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GRGICH HILLS ESTATE WINERYThese panel discussions took place at the forum on Dec 2, 2022, as part of the inaugural celebration of the “Festival of the Bells” to raise global awareness regarding the 60 million landmines that remain in the soil of 60 countries worldwide.

Topics such as the perils of landmines were discussed by Azerbaijan Ambassador to the U.S. Khazar Ibrahim, the Consul General of Ukraine Dmytro Kushnerek, Ramil Azizov- ANAMA – National Demining Organization from Azerbaijan, and Chehab Elawar, Board Member, Rotary Peace Action Group and members of the San Francisco Consular Corps, including Japan, Israel, Hungary, Peru, Cypress, the Philippines, Ireland, and the EU Special Envoy for Digital in the U.S.

I’ve walked the world’s minefields, including those of Afghanistan, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe.ROTARY E-CLUB Of UKRAINE

Violet Grgich spoke after the announcement: “In May 2000, my father, Miljenko ‘Mike’ Grgich, walked the minefields of his beloved homeland in Croatia with Heidi Kuhn and her daughter Kyleigh, age 13, to see the devastation of an estimated 1.2 million landmines. As part of the treaty anniversary, the former United States Ambassador to Cambodia and The World Food Prize, President Emeritus Kenneth Quinn, led a series of panels with experts and diplomats about global challenges with landmines, the demining processes, and agricultural development opportunities in war-torn countries.

“This demining project is essential for Ukraine because landmines are one of the big problems we face in the middle of the war,” stated Dmytro Kushnerek. Through generous funding by Napa Valley vintners, they raised funds to remove landmines in the fields of Bethlehem – four miles from the birthplace of Jesus Christ, where eight children had been killed by landmines that had lurked in the area’s soil since 1948. Children worldwide – in Ukraine and Afghanistan and many war-torn territories – are blowing up as we speak.”

Sera Koulabdara–Executive Director, Legacies of War—USCBL (Laos), Adriana Aristizabal, former war-correspondent from Colombia and iVoice Communications founder and CEO, Elizabeth Whitlow—Executive Director, Regenerative Organic Alliance (Sonoma) and Ivo Jeramaz—VP Wine Making & Viticulture, Grgich Hills Estate, were invited to the forum as experts to discuss the challenges of Cultivating Peace Through Agriculture and Education. And I hope that during this season, whatever your religious background might be, people from around the world can join together in a cause that can unite us across significant differences, alleviating human suffering and preventing harm and death to innocent people, particularly children,” stated Ambassador Quinn.

“As Ukrainians and Rotarians, making Ukraine safe again and rebuilding destroyed and (military) polluted areas our main focuses now,” said Tatiana Godak, President of Rotary E-Club of Ukraine.

Napa Valley was the centre of the historic launch of the first demining program that seeks to eradicate landmines and UXO in the Mykloaiv region of Ukraine. This area is experiencing a significant increase in lethal landmines and explosives due to the Russian invasion.

The announcement was made by Roots of Peace Founder and CEO Heidi Kuhn and Grgich Hills Estate President and Co-Proprietor Violet Grgrich during the first “Festival of Bells” at Grgich Hills Estate on December 2nd. Roots of Peace has successfully facilitated the removal of over 100,000 landmines/UXO and planted over seven (7) million fruit, vines, and trees, providing food security in war-torn lands.

In the past 25 years, the impact of Roots of Peace turning Mines into Vines has already been felt in Afghanistan, Vietnam, Croatia, the Holy Land, and Ukraine.

Daniel Yuval, an Israeli landmine victim who lost his leg in Israel’s Golan Heights as an 11-year-old boy in 2011, shared his personal story at the event broadcast online worldwide. “The Roots of Peace Mines to Vines initiative will substantially contribute to both.” Huge land parcels have seen substantial growth of explosive devices planted by Russian occupation in fields, villages, and towns,” he added.

Millions of farmers and families have benefited from the dream of turning Mines into Vines and cultivating sustainable peace through agriculture in Afghanistan, Croatia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Guatemala, Azerbaijan, and the Holy Land.

Dmytro Kushnerek, the San Francisco Consul General of Ukraine, participated in the announcement and welcomed the initiative born in the heart of Napa and supported by the Rotary E-Club of Ukraine. These explosives affect our communities – especially children and civilians not involved in the fighting. The event celebrated the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Ottawa treaty on the prohibition of the use of landmines.

Shortly after his tragic accident, he called Heidi Kuhn to his bedside to create a landmine-free world. I stepped on a landmine while happily running in the snow with my family,” Yuval said. Twelve years later, I’m now a man, returning to the United States to continue advocating with Heidi and Roots of Peace for a landmine-free world. Today, we expand our vision for peace to the fields of Ukraine.

“I lost a leg as a child. “Shortly after the accident, I began working with Heidi Kuhn. Violet Grgich and Heidi Kuhn are mothers and leapt this meaningful partnership on behalf of children and farmers in Ukraine. Today, Croatia is one of the top tourist destinations in the world due in part to their Mines to Vines initiative. We must put a stop to this,” declared Heidi Kuhn.

Now we are scaling up to the minefields of Ukraine– which was once the breadbasket of Europe. Together, they set out to transform minefields into bountiful vineyards. Since February 24, 2022, over 30% of Ukraine’s agricultural lands have been mined. Together, they worked with The Knesset to create the first-ever humanitarian mine action law.

This holiday season of peace, Roots of Peace calls forth generous donations from global citizens so that we may wage peace in Ukraine. Donate at Roots of Peace: www.rootsofpeace.org.


Written by: William Trevan