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With deep roots in Ukraine, candlemaker realigns business to raise money for emergency aid


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Judy Woodruff: Since Russia invaded Ukraine one month ago, people around the world have been seeking innovate ways to support the Ukrainian people as they face the horrors of war.

PBS Wisconsin's Marisa Wojcik reports on how one artisan's fund-raising effort has garnered much more traction than she thought possible.

Christiana Gorchynsky Trapani, Owner, Door County Candle Co: I was -- I remember, I was sitting and watching the news, and I was so mad and I was hurt, and I was upset, and I was feeling helpless.

Marisa Wojcik: Christiana Gorchynsky Trapani wanted to take action, as she saw images of Russian forces brutally attack Ukraine and its people.

Christiana Gorchynsky Trapani: And I was talking to my family, and I was like, I need to do something with this anger.

Marisa Wojcik: As a second-generation Ukrainian, her mission was personal, to raise money for Ukrainians on the front lines.

Christiana Gorchynsky Trapani: I knew I wanted to do something to help. And so I figured, well, I know how to make candles. We have a candle company. Let's use this.

Marisa Wojcik: Owner of a small artisan shop in Northeast Wisconsin called Door County Candle Co., she began making candles with blue and gold wax, the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

Christiana Gorchynsky Trapani: I wrote a post on Facebook, and I was like -- I just did a little preview, that I'm going to be launching a fund-raiser tomorrow. Stay tuned, woke up. And we're like, oh, my God, 1,000. OK, 2,000, OK, 3,000.

Marisa Wojcik: In a matter of two weeks, the orders reached 20,000.

Christiana Gorchynsky Trapani: That's like what we typically would sell in a year.

Marisa Wojcik: Twenty thousand candles to be made in this small shop by hand.

Christiana Gorchynsky Trapani: I think I cry every day just hearing, like, the stories, and I could cry now. It just -- it means so much, and it means that so many people want to help. And so many people were feeling helpless, and just didn't know how to help.

Marisa Wojcik: Moved by the news and Christiana's energy, volunteers in the community have turned out in support, including Christiana's father.

George Gorchynsky, Father of Christiana Gorchynsky Trapani: I have to be here. I have to help.

Marisa Wojcik: When he's not doing 12-hour shifts as an E.R. Physician, he's doing 12-hour shifts helping his daughter.

George Gorchynsky: I'm first-generation Ukrainian. And my parents immigrated from Ukraine right after World War II. And I was raised Ukrainian. In fact, I spoke Ukrainian until first grade.

Marisa Wojcik: He and Christiana's mother passed the language onto their children.

Christiana Gorchynsky Trapani: It was my first language. I learned Ukrainian before I learned English. And that's how I talk to my grandparents, only in Ukrainian. And it's kept me really close to my culture and my heritage.

Marisa Wojcik: When she heard the news of the Russian invasion, Christiana's maternal grandmother flash backed to life in Ukraine during World War II.

Christiana Gorchynsky Trapani: We were sitting with her. And she just started to cry and shake and just relive war when she was a kid. And I never thought that something like that could happen in 2022.

George Gorchynsky: It's just heartbreaking. It's an absolute catastrophe, what's going on. It's World War II all over again. That's what it is.

And, in fact, my wife's mom has memories of things that happened during the war and as a child when she was there. And it's just brought tears to her eyes. She's just -- she's in total disbelief. She's at home right now here, and she's stickering bags and doing things. She's 82 years old, and she's helping out as well. So it's all hands on deck.

Marisa Wojcik: All of the profits made from selling the Ukraine candle are being donated to a Ukrainian nonprofit.

Christiana Gorchynsky Trapani: It's called Razom for Ukraine. So, it's helping provide, like, bandages and tourniquets and medical supplies to those that are in Ukraine and need it most.

And so our first donation was for $125,000. A lot of tears were flowing after that. It was just incredible. That's the first of many donation installments that we're ever going to make. I really thought we'd only sell like 100. I really didn't think we'd sell more.

George Gorchynsky: We still laugh, me and Christina. I said, if I could sell 300 candles, I'd be so happy. Well, that ship has sailed.


George Gorchynsky: We're so proud of her. It's -- we never expected this kind of a response, never.

Marisa Wojcik: The outpour of support eclipses any expectations Christiana could have imagined.

George Gorchynsky: A lot of good comes out of evil in many ways.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) Glory to Ukraine. Glory to its heroes.

Christiana Gorchynsky Trapani: We're just saying we're standing with Ukraine and providing light in the darkness.


Marisa Wojcik: For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Marisa Wojcik in Door County, Wisconsin.

Judy Woodruff: So heartening to see this.

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