A concert series at the City News Cafe in Portage Park raises thousands to support relief efforts in Ukraine

PORTAGE PARK — A Far Northwest Side concert series in support of Ukrainian organizations continues through the end of April.

Donna Kosiba, longtime employee and event planner at City News Cafe, 4018 N. Cicero Ave., tapped into her network of Ukrainians in Chicago to organize fundraisers at the cafe after Russian troops invaded her country in February.

She organized shows with musicians from all over the city and teamed up with her friend and Ukrainian artist Jenia Dear, who sells watercolor postcards at the cafe.

All proceeds from Kosiba’s cards and chocolate truffles were donated to various Ukrainian organizations helping refugees and war-affected soldiers.

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The cafe has donated to Unicef ​​and the Red Cross and now works with a freelance Ukrainian nurse who sends medical packages to Poland. There, volunteers send supplies to soldiers and Ukrainians near the border.

So far, the City News Cafe Ukraine performance has raised over $6,000 and featured approximately 20 musicians.

After seeing broad community support, Kosiba has planned more free concerts and poetry jams through April, and the postcards and truffles will still be on sale.

“It’s great that it’s a small business to a small business…so they can be there when they’re needed,” Kosiba said.

Four performances are scheduled for this week. folk group Despina Pafralides will play Saturday 10 a.m., and “old-school” blues singer Lori Lewis and Harpdog will perform at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Irish blues singer Jim Conway will host a open folk jam at the cafe 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday. A poetry event featuring six poets and storytellers will follow from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Credit: Provided
An assortment of truffles from City News Cafe employee Donna Kosiba are for sale at the cafe, 4018 N. Cicero Ave. All proceeds will go to Ukrainian fundraising.

Kosiba said she plans to host more concerts over the coming weekends, including a performance by an Elvis impersonator on Easter Sunday and a blues performance by a coffeehouse regular. Upcoming shows will be posted on cafes social networks once they are finalized, she said.

“Every musician has their own audience and that’s good because different bands come and we have a strong base that always comes on the weekends,” she said.

Cher, who lives in Uptown and is from Ukraine, said helping her country by selling her artwork at the cafe has been a positive experience. She made four postcards depicting Ukrainian flags, cultural architecture and uplifting messages.

“People are tired of seeing the news from Ukraine, I try so hard to cheer people up and see something positive,” Cher said. “Sales went very well; I’m glad they buy them.

She also sold her paintings and maps at local art fairs and at Ideal Bakery at Jefferson Park, 4765 N. Milwaukee Ave. As war rages in her home country, she wants people to remember the importance of helping each other if they can. to, even if they have no connection with Ukraine.

“It’s not a distant country – we have to help each other,” she said. “Things going on there are not going well…it should concern all of us.”

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