PORTAGE PARK — A series of Far Northwest Side concerts to support Ukrainian organizations is continuing through the end of April.
Donna Kosiba, a longtime employee and event organizer at City News Cafe, 4018 N. Cicero Ave., tapped into her network of Chicago Ukrainians to host fundraisers at the cafe after Russian troops invaded her country in February.
She organized shows with musicians from around the city and partnered with her friend and Ukrainian artist Jenia Cher, who has been selling watercolor postcards at the cafe.
All of the proceeds from the cards and Kosiba’s chocolate truffles have been donated to various Ukrainian organizations aiding refugees and soldiers affected by the war.
The cafe has donated to Unicef and Red Cross and is now working with an independent Ukrainian-American nurse who is sending medical parcels to Poland. There, volunteers send the supplies to soldiers and Ukrainians close to the border.
So far, City News Cafe’s Ukrainian benefit has raised over $6,000 and hosted about 20 musicians.
After seeing the wide community support, Kosiba has planned more free concerts and poetry jams through April, and postcards and truffles will still be on sale.
“It’s great that it’s a small business to a small business … so they can be there when they are needed,” Kosiba said.
Irish blues singer Jim Conway will host an open folk jam at the cafe 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday. A poetry event featuring six poets and storytellers will follow from 1:30 p.m.-3 p.m.
Kosiba said she plans to host more concerts over the next few weekends, including a show by an Elvis impersonator on Easter Sunday and a blues show from a cafe regular. Future shows will be published on the cafe’s social media once they are finalized, she said.
“Each musician has their own following and that’s good because different groups come in and we have a solid base who always comes on the weekends,” she said.
Cher, who lives in Uptown and is from Ukraine, said helping out her country by selling her artwork at the cafe has been a positive experience. She made four postcards that depict Ukrainian flags, cultural architecture and uplifting messages.
“People are tired of seeing the news of Ukraine, I’m so trying to cheer up people and see something positive,” Cher said. “The sales have gone really well; I’m glad they are buying them.”
She has also sold her paintings and cards at local art fairs and at Ideal Bakery in Jefferson Park, 4765 N. Milwaukee Ave. As the war rages in her home country, she wants people to remember the importance of helping each other if they are able to, even if they have no ties to Ukraine.
“It’s not some faraway country — we need to help each other,” she said. “Things happening there are not OK… it should matter to all of us.”