Saint Javelin meme raises $1M for Ukraine
The image of the Orthodox Mother of God cradling a Javelin anti-tank missile appeared even before the full-scale invasion. But after February 24, it went viral. The image helped sell the merch for over a million dollars. The Kyiv Independent has covered the story of this meme, and AIN.Capital shares some details.
Saint Javelin’s author is a Toronto marketer Christian Borys who was a journalist in Ukraine from 2014 to 2019. Days before the war started, Borys created a $10 sticker out of the viral meme to help Ukrainian orphans in what he thought would be a modest contribution to Ukraine’s support relief.
He also created a website, SaintJavelin.com, to sell those stickers online. He had initially set up a $30,000 goal for his charity. But a month in, Borys raised over $1 million.
The initial fundraising goal was aimed at providing scholarships to children who lost their parents in the war in Donbas that Russia started in 2014. “One of the stories I worked on when I was in Ukraine was about families who had lost mostly fathers in the war,” Borys says.
Borys collaborated with a Canadian charity HelpUsHelp and it helped him to grow the project. He went from hundreds of $10 stickers to over 6,000 items sold in 60 countries.
The demand was so great that problems with the banks began. All his accounts were temporarily frozen due to a large flow of funds, as banks believed that Christian was laundering money. The amount of assistance also forced him to rethink the project’s purpose. “We changed it from all of this money going towards orphans to all of this money will go to victims of violence,” he says.
The Saint Javelin design was not an original creation of Borys. Ukrainian graphic designer Evgeniy Shalashov slightly adapted a painting by US artist Chris Shaw called “Madonna Kalashnikov.” It pictures the feminine religious icon holding a gold-leafed AK-47. The woman symbolizes the Arab Spring that shook the Middle East in the early 2010s.
“Of course, nobody asked me if my art could be used or sold. However, after seeing the image used successfully to raise money for Ukraine I felt better that at least some of the profits made would be used for good purposes,” Shaw says.