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As the Russia-Ukraine war drags on, one small business owner from New Jersey with deep roots in Ukraine is doing her part to help Ukrainian refugees any way she can.
Lana Riggins, a Ukraine-born knitwear designer, is selling blue and yellow varsity sweater jackets to benefit a local charity that’s supporting Ukraine.
Riggins is from Cranford, New Jersey, and spoke with Fox News Digital about her clothing company, Stylelana, which she launched amid the COVID-19 shutdowns.
“Kyiv and Kharkiv are very dear to my heart. I have friends in both towns,” Riggins said in a phone interview.
Riggins moved to the U.S. from Ukraine in 1994 to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, she said. She initially sold sweaters named after two streets in her town of Cranford through her self-funded small business.
Lana Riggins, a Ukraine-born knitwear designer, is selling blue-and-yellow varsity sweater jackets to benefit a local charity that’s supporting Ukraine.
(Nadya Geniush )
But when the war started on Feb. 24, she decided to rename the sweaters after Kyiv and Kharkiv — two of Ukraine’s most populous cities.
Amid the shelling and bombing, some of her friends back in Ukraine have found refuge in neighboring towns, while others are closer to Kyiv, which has been under attack by Russian forces.
“It’s very scary,” Riggins said.
Her mother and brother are currently safe in their hometown of Cherkasy, and she speaks to them twice a day — each morning and evening — to make sure they’re OK.
“Everybody is alive, but nobody’s in ruin,” Riggins said. “So, that’s the best we can do right now, unfortunately.”
Lana Riggins started her clothing business Stylelana.com during the COVID-19 shutdowns while she was out of work. The company is now selling two sweater jackets named after Ukrainian cities.
Although her family remains safe nearly 100 miles from Kyiv, Riggins felt a strong desire to do more for Ukrainians who are being affected by the war.
She reduced the prices of her company’s varsity sweater jackets, along with renaming the items, and decided that all the money she makes from sales is going to Be the Change NJ, a local nonprofit dedicated to community service and activism.
“Kyiv and Kharkiv are very dear to my heart. I have friends in both towns.”
“I have a job, I have a house to live in. I’m not interested in recovering whatever expenses I put in my business,” Riggins said. “It’s fine. I just want to help as much as I can.”
Riggins chose the local organization because it’s sending humanitarian aid and medical supplies to people in need.
Lana Riggins told Fox News Digital all the money she makes from Stylelana sweater jacket sales is going to Be the Change NJ, a local nonprofit dedicated to community service and activism that’s supporting Ukraine.
(Nadya Geniush )
Fox News Digital reached out to Be the Change NJ for comment.
The Kyiv and Kharkiv sweater jackets were originally designed in Cranford’s town colors — royal blue and gold — which look similar to the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
Riggins said family members, friends and other Ukrainian-Americans have seen her advertisements for the two jackets on Ukrainian websites.
“Everybody’s very appreciative,” she said.
Ukraine’s national flag is blue and yellow, which symbolizes a blue sky over a yellow field of wheat.
(GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images)
Riggins said that since leaving Ukraine, she’s worked in the apparel industry as a sweater and knits designer for 25 years.
She said the opening of Stylelana helped her “express” herself and “give back” to her community in a meaningful way.
Speaking about the war, Riggins said she’s “very impressed” by the “solidarity” she’s seeing.
“I’m very, very proud to be Ukrainian right now. I talk to everybody and everybody’s looking forward to victory,” Riggins said.
“Even though we’re still afraid, we’re still not afraid to fight.”
Riggins said she hopes that peace can be reached soon because so many families — including her own — have Ukrainian and Russian roots.
“My mother is Russian, my father is Ukrainian, but it was never a problem. And most of us went to school speaking Russian, but for 30 years, Ukraine went in a different direction,” Riggins said.
“That’s what this fight is for. It’s for freedom of choice.”
“So, no matter what you speak, your mentality is more like European and oriented to freedom. And that’s what you see,” she said.
She continued, “That’s what this fight is for. It’s for freedom of choice. Don’t tell us what you want us to do. I mean, it’s amazing that people aren’t worried about the material stuff.”
She said, “They just want freedom. It’s very impressive.”
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