Cordova Chronicles: Candles for a good cause

Christiana Gorchynsky and a co-worker hold a sign displaying the second check they sent to Ukraine in the amount of $150,00 from sales of their blue and gold candles. Door County Candle Company photo

Cordovans are famous for their generous help to those in need. A recent PBS TV News Special Report described another group of small-town people that are doing something special for those devastated by unforeseen events.

Christiana Gorchynsky Trapani is a second-generation Ukrainian living in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, and just happens to be an artisan candlemaker.

In the PBS feature, she described how upset she was by the images of Russian forces brutally attacking Ukraine, and was looking for a way to do something with that anger and helpless feeling.

She decided to use her candle making skills to raise funds to aid Ukrainians on the front lines. She began making candles with blue and gold wax, the colors of the Ukrainian flag, and wrote a post about her project on Facebook.

Chrisitana Gorchynsky of Door County Candle Company in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin is donating proceeds from the sales of these blue and yellow candles to provide aid to Ukraine. Door County Candle Company photo

“I just did a little preview, that I was going to launch a fund raiser tomorrow, stay tuned. I woke up, and like, oh my God, 1,000. OK, 2,000, OK 3,000,” Trapani said.

In a matter of two weeks, the orders had reached 20,000, which is typically what her Door County Candle Company would sell in a year.

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The documentary showed a crew of community volunteers pitching in to help the small shop meet demand. Several were busy carefully pouring hot wax into vast arrays of candle molds.

They included her father George Gorchynsky, who when not doing 12-hour shifts as an E.R. physician is now pulling 12-hour shifts making candles.

“I’m a first-generation Ukrainian,” he said. “My parents immigrated from Ukraine right after World War II. It’s just heartbreaking, an absolute catastrophe what is going on. It’s World War II all over again, that’s what it is.”

All the profits made from the sales of the candles are being donated to a Ukrainian nonprofit called Razom for Ukraine.

“Our first donation was for $125,000,” Trapani said. “It’s used for helping provide bandages and tourniquets and medical supplies to those that are in Ukraine and need it most.”

While saddened by events in their former homeland, father and daughter have found gratitude in the success of their endeavor.

“We still laugh, me and Christiana,” her father, Gorchynsky, said. “I said if we could sell 300 candles, I’d be so happy. Well, that ship has sailed.”

Shortly after watching the PBS Special, my wife Sue found their website, and ordered a pair of candles at $29.95 apiece.

We discovered the number of orders is now well over 20,000, and were told it would take 12 weeks for them to ship.

Sometimes frustrated by shipping delays to Cordova, it may sound strange, but I find that gratifying.

“We’re just saying we are standing with Ukraine and providing light in the darkness,” Trapani said in the PBS Report.

I think most of the world is standing with her, and we can’t wait to light our Ukrainian blue and gold candles, no matter how long it takes for them to get here.

Note: By the time I finished writing this story, Door County Candle Company had sent another $150,000 from sales of their special candles to Ukraine.