A Ukrainian-Canadian fire dancer is helping Ukrainians fight fires by collecting gear to send overseas.
Yevgeniya Tatarenko is a marketing instructor at Red River College by day, but performs as a fire dancer in her spare time.
Her troupe has made connections with fire halls in Manitoba towns and cities they’ve performed.
Tatarenko, who came to Canada from Ukraine six years ago and now lives in Morden, has been collecting monetary donations to send to Ukrainian paramedics to help pay for medical supplies they desperately need to treat people injured during the Russian invasion.
Through chatting with them, she learned firefighters in the hard-hit Ukrainian city of Kharkiv were badly in need of gear.
“They lost a lot of lives of their firefighters and they are training the new volunteers and they just don’t have the gear they can put those people in,” she said.
So, she decided to use those fire department connections for good.
Tatarenko has now collected firefighting gear from eight different fire departments in southern Manitoba, including helmets, jackets, gloves, balaclavas and even oxygen tanks.
The logistics of getting all that gear is a bit tricky, but Tatarenko says it is being sent overseas along with people taking commercial flights to Europe, and then will get picked up Ukrainian officials.
She’s also partnering with a shipping company in Toronto.
Steinbach fire chief Kelvin Toews, whose fire hall is one of the eight donating gear, says they typically donate their decommissioned gear to Firefighters Without Borders, which distributes it to fire departments in developing countries.
Given the current situation in Ukraine, they felt sending it there would be appropriate, he said.
“We had this stuff stored and we thought this, you know, it’s terrible what’s going on across there, across the water, and this was our opportunity to do something,” he said.
“It’s very rewarding to be helping out our brothers and sisters out in the Ukraine, and it fills us — fills me — with pride that the rural fire departments all banded together and are able to get a shipment together.”
For Tatarenko, the drive to help is incredibly personal: her mother, aunt and cousin all still live in Ukraine. She said she’s touched that the fire departments stepped up to help.
“If we can make a difference for the heroes that fight fire in Ukraine, Kharkiv especially, it makes us, you know, just blown away by this.”