How the founder of the Saint Javelin charity brand worn by Zelenskyy plans to help rebuild Ukraine
- Charity brand Saint Javelin was launched by former journalist Christian Borys before the war.
- Borys wants nearly all the company's production to come from Ukrainians within the next few months.
It has been about five months since Christian Borys, a former journalist, started a charity effort by producing $10 stickers based on a meme amid mounting evidence of Russian troops mobilizing on the border of Ukraine.
Now, with 41,000 orders in 70 countries, $1 million in donations, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's seal of approval, Borys is planning a longer-term push to help rebuild a country that has seen its economy decimated as millions flee and cities are left under siege.
Borys provided financial documentation to Insider that verified his claims.
$39 t-shirts and a bomb-sniffing dog
According to KnowYourMeme, the "Saint Javelin" refers to an image of the Virgin Mary holding a Kalashnikov rifle (named Madonna Kalashnikov), which has been replaced with an anti-tank javelin missile, becoming synonymous with Ukrainian demands for Western intervention in the war.
Borys was a former Ukrainian correspondent and maintained contact with journalists still in the country, who highlighted the growing inevitability of war in December.
After mulling ways to help, Borys shared the image of Saint Javelin on his Instagram page, asking if anyone was interested in purchasing stickers, raising $1,000 after two days.
Soon, $39 t-shirts and $40 hats bearing the symbol circulated, as did those showing the "Ghost of Kyiv" and an image of Patron, the bomb-sniffing dog. Borys said he had been responding to trending topics to maintain brand awareness.
"People were looking for ways they could immediately support. And not just donate, but cause awareness, support, and we were there," Borys said.
In March Borys arranged a meeting with Ukraine's defence minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, who eventually gave a Saint Javelin t-shirt to President Zelenskyy.
—Christian Borys (@ItsBorys) April 28, 2022
"I still didn't believe it, because this guy obviously has so much that he's working on, and then he messaged me on Facebook a few hours later and said 'hey, the president has your shirt'," Borys said of his exchange with the defence minister. Reznikov wasn't available for comment.
"My goal over the next few months is for everything we produce, to literally produce all of it in Ukraine," Borys said. "That way we can support factories that have been affected by all of this."
'Go fu*k yourself Russian warship'
The first company Borys teamed up with in Ukraine was The Sewing Brothers, which is based in Kyiv. Before the war, it was a high-end fashion retailer designing luxury tracksuits worn by US comedians Bert Krieshchner and Tom Segura of the "2 Bears, 1 Cave."
Since Putin ordered troops into the country, stylist Ivan Drachenko and his team have been producing anti-war clothing including the "go fu*k yourself Russian warship" t-shirt while they wrestle with war outside their door.
"In October, we understood our business was going to change and instead of beautiful dresses and suits we would be sewing military ones," Drachenko and Tatiana Pankia of the Sewing Brothers told Insider in an emailed statement.
—Christian Borys (@ItsBorys) April 28, 2022
Borys said Saint Javelin had also ordered hats from a factory in conflict-hit Kharkiv, where he estimates half the staff are fighting between production shifts.
"I can just see that when we place an order people get really excited," Borys said. "Factories there are mostly able to work, they want to, and they need to."
Initially running on volunteers, Saint Javelin has 10 employees as demand grows.
Borys said: "I want to reframe it from a charitable project to a social enterprise that could potentially last decades and raise tens of millions of dollars, as opposed to half a million dollars."
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