STURGEON BAY, Wisconsin — “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”
This ancient proverb — made famous by Maryknoll Father James Keller, after he founded The Christophers in 1945 — has taken on a new meaning for Christiana Gorchynsky Trapani, owner of Door County Candle Co. in Sturgeon Bay.
With war now raging in Ukraine, home to many of Trapani’s relatives, the Catholic business owner came up with the idea of making and selling what is called the Ukraine Candle.
The 16-ounce candle is made of blue and yellow wax, colors of the Ukrainian flag, with a vanilla scent. Trapani said 100% of the profits from sales of these candles will support relief efforts in Ukraine.
“We actually did a fundraiser with a Ukrainian Catholic school in Chicago, St. Nicholas Cathedral School, a few months back,” she said. “When this happened, the idea came, ‘Let’s use this candle to donate all the profits to this 501(c)(3) called Razom.’ I kind of pulled it together and it’s working out.”
Razom, which means “together” in Ukrainian, is using donations to provide critical medical supplies for Ukrainians injured in the war, according to its website, razomforukraine.org.
In an interview with The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin, Trapani said that after Russia invaded Ukraine, “I was feeling helpless and heartbroken.”
“It is just hard to believe that in this day and age, this could still happen,” she said. “I just needed to do something to help. While continuing the prayers is important, I wanted to do more. I am so happy that we can work with the power of prayer and also the power of awareness.”
Trapani, 28, was born in Chicago and moved with her family to Sturgeon Bay when she was in second grade. She proudly boasts that she’s “100% Ukrainian.”
“Both of my parents (Natalie and George Gorchynsky) are Ukrainian and both sets of my grandparents were born in Ukraine,” she said. “I grew up with a lot of Ukrainian roots and heritage and I’m really proud of my Ukrainian background. I’m so happy that it was my first language and we still speak it fluently.”
Trapani and her husband, Nic, were married Sept. 28, 2019, at Stella Maris Church in Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin.
“My husband is not Ukrainian, but he has definitely learned a lot of words and sentences,” she said. “We were able to combine some Ukrainian Catholic traditions into our wedding at Stella Maris, which was pretty cool.”
Before moving back to Sturgeon Bay in 2019, Trapani attended graduate school at Marquette University in Milwaukee. While engaged, she and Nic attended St. John the Evangelist Cathedral and took marriage preparation classes there.
They started Door County Delivered, a gift box business, when they moved to Sturgeon Bay. Through this business, they met the owner of Door County Candle Co. and purchased it from him in June 2021.
The candle company employs seven people, but since it began selling the Ukrainian Candle Feb. 26, several local residents — including her parents and husband — have volunteered to help respond to requests for candles.
“I posted a video on Facebook Saturday, and since then we’ve sold 8,000 candles,” which sell for $29.95, she said. “We definitely weren’t prepared for that many. We are out of fragrance, so we are calling the companies to expedite it and do whatever we can, so that’s a little stressful, but we are doing our best.”
Trapani said she is not surprised by the response for candles. “People want to help. I’m surprised how many wanted to help in this way,” she said. “It’s incredible. I’m very grateful.”
Many of the people who visit the store have roots in Ukraine, said Trapani.
“We had a family from Green Bay come yesterday and they are from Ukraine. It was the little daughter’s birthday, so we got to dip the Ukrainian Candle together and we just got to talk and connect,” she said.
Trapani said she has never been to Ukraine. A planned family trip was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she said. “We were supposed to go, the whole family, but unfortunately it kept getting pushed and pushed and now I’m heartbroken that we didn’t get a chance to make it.”
She still holds out hope to visit. “I will. I hope it can be sooner than later.” Her relatives, including one aunt, live in the western part of Ukraine. “They are safe, but terrified,” she said.
Trapani asked that people keep praying for an end to the war in Ukraine. “Keep looking for ways to help,” she added. “Whether it’s through us or another way. I just think it’s important to raise awareness and help.”
– – –
Lucero is news and information manager of The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay.