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'Hearts for Ukraine' founder hopes family can be located

Hearts for Ukraine Etsy keychains
Posted at 3:49 PM, Mar 18, 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The founder of a small Etsy business hopes her donations can rebuild the family homes of her relatives in Ukraine.

Hearts for Ukraine is an Instagram page and online business where the owner sells blue and yellow heart shaped key chains to raise money for family and friends trapped in the war-torn country.

Ina Bednarska started making the key chains in the beginning of March. Since then, sales boomed.

"I'm busy," said Bednarska. "I'm busy thinking of what's next, what I need to pack [and] ship."

She's sold 700 key chains.

They're the color of the Ukranian flag and cut with scissors shaped like a stork, the national bird of Ukraine.

Support has been overwhelming.

Her family in the country knows of Bednarska's venture.

Friday, she video chatted with her 18-year-old relative.

Dima Tekutov is Bednarka's cousin's son but she calls him her nephew.

Tekutov is staying just outside Kharkiv. Bednarska translated for him.

"He says he's doing fine, but when he hears the cars driving by on the street, it feels like something is flying towards the house," she said.

To say that life in Ukraine is hard doesn't really capture the feeling.

Tekutov lives in constant fear.

"I had to flee Kharkiv because it's being bombarded, the civilians are being bombarded. So, I had to flee," said Bednarska, speaking for Tekutov.

He and his family were trying to lay low. It's dangerous to travel with the Russian army around.

In times of war, things often don't go as planned.

"Every day I wake up, read the news, eat, read the news again and look for any updates about the city of Mariupol," he said. "For instance, I found out the house was bombarded. The house where the family lives."

Two separate family homes were attacked by Russians, including the apartment complex where Tekutov's mother, aunt and some of their other children were staying.

No one has heard from them for the past 15 days.

"I was able to get the first smile out of him when I called him," said Bednarska, speaking for herself. "There is no translatable thing, a linguist talking here. But it's rahdnoy [meaning] my relative of blood but in a very endearing form... which means 'closest to my heart'."

Communications around Mariupol were knocked out a long time ago. So, there's still hope.

In the meantime, Bednarska will do the only thing she can: make heart shaped, blue and yellow key chains and hope to see them all again.

Hearts for ukraine yarn and keychain

"I'm his only family left if not for his mom and his aunt and grandmother," she said.

Bednarska said if they find out their worst fears about the family are true, she plans to use the money she's raised to bring Tekutov to America.

She's already used some of the money to rescue her grandmother from Ukraine. She was staying outside of Ukraine but is now a refugee in Germany.

The family members who Bednarska is looking for in Mariupol are Alla Besh and Nadezhda Budur, Tekutov's mother and aunt.