Local photographer selling photographs to support Ukrainian family

Andrii and Olena Buznia from Ukraine with Ryan Darling and Mila Bridger in Ireland. COURTESY PHOTO

Local photographer Mila Bridger opened her heart and door to others to help a Ukrainian family in need.

Ms. Bridger, originally from Poland, is recognized nationally and internationally for her work in creative portraits and lifestyle photography. She has photographed local entrepreneurs, musicians, designers and created numerous photo shoots all over the world. With a background in European art, she brings an exciting approach to the art of photography. Known in Southwest Florida for her creative portraiture and imagination, she also serves the community by volunteering her time and services to important fundraisers.

When the invasion of Ukraine began, she knew how vulnerable people can be in times of crisis, as she was born and raised in an Eastern Europe. His homeland has known its grief over the years. She gathered friends on social media to book tours, rooms and hotel stays in Poland, not to get there but to create income for small business owners.

While she and her husband, Ryan Darling, were traveling in Ireland two months ago on vacation, they met a Ukrainian family on the train to their surprise.

“We were heading in the same direction, but they were looking for a place to stay while we were looking forward to trying some Guinness and sightseeing,” Ms Bridger said. “It hit me hard. Really hard. Family of four – looking for a place to live as they can’t be in their own country – a family that has seen and witnessed things we can’t not imagine in our worst nightmares, this shouldn’t happen to anyone. I knew I had to do something more.

Ms Bridger promised to keep in touch with this family and try to help them get back on their feet. She knew one way was to help raise money to pay the Ukrainian family’s rent while they tried to find jobs in Ireland.

Mermaids Dreams is a series of photos by Ms. Bridger and a new photo titled Ukrainian Mermaid has been added. She offers the new photo with a photo titled Stop the War to anyone who wants to help; both prints include a letter of authenticity and 100% of the proceeds go to help the Buznia family. Ms Bridger said her aim was to pay the family’s rent for several months, so they wouldn’t have to worry about a roof over their heads.

Andrii Buznia and his wife Olena and their sons Michail and Anatoliy (8 and 10) fled war-torn Ukraine before the invasion. It was a normal family, they had everything they needed and now they are starting over. They arrived in Dublin looking for work, but said they knew it would take time to earn enough money to feel secure. They chose a big city to move to because one of their sons has heart disease that needs to be monitored at a heart center.

“Olena told me it’s one thing to lose your home, but it’s another thing to lose your life,” Ms Bridger said. “All I could do at that point was hug her while my eyes filled with tears. I promised her that I would do anything, anything in my power to help them get their life back.

The Buznias lived in Mykolaiv, Ukraine until the Russian invasion began. On February 24, they were woken up at 5 a.m. to their house shaken by Russian shelling nearby. They slept underground for five days before deciding to flee. They traveled to Moldova by bus, then walked 15 kilometers (nearly 10 miles) to Romania carrying their luggage. From there they traveled to Ireland because they could speak English.

“We cannot sit idly by,” Ms Bridger said. “Even though we can’t help everyone, we can help this displaced family and we can make a difference in their lives.

Ms Bridger and her husband helped pay the family’s first month’s rent while in Ireland and are working hard to raise enough money to pay for several more months. The rent is $1,100 per month; food and living expenses for a family of four are an additional $2,500. The goal is to help as long as necessary.

To purchase poster prints for $150 each, with 100% of proceeds going to the Buznia family, go to https:// www.milabridger.com/help-ukraine

For more information or to contact Mila Bridger, call 239-877-2485. ¦

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