-torn town earlier this year.
Bindelglass hopes the letter-writing campaign will foster lasting and deep relationships with the seniors in Sviatohirsk.
“Having been there, the towns have a lot in common. There are a lot of commonalities in spirit,” he said
Several seniors at the Easton Senior Center have already written cards for Ukraine.
“I’m hoping we can collect about 10 cards a week,” said Val Buckley, director of the Easton Senior Center. “Some of our seniors are computer savvy and some don’t use computers, so they write longhand. We plan to collect cards all the way up until the holiday season.”
Mayer said the Pen Pal program will help seniors in Sviatohirsk take their minds off the war and build friendships.
“For these senior citizens, the program can provide a much-needed source of companionship, hope and support, alleviating the sense of isolation that often accompanies such challenging circumstances,” said Mayer.