Honoring Resilience: Saint Javelin donates $18,808 to the Azovstal Defenders’ Families Fund

In the spring of 2022, the world turned its gaze towards the embattled city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian defenders at the Azovstal Steel Plant showcased their unwavering courage in the face of a Russian siege. Against all odds, they valiantly fought to safeguard their homeland. Leveraging Startlink technology, they revealed the harsh conditions and unyielding spirit that defined their resistance. The melodic and heartbreaking singing of the combat medic Ptashka, the poignant photographs captured by Orest, and the moving video diary titled "Mariupol Fortress: The Last Day at Azovstal" have etched an indelible mark in our collective memory, serving as a testament to the strength and sacrifice of the Ukrainian people.

Photo credit: Denys Kozatskyi, “Orest”. May 2022

Despite their efforts, the Russians were never able to fully take the Azovstal Steel Plant by force. Had there been more essential resources such as medical supplies, water and food, the Mariupol defenders could’ve held their garrison for months, further slowing down the Russian offensive in the South of Ukraine. But to save the lives of its soldiers, the Ukrainian command ordered the Mariupol defenders to exit into Russian captivity on the condition that the Red Cross would check on the Ukrainian POWs and their health. But no agreement with Russia is worth even the paper it is written on. Not only did the Russian side refuse to provide access to international human rights organizations, but it also committed a horrific war crime – the blowing up of the Olenivka prison where hundreds of the Azovstal defenders were kept. The identities and the total number of the victims remain shrouded in uncertainty, leaving families of the Azovstal defenders with a painful hope that their loved ones were spared from the brutality of that attack.

Photo credit: Denys Kozatskyi, “Orest”. May 2022

For over a year, more than 2,000 courageous Mariupol defenders have languished in Russian captivity. The Association of Azovstal Defenders' Families, founded by Kateryna Prokopenko and the wives of other defenders, has tirelessly advocated for the release of these captives and justice for Olenivka. They have harnessed every major platform to reach global leaders and officials, while concurrently initiating a fund to aid fellow families and extend assistance to returning POWs. Beyond providing financial support, the organization assembles “Finally You’re Home” packages – containing essentials such as clothing, hygiene items, phones, chargers, and thoughtful gifts – for Ukrainian defenders returning from captivity. Saint Javelin's contribution of over $8,000 in new clothing and $6,583 in direct monetary assistance during the past winter significantly bolstered the “Finally You’re Home” initiative.

Image: Association of Azovstal Defenders' Families

In May 2023, our efforts to shed light on the plight of the Azovstal POWs and their families culminated in a charitable initiative. We organized a limited-edition art sale featuring “Our Lady of Mariupol,” an exquisite artwork by esteemed Ukrainian illustrator Maksym Palenko. The depiction portrays the Lady of Mariupol as Pokrova, extending her sheltering embrace over the heroic defenders, shielding them from destruction. The intricacies of her veil reveal the labyrinthine catacombs of the Azovstal plant – a temporary shelter for Ukrainian fighters and civilians alike. Within her protective folds, the guardians of Mariupol gaze resolutely, making a poignant connection with the viewer. Maksym Palenko's creation stands as a tribute to the unparalleled sacrifices of those who stood resolute for their city.

The success of the artwork sale is a source of immense pride, as it allowed us to donate $18,808 directly to the Azovstal Defenders’ Families fund. This contribution will further the preparation of “Finally You’re Home” boxes, catering to the needs of returning Ukrainian POWs, and provide crucial financial support to the families of the Mariupol defenders. As we reflect on this campaign and charity initiative, we reaffirm our commitment to honoring bravery, resilience, and the enduring spirit of those who refuse to surrender even in the face of adversity. The story of Mariupol's defenders continues to inspire us all, and their sacrifices will forever be etched in history.

Although the limited-edition post is sold out, you can buy the merch with the artwork here. Find more art by Maksym Palenko and other artists here.

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