Vancouver mother and daughter make traditional Ukrainian dolls to help children affected by war

A mother and daughter from Vancouver have been working with friends to craft traditional Ukrainian dolls as a fundraiser to help children affected by the war.

Eva and her 11-year-old daughter Lena, who didn't want to share their last names, have been making the Motanka dolls for the last few weeks.

“Lena taught us,” Eva said. “She researched about the dolls, so we started reading into the origins and it turned out it’s pretty close to our culture as well. I’m from Poland, I grew up in Eastern Europe, and we do have them in my country as well.”

Lena said it wasn’t hard to learn, especially once they began working with the right materials.

“We wanted to raise money for families and children in Ukraine,” she said. “So we could help a little bit.”

Eva said she and her daughter make the dolls along with two friends who have ties to Ukraine. The dolls are made using a technique that does not require sewing, and each one is unique.

“No stitches, no needles. We only use scissors on the fabric that is not touching the doll,” Eva said. “We wrap fabrics around the bases of our dolls, we dress them nicely.”

Layers of colourful and printed fabric are added to the dolls’ bodies for clothing, and each one carries a small wrapped bundle. Some also have a baby with them.

“They bring gifts,” Eva said. “The dolls are very special. They’re powerful. They bring peace and joy.”

The dolls are being sold at Make Vancouver on Granville Island, with proceeds going to UNICEF.

The store’s retail manager Paul Marks said the response from customers has been great, with some requests even coming from outside of Metro Vancouver.

“Customers have been super engaged and excited about it,” he said. “Make Vancouver will be matching all the donations dollar for dollar.”

The largest dolls sell for $40, the medium-sized dolls are priced at $25, and small ones sell for $15.

Eva and Lena just dropped off their third delivery of dolls to the store on Saturday. Eva said they’ve likely exceeded the goal for the fundraiser – which Lena initially started by selling bracelets and keychains – and have raised close to $2,000 in four weeks.

“We’re still contributing and we want to keep it going,” Eva said, and added they’re also thinking of putting on workshops to teach others how to make the dolls.

“It’s bringing communities together, and people can learn something about other cultures, which is beautiful, too.”

Eva said the message they hope to share is to “take care of other people who are in need.”

“Be kind together. Support each other,” she said. “It’s so much needed these days.”