How to make $2,500 in three hours

Co-organizers of the March 13 benefit lunch in Longboat Key, Fla., for Olha Onyshko’s “Women of Maidan” film project. From left are: Oksana Bashuk Hepburn, Ken Hepburn, Ms. Onyshko, Anisa Mycak, George Mycak and Roma Rainey.


By Oksana Bashuk Hepburn
Contributing Writer

Reprinted with permission from The Ukrainian Weekly (www.ukrweekly.com).

Here’s a way to make money. You need a fine cause, good friends and a determination to make it happen.

This is how it happened in Longboat Key.

Olha Onyshko, M.FA. in film and video from American University and a D.C. area-resident, was in Florida screening her documentary film “Women of Maidan” at the Fort Myers Documentary Film Festival about 100 miles away. She welcomed the idea of journeying to meet the women who had recently seen it at the local event honoring Ukraine’s heroines.

What about money? Did she need any to finance her film? Did she ever! The lunch/fund-raiser idea turned into action. Romana Rainey, my down-the-street neighbor on the Key, supported the idea instantly and decided to bake her mother’s torte. Anisa Mycak offered her condo with a view of the Gulf of Mexico. I would prepare the ham and salads.

What were we hoping to achieve? We set ourselves three objectives.

The first reason for the event was to allow members of our community to meet Ms. Onyshko. “Women of Maidan” had been well received at our local event, but she had not been present to take questions.

Ms. Onyshko is a one-person film company. She writes, shoots, edits, produces, cuts CDs, distributes, and appears at documentary film festivals – there are some 50 in the U.S. alone. Time permitting, she hustles to other exhibitions in the U.S. and in Ukraine.

She’s out of breath arranging the U.S. Congress showing on March 28. And there will be screenings after that in Toronto.

Therefore, the second objective was to brainstorm: how to help her disseminate the film. Equally important who, where and when might assist in getting the film to appropriate audiences of the general public.

The film’s message is very poignant. Young students, primarily girls, went to the Maidan to protest the Russia-controlled regime of President Viktor Yanukovych in the winter of 2013. When some were beaten by the police, their bloodied faces brought mothers and grandmothers onto Independence Square – the Maidan – in support. The men followed, and the cry became “Don’t beat up our children.”

The rest, as they say, is history. The Maidan grew into a tsunami that blew Mr. Yanukovych out of office and then moved patriots to fight Russia’s terrorists in eastern Ukraine. It became the force that led to a freely elected government, wrestled the military and security apparatus from Vladimir Putin’s clutches, brought global sanctions on Russia for invading a sovereign country, and exposed Russia as a dangerous aggressor interested in world chaos and domination.

The film promotes the message, but Ms. Onyshko can only do so much with limited financial resources. A near 30 percent interest rate on a credit card is a high price to pay for creating a pro-Ukraine film so badly needed to support its heroic efforts against Russia. Thus, the third objective was to raise some money.

Ms. Onyshko was showing the film at the Fort Myers Documentary Film Festival that Friday. Was there time to organize the lunch/fund-raiser in one week? But the bigger question soon became: What are we waiting for?

Whom did we invite? The earlier local showing had been organized by Vira Bodnaruk, a member of the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America (UNWLA). This was a most welcome development, since a few years earlier the organization had declined to show Ms. Onyshko’s other brilliant film, “Three Stories of Galicia.” I contacted her and Anna Marie Susla, the UNWLA’s local president. Her advice on logistics was most helpful, even though she was sorry that most of the executive members were engaged that day in planning the forthcoming UNWLA congress and would not be attending.

We pressed on. Three days before the luncheon/fund-raiser we had a 50-50 chance of meeting our target of 15 attendees: Some 20 arrived for the event.

The brainstorming on how to help Ms. Onyshko disseminate the film brought out many good ideas: Show the film in high-school history classes, universities (Johns Hopkins and Columbia would be contacted), women’s groups, human rights organizations, churches and more. Some agreed to assist in the showing at the U.S. Congressional Auditorium on March 28 at 6:30 p.m.

As regards funds, $2,500 was raised in less than three hours. The guests recognized the great need for more quality products to balance Russia’s overwhelming anti-Ukrainian – indeed anti-democratic – propaganda. It was their way of ensuring that the film would find more audiences and of supporting work on the next film.

Ms. Onyshko was touched by the generosity of those attending. “The women made Maidan happen. By supporting ‘Women in Maidan’ you’re telling their story,” she said.

And here’s the best news: “Women of Maidan” won first prize at the Fort Myers Film Festival.

To arrange a screening of this film, call 202-257-7356 or e-mail oliafilm@gmail.com. To view trailers, make donations or obtain tax receipts visit www.womenofmaidan.com. According to Ms. Onyshko, donations are going towards covering the outstanding post-production costs, participation in festivals and film promotion.

Longboat Key News

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