By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming residents are joining the rest of the world in efforts to show support for Ukraine in its defense against Russia’s invasion.
From the Wyoming Legislature to community ski areas, public support for Ukraine and condemnation of Russian actions has spread across the state.
The day after the first bombs were dropped on Feb. 24, Sens. Tim Salazar, R-Riverton, and Brian Boner, R-Douglas, stood in front of the state Senate to publicly condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“I believe that this criminal act will not stand in the years ahead,” said Salazar. “I pray for the people of the Ukraine and for my friends who are caught in the Ukraine, and I wish them only victory.”
The support hasn’t been just verbal.
Nick Piazza, a Cody businessman whose company, SP Capital Management, is based in Ukraine, also owns Sleeping Giant Ski Area west of Cody. Sleeping Giant is contributing all of the proceeds from this weekend’s ski day to support Ukraine.
“Every dollar that’s earned on that day is going to be directly donated from us – from Sleeping Giant – to the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” Piazza said. “There’s a foundation in Ukraine called Come Back Alive, and we plan to donate to them. They basically made sure that soldiers have the supplies they need to defend the country.”
Piazza said that donating in this way is the responsible thing to do, given that the purchase of Sleeping Giant was made possible by the success of his business in Ukraine.
“A large portion of the money we’ve earned in our careers as the Piazza family has come from Ukraine,” he said. “It’s the responsible thing for us to do, to try to give a little bit back, and we think that it’s a fun way to allow people in Park County to come out and show their support.”
For those who want to help but can’t go skiing on Saturday, Piazza said supporters can purchase a ski ticket online for Saturday, March 5, and put a “love note” to Ukraine in the notes line.
“We’ll redeem the ticket and add it to the fund,” he said.
Piazza said he’s heard from many county residents who are anxious to support Ukraine. He pointed out that there are several other options, listed below.
For those looking to donate money directly to Ukraine’s Army, please follow this link. “The National Bank of Ukraine, basically the Fed, has set up accounts,” Piazza said.
For those looking to send supplies for humanitarian efforts, Nova Poshta Global is a private parcel service similar to UPS. “You can ship supplies to their US warehouse and they will make sure they get to Ukraine,” he said.
Piazza urged people to do more than donate in support of Ukraine.
“Please contact your government officials,” he said. “Write them emails, call their offices, call them to action.”
For those seeking a more hands-on approach to supporting the people of Ukraine, there’s a more daring opportunity that some Wyoming residents are already looking into.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said on Sunday the country is establishing a foreign “international” legion for volunteers from abroad.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, issued a global invitation via Twitter for people from other countries to join the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine.
“Together we defeated Hitler, and we will defeat Putin too,” he wrote.
Going to Ukraine to Fight
Piazza confirmed that several people from Wyoming have already reached out to him with serious interest in going to Ukraine to join the fight.
“From our side, we have made arrangements with Ukrainian friends and partners to get volunteers from the border, housed and signed up with the foreign legion or other volunteer support groups,” he posted to Facebook on Sunday. “We also will finance the travel and logistical support for any volunteers.”
Piazza warned, though, that any volunteers that go to Ukraine will be required to go through a vetting program led by former U.S. military personnel; would need to supply their own “non-lethal kit” (uniform, body armor, medkit, CAT bandages), and be ready to commit to a 30-day tour.
“This is a very serious choice, and we are extremely thankful to those that are willing to take this step, but please, serious applications only,” he added.
As of Tuesday, Piazza said six Wyoming residents had contacted him to begin the application process.
Piazza’s connections to the European country currently under siege aren’t simply business. His wife, Yulia, is Ukrainian, and her family has been caught up in the events there.
“Everyone is out of Kyiv except Yulia’s grandma and uncle,” Piazza told Cowboy State Daily. “They are in a bunker in Kyiv.”
Piazza’s Ukrainian employees are also the focus of his concern.
“Three families of employees crossed the border without their dads,” he said, noting that the men of the family stayed in Ukraine to fight. “The families will likely eventually end up in Cody.”