SASKATOON — Baba’s Closet is not a store where you can buy things, but rather a store where newly arrived Ukrainians — families or individuals — displaced by the ongoing war in their country can pick up free items that would help them start a new life in the city.
“I don’t call it a store because in a store you buy things. I call it a store because a lot of items here are donated and newly arrived Ukrainians displaced by war can come in and get things for free , “Nettie Cherniatenski, coordinator of Baba’s Closet, told SASKTODAY.
Canada, since Russian forces began to occupy Ukrainian territory at the end of February this year, has opened its borders and accepted Ukrainian refugees who either have family members who are already in the country or those who want just start a new life.
Cherniatensky said it started just as the war broke out. She started accepting donations in her garage but after a week decided to look for a bigger space as it was already two-thirds full.
She said she felt the need to have something to help displaced Ukrainians coming to Saskatoon since she has direct ties to Ukraine, her father being born in said country which she has also visited on several occasions. .
“I started on February 24, because I have ties with Ukraine, my father was born there and I also went to Ukraine. I cried a lot when the war started. I was very sad because how could something like this happen?’ said Chernyatensky.
“On [Feb.] On the 26th, I was standing in my kitchen, and I heard someone whisper to me, “Nettie, that’s what you’re going to do. It was a calling. Every day since then, I wake up elated to donate clothes to those in need.
She started accepting and organizing donations in her garage, but after two weeks she needed a bigger space because there was about two-thirds of the space left. She then emailed storage and warehouse owners asking if there was any space available for her donations.
“My house was also starting to fill up inside and I don’t have a big house. I shelled the north end, in the industrial area, for weeks trying to get something. I could not. No one wanted to give me space,” added Cherniatensky.
“No one wanted to donate or even meet me halfway. Not even [in exchange] for perogies or cabbage rolls. They won’t meet me halfway. I ended up going to a neighbor of mine who has an oil company and he said I could use his office. We stayed there for two months. »
But she again had to move because the office space was not enough as donations from Saskatoon residents kept pouring in. She again started looking to see if there were any facilities available in town, but nothing was available for rent.
Just at the right time, an “angel” rushed over and offered him the facility at 811 51st Street that they had been using for a few months now. The lady, whom she did not know, was the one offering the space on the condition that her identity remain anonymous.
“She told me, ‘You have a cluttered little space here. I’ll see what I can do for you. I haven’t heard from this person for a few days. I go day by day. I have faith that the good Lord will help me out,” Cherniatenski said.
“After a few days she met me again and told me she had two places we could visit. We looked at both places and saw this one [51st Street facility] like okay. I told her, I don’t have the money, but still, she signed me on a one-year lease.
“She was happy to help but she wants to remain anonymous. This is what I call a walking angel. She doesn’t want to be known and doesn’t want to be named. She has no connection to Ukraine. Just an angel walking among the people.
On Wednesday, Deputy Premier Chrystia Freeland, whose mother is Ukrainian, stopped by Baba’s Closet to drop off her donation that would greatly help Ukrainian refugees start a new life in Saskatoon.
“I follow her [Freeland] on TV and I know she’s Ukrainian. All of her children also speak Ukrainian. I don’t see this as a political issue, but rather as a report that can inform the West that there are people doing something to help Ukrainians,” Chernyatensky said.
She wore a white shirt bearing the Ukrainian flag with the words Slava Ukraini which translates to Glory to Ukraine in English. Her donations included rolling pins, bedding, tampons, markers, Lego blocks and a few winter coats.