AUSTIN (KXAN) — For the first 10 years of her life, Austin resident Kateryna Vasylyshyn and her family called Ukraine home before immigrating to the United States. Even in the years since, she still takes pride in her 100% Ukrainian heritage — now more than ever.
Vasylyshyn, part owner of Austin-based candlemaking business Bad*** Candles, has spent the past 12 days watching in desperation as Russia has launched its attacks against Ukraine. Now, she’s using her business to take a stand, one candle at a time.
She launched a “Stand with Ukraine”-themed candle line this week, with 100% of proceeds from the collection benefitting Ukrainian nonprofits Razom and Sunflowers of Peace.
While Vasylyshyn and her parents immigrated to America and her parents are currently based in Chicago, the remainder of her family resides in Ukraine. For her, these attacks are personal. She is in close contact with relatives overseas, some of whom have voluntarily enlisted to defend Ukraine’s borders.
“There’s so many different families, including my own, who are either displaced or about to be displaced from their home,” she said. “While the tensions are rising, and the people are suffering … it is, on the bright side, really nice to see the communities and variety of communities here in Austin, Texas in general and all across the nation who are coming together and just really doing anything that they could possibly do to help the children, women and men who are defending their country.”
In the past 72 hours since the business launched its Ukrainian-centric line, she said she’s already sold several hundred candles. Her immediate goal is to hit 1,000 sold by the end of this week; however, she said the mere fact hundreds have already purchased these Ukrainian products feels like an accomplishment as is.
“We want to get as many members of the community involved as possible to raise awareness to provide a quality, good product, but also in a meaningful way to change a lot of lives,” she said.
While this is her business’ first Ukrainian-focused product line, she said Bad*** Candles has raised funds in the past for breast cancer research and other charitable efforts. Now, she and her boyfriend are collaborating with their other candle line, ForeverWick Candle, to expand their Ukrainian fundraising efforts.
And while she is intimately knowledgeable about Ukrainian culture and its people, she said not everyone has always had the same cultural awareness for Ukraine. When she moved to the United States as a 10 year old, she said many people were unaware of its existence or conflated it with Russia.
Now, she said seeing this support emerge on a global stage has been profound to witness.
“I’m very happy to see that people care,” she said. “People are paying attention, and people do understand that we are all fighting for the same thing, which is democracy and freedom. And so it’s just been really life changing and really surprising to see, in a good way.”