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Davis, California

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Varsity Theater hosts screening of ‘20 Days in Mariupol’

With the support of the Davis Rotary clubs and F Street Dispensary, the screening raised funds for Davis’ sister city, Uman


By MATTHEW MCELDOWNEY — city@theaggie.org


On May 11, former city of Davis Mayor Brett Lee organized a free-of-charge film screening of the Academy Award-winning documentary, “20 Days in Mariupol.” The documentary takes on the perspective of an Associated Press team of reporters as Russian invasionary forces besieged the city of Mariupol, turning it into a battleground. The documentary discusses the Russia-Ukraine war through its depictions of urban warfare. 

It is the onset of this war that prompted the city of Davis to attempt to rekindle their relationship with Uman for whom this screening was fundraising. They began coordinating fundraising efforts in March 2022 for charities like World Central Kitchen, but it was not until a Ukrainian refugee family had moved into Davis that the city was able to directly coordinate efforts with Uman, according to Lee.

In December 2022, the Davis Odd Fellows and Davis Sunset Rotary Club worked together to fund and send generators for Uman. To this end, Lee traveled to the city itself in March 2023 to ensure that these generators had arrived safely while getting the chance to meet and connect with the mayor and the people of Uman.

“Traveling on a bus with a bunch of people who don’t speak English, going somewhere where you’re not really sure about where you are going is an adventure,” Lee said. “But, the people are very kind, very appreciative and so I feel like I’ve been very fortunate to be able to visit.”

Uman, a city about the size of Davis, has a college called Pavlo Tychyna University. Lee spoke with his translator who was working at the university and said that in her department alone, there were two students that had lost parents in the war. This inspired Lee to create a scholarship fund of $20,000 for students who had been impacted by the war by the loss of a parent or displacement. 

This Davis-Uman sister city scholarship has provided financial aid for 28 students attending Pavlo Tychyna University. To continue funding for this scholarship, Lee reached out to the team behind “20 Days in Mariupol” to screen the documentary for free to the public. This screening received generous contributions from the Davis Rotary clubs, F Street Dispensary and from individual donations made by members of the Davis community. Davis Varsity Theater donated the venue for the screening itself.

Sinisa Novakovic, the owner of Davis Varsity Theater along with Mishka’s and Icekrimski cafe, knew Lee before and had previously organized a similar fundraising event at Varsity last year. Novakovic opened Mishka’s cafe 29 years ago and acquired Varsity 11 years after. Novakovic stressed the importance of values in his businesses by using ethically sourced and providing his support for causes such as the Russia-Ukraine war. 

”At least I am doing a little on my end that may not necessarily alleviate all that much but still fulfills me,” Novakovic said.

Lee along with the generous support of the Davis community has recently helped raise money for an animal refuge in Uman and he is hoping to raise enough to build a playground for the city in the future. Lee hopes that by calling on the Davis community the people of Uman can feel that they are not alone through this struggle.

“It’s not really just about me, it’s a bunch of good people and also the people who donated,” Lee said. “That’s what made this all possible.”

Written by: Matthew Mceldowney — city@theaggie.org


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