Canadian man Christian Borys says that when refugees started leaving Ukraine before the Russian invasion, he thought he would be able to raise a few hundred dollars by selling stickers. The Saint Javelin campaign has now raised close to $1 million, with more orders for stickers, flags, and clothing flooding in every day, and he says he plans to make it his "life's work." Borys, who runs a marketing firm, worked with a designer to create the image of Mary Magdalene holding a US-made Javelin anti-tank missile launcher, the BBC reports. The 35-year-old says he was amazed by the "overwhelming" response. He says that on the first day the website went up, he received around $800 in orders. That rose to $4,000 the next day and $35,000 by Feb. 24, the day Russia invaded.
Borys, a former journalist who was based in Ukraine from 2014 to 2018, says the fundraiser began as an effort to help children who fled the country while their fathers stayed behind to fight. His father lives in a small town in Poland, near the Ukrainian border, and Borys has been helping him find places for refugees to stay. He's called me bawling a few times," Borys told the CBC last week. "We sent a number of kids to his house the other day, and they're all the children of guys who have stayed back to fight. ... And he called me this morning, crying, saying, 'These kids are asking me, 'Where's daddy? Where's daddy?'" Borys is now staying with his father while he helps coordinate aid shipments.
Borys has been donating the funds to Help Us Help, a long-established Canadian charity that assists orphans and veterans and is now also supporting medics in the conflict zone. He tells the BBC that he plans to turn the Saint Javelin campaign into an effort that will help Ukraine for many years to come. "There's going to be decades of reconstruction, because of the scale of the destruction we're seeing." Borys says he believes the image is so popular because of the huge role the anti-tank weapons have played in resisting the invasion. He says those who find the image too militaristic should remember, "The reality is, Ukraine didn't ask for this war, right? So they're just trying to protect their homeland." (Read more Russia-Ukraine war stories.)