Like many around the world, Michael Dorf, founder of City Winery, a nationwide collection of urban wineries and venues based in New York City, was eager to support Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s invasion on February 24, 2022.
“We all have been so moved from the beginning about the war,” says Dorf. “We just wanted to do something.”
For the team at City Winery, the call to action feels personal. Ganna “Ania” Fedorova, City Winery’s national sales director, was raised in the Lugansk region of eastern Ukraine, went to college in Kyiv and moved to New York at age 22. She has friends and relatives across Ukraine and Russia, and her parents still live in Kyiv, where they recently returned after initially escaping to the western part of the country.
“It’s quite complicated,” says Fedorova of how she identifies, having a Russian mother, Ukrainian father and upbringing steeped in Russian language and culture. “I am adamantly politically Ukrainian. I always took great pride in being Ukrainian.”
Many in her homeland feel similarly, she says. “Whatever hesitancy that Ukrainians had about their national identity, it really forged over the last eight years.”
Seeking to host a fundraising concert, City Winery’s programming team asked Fedorova which performer she thought would be apt. “My first thought was Gogol Bordello, this fantastic band with Ukrainian roots,” she says. “I saw them back in Kyiv when I still lived there. I thought they would be great advocates and headliners for this benefit.”
The band readily agreed to what became a sold-out concert on March 10, 2022, and the winery developed a Cabernet Sauvignon with a striking blue-and-yellow fist label to boost fundraising. “It was not that difficult for us to assemble this and do it,” says Dorf.
Proceeds go to Come Back Alive, an organization that Fedorova helped to select. “It’s a fund that supports the Ukrainian military, but not with weapons, rather with things that help them fight more safely and more efficiently,” she says. “We know the funds are going directly to the frontlines.”
Dorf believes the concert’s success went beyond its financial impact. “Having 400 people in the room dancing together in support of Ukraine, all in unison, saying, ‘F*%! Putin!,’ that was cathartic and powerful,” he says. “We did something that was very special.”