When Oak Bluffs resident Barbara Plesser heard there were protests in big cities across the world in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, she decided to take action closer to home.
Plesser went out to protest against Russia alone on Saturday afternoon. She stood in front of the Mansion House Inn in Vineyard Haven holding up signs, which she made when former President Donald Trump was being impeached for the first time, reading “Purge Putin” and “Nyet!! Vlad, Nyet!” to raise awareness.
“I’m protester No. 1, and I’m very proud of it,” Plesser told The Times. “I got a few honks and thumbs-ups.”
Plesser said she was inspired after she heard on WCAI there were protests in Boston and Paris, among other places. She mustered up her “old lady courage,” and hoped to “get the ball rolling” for Island demonstrations. Plesser said she believes more Islanders will appear to speak out in support of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, some Island liquor stores and restaurants are taking steps of their own. They say they won’t be reordering products made in Russia — notably, Russian vodka.
Our Market manager Carol Bailey will sell the Russian vodkas already in the store, but after that she will not be ordering more for the Oak Bluffs store.
In Edgartown, Your Market took a similar action with its stock of Russian vodka, according to store manager Jamison Loveday “We pulled anything Russian-made last week. We won’t be supporting any of their products,” Loveday said.
J.B. Blau, the owner of multiple restaurants on the Island (e.g. Copper Wok, Sharky’s Cantina, Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Co.), said he will be pulling all liquor made or bottled in Russia from his restaurants. The inspiration behind this decision was a Facebook post Blau saw by a Massachusetts restaurant owner who decided not to purchase Russian liquor anymore.
“It was the first time I’ve seen it, and thought it was a smart idea,” Blau said. He said they have to be careful because some “Russian vodka” is actually made in other countries, and he doesn’t want to accidentally punish a country, such as Sweden. Blau’s manager is doing the research to see which liquors are truly made and bottled in Russia. “It’s a teeny little something of support … almost insignificant, but there’s not much else we can do at this time. We saw that the state of New Hampshire has done that, and I have a feeling that liquor wholesalers are getting this request now everywhere, so hopefully it’ll be a tidal wave.”
Blau knows the decision may hurt people who are not directly involved in the invasion, but he said it is difficult to support Russia after seeing what Russian leaders are doing. “This isn’t going to be something like three weeks or some symbolic thing. We’ll keep this going as long as it’s necessary,” Blau said.
Others are spreading the word about how to help the people of Ukraine. Island resident Linda Ziegler, who said she has not seen many other newspapers informing locals about ways to help Ukraine, sent The Times a link to CNN’s “Impact Your World” (bit.ly/CNNHelpUkraine). This page had a section for donations specifically for supporting Ukraine. The money collected goes to 20 nonprofit organizations, such as Catholic Relief Services and the International Medical Corps, working to help Ukrainians.
Katherine Monterosso, whose great-grandparents were Ukrainian immigrants, shared a link to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA (bit.ly/UOCforUkraine), which is taking donations. According to Monterosso, many people who are a part of these churches are Ukrainian immigrants, and have “very direct connections” in the country. The money gathered will be used to help people still in Ukraine.
“It’s going to be direct aid,“ Monterosso said. “Churches are one of the most effective ways to get aid to people because there’s not a lot of overhead. They’re really funneling money into their own communities.”
There are a number of nonprofit organizations that are trying to provide aid to Ukraine. However, Monterosso recommended making donations through the church, which knows the community better than a nonprofit would.
“The Ukrainian immigrant community in the U.S., or anywhere in the world, is incredibly strong,” Monterosso. “Their own community knows best what they need.”