Beaufort Mayor Stephen Murray

Beaufort launches effort to support city in Ukraine 

 By Tony Kukulich 

In an expression of solidarity with the people of Ukraine, City of Beaufort Mayor Stephen Murray took steps to symbolically adopt the City of Ostroh in that war-torn country. 

While the action was symbolic, Murray’s intention is to deliver real assistance to the residents there. 

“I tend to lean toward more meaningful gestures,” Murray said. 

Using the city’s Pride of Place account, Murray hopes to raise funds for Ostroh. That account was established by the city several years ago to accept charitable donations that can be used for some public purpose. Donations made to the city’s Ukraine relief fund will be transferred to a similar fund set up by the Ostroh town council to accept charitable funds. 

“For me, it’s meaningful that they’ll have the resources to do what they need to do with their local government,” Murray said. “It’s a boots-on-the-ground, local effort instead of some big national or international fund and resource.” 

Ukraine was invaded by Russia on Feb. 24, and the conflict has, so far, created approximately 2.5 million refugees. Russian advances have reportedly been slowed by stubborn Ukrainian defenses. In recent days, Russian forces have stepped up the intensity of their attacks, which have not been limited to military targets. 

Obtaining accurate figures on casualties in the fighting is difficult. A March 10 story in The Guardian quoted a United Nations figure of 549 civilian deaths. According to their reporting, the U.S. military estimated that 4,000 to 6,000 members of the Ukrainian armed forces have been killed along with 5,000 to 6,000 Russian soldiers. Ukrainian armed forces estimate the number of Russian soldiers killed at twice that figure.

Concern about worsening conditions in Ukraine led Murray to do a late-night internet search, looking for a way to help. He found Ostroh, a small city in western Ukraine with a population comparable to Beaufort, about 15,000 people. Its founding dates to the Middle Ages. Like Beaufort, Ostroh sits alongside a river, the Horyn River. It is approximately 217 miles west of Kyiv and 177 miles east of the border with Poland.

Murray reached out to Ostroh Mayor Yurii Yahodka through an email address he located, and asked what could be done to help residents there.

“Currently, we need supplies for our defenders to save people’s lives,” Yahodka said in his email response to Murray. “Along with protecting vests and helmets, there is a huge need for thermal imagers, walkie-talkies and medicines.”

After making a connection through email, the two mayors spoke via a Zoom call with the help of an English interpreter in Yahodka’s office. Yahodka told Murray that Ostroh was not the site of any fighting at that time. The town is helping refugees from other parts of Ukraine and working to get supplies to parts of the country that are under siege. Humanitarian aid, Yahdoka said, has been received from Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic.

The New York Times reported Tuesday, March 15 that aerial attacks have increased in western Ukraine and close to the border with Poland. Air strikes targeted a military airfield in Lutsk, just 75 miles from Ostroh.

“Our first goal is to raise some money,” Murray said. “That’s the fastest way we can have an impact.”

To donate, send a check made payable to the Beaufort Pride of Place/Ukrainian Relief to Beaufort City Hall, Pride of Place/Ukrainian Relief; 1911 Boundary St., Beaufort, S.C. 29902.

Checks can also be dropped off at the city manager’s office on the second floor of City Hall, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Donations can be made online at http://www.cityofbeaufort.org/270/Beaufort-Pride-of-Place.

All donations will be given to the City of Ostroh, which has set up an account to receive donations.

“Thank you once again for standing with Ukraine!,” wrote Yahodka in his email to Murray. “Citizens of Ostroh are grateful to the people of Beaufort for coming to help us! Once it’s all over and Ukraine wins this unfair war, you are welcome to visit us to celebrate the victory.”

Tony Kukulich is a recent transplant to the Lowcountry. A native of Wilmington, Del., he comes to The Island News from the San Francisco Bay Area where he spent seven years as a reporter and photographer for several publications. He and his wife enjoy exploring their new home state. He can also frequently be found playing bass guitar with a couple of local bands. He can be reached at tony.theislandnews@gmail.com.

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