July 29, 2022

I love to travel, but the past couple of weeks have been rough. Melissa and I did Quilt Festival in Salt Lake City, but it was competing with Days of '47 so it was slow. It was complicated by our hotel: the staff was all Indian so communication was difficult, they didn't serve breakfast, we could not get any housekeeping, the elevators broke down, and on the last day, the air conditioning went out as well. With the temperature at 94 degrees at 10:00 at night, we wrapped ice packs in pillowcases to sleep.

After a stop in Reno to teach at Windy Moon Quilts (fabulous stores - be sure to check them out if you're in the area and say hi to Sandi, the owner, and Karen, her wonderful manager!) the original plan was to go backpacking with a friend. But her problems at home forced those plans to change. Plan B: go to Lake Tahoe by myself, camp for a few days, use WiFi at a resort I had access to to get some work done.

But the campground was ridiculously expensive, dirty and crowded, and it turned out I DIDN'T have access to the resort, so after spending the better part of a day searching for another place to stay for 4-5 nights that wouldn't cost me everything in my bank account and more, I gave up and used reward points to book a hotel in the next town over.  After I had dinner and watched a Hallmark movie (always a great way to calm down), I was able to get a good (cool) night's sleep. Then got up at 4:00 a.m. and drove 16 hours yesterday back to my parents' house in Arizona.

It was disappointing, frustrating and exhausting. But on the drive home, I started thinking: if I was that frustrated and worn out after a few rough days, how much harder is it for refugees from the war in Ukraine? I started to see things from another perspective: What if I weren't able to change my plans and go home?

A few weeks ago I drove from NYC to Paducah for QuiltWeek. About 30 miles outside of Paducah I stopped at a gas station to program directions into my GPS and I parked next to a cargo van. The driver was standing in the open passenger door arranging things: I noticed a large plastic tub full of food and saw a curtain behind the seats, so I asked if he had done a conversion and was living and traveling in his van. Yes, he said, he was living in his van, but he was carrying cargo. He had a thick accent and his English was broken, so I asked where he was from. His reply: Ukraine.

My heart sank. “Do you have family there?” I asked. “Yes,” he replied, “wife and 5-year-old son.” “You must be very worried about them.” Then he tried to tell me something but didn’t have the word. “Wait,” he said “I need translate” and picked up his phone. A moment later he held it up to show me one word: Refugee.

In his difficult English, Eugene told me that he came to the USA in September, leaving his wife and son in Ukraine. Now, they are refugees in Poland, living in a one-bedroom apartment shared with SIX families! The rent is $300 for each family (Yikes! sounds like NYC rent!). He hopes to be able to bring them here, but in the meantime he is driving a cargo van by day, sleeping in it at night, and sending every penny he can to Poland to help his family.

They can't just change plans and go home: there is no home to go to.  (How he is smiling in this picture I can't even imagine.......)

Or my friend Galyna. She lived in Long Island and did longarm quilting for me. She was from Ukraine but had married an American man who had died a few years after they were married. He left her comfortable, but after a few years of being alone she felt her family needed her so she packed up everything -- including her longarm quilting machine and her BERNINA 880 -- and moved back to Ukraine. At the beginning of the war I was able to communicate with her a bit through Facebook Messenger; today I have no idea where she is.

At the show in Salt Lake City, we were across the aisle from Wrap Ukraine With Quilts.

Gina Hallady and Beth Hawkins are sending quilts to refugees of the war in Ukraine. If you would like to send a quilt, or would like to donate money to help cover shipping costs, click on the image above to visit their website and learn more.  Honestly, I just emptied cash in my apron pockets into her donation jar at the show. I hope you'll help too.

However you help, on behalf of Eugene, Galyna and so many people like them, thank you.

Happy Quilting! ~ RaNae

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