A local fundraising campaign to support the Ukraine city of Kaniv has raised nearly $ 5,000 in pledges from more than 40 residents, according to organizers.

“It’s been a very successful so far,” said Sherri Ferris, of the Sonoma Sister Cities Association, which launched the fundraising drive within days of the unprovoked Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces.

Kaniv, a city of about 29,000 residents on the banks of the Dnieper River, about 90 miles southeast of the capital city of Kyiv, is one of seven “sister cities” to Sonoma.

Kaniv, the burial place of famed Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, shares with Sonoma a reputation as a destination for historic tourism. Sonoma and Kaniv entered into their sister-city relationship in 1987 as a way to further a “mutual understanding between nations,” when the latter was still part of the Soviet Union, according to SSCA officials.

Along with launching the fundraising campaign, the Sister Cities and Sonoma Mayor Jack Ding also reached out to Kaniv Mayor Ihor Ren’kas via email to express their support to the people Ukraine. “We stand beside you, extending the hand of friendship in offering whatever support we are able to provide,” wrote Ding and Sister Cities President Diana Short in the Feb. 25 letter.

Ferris confirmed they did receive a response with official letter head from Mayor Ren’kas’s office, but it came as a jpg image written in Ukrainian and they haven’t yet had the message translated to English.

Ferris met with Ukrainian Consul General Dmytro Kushneruk on Thursday in San Francisco.

Kushneruk said Kaniv is currently considered a safe area. “There are no reports of attacks on that (city) right now,” Kushneruk told the Index-Tribune. “So compared to other places in Ukraine, it is not yet a target of attack.”

He promised to help facilitate a bank-to-bank transfer of funds from the Sonoma fundraising campaign to the City of Kaniv.

“All the money will go directly to humanitarian concerns including food and medicine and all the things they need,” said Ferris.

Kushneruk is expected to visit Sonoma on Thursday, March 17, where he will meet Mayor Ding and other city officials at City Hall. He said the support from communities like Sonoma means a lot to Ukrainians as they fight for their homeland.

“It’s clear in our media on the local level how the towns and cities (around the world) are lighting up Ukraine national colors in local communities, sending help and raising money,” Kushneruk said. “The people of Ukraine see and feel this time the world is very much united against Russian aggression and in support of Ukraine – especially here in the United States, and California in particular.”

Funds will continue to be raised for Kaniv at givebutter.com/SisterCities_Kaniv.

Email Jason Walsh at jason.walsh@sonomanews.com.

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