Help Iconographer Ugljesa Get Treatment

Campaign Created by: Elizabeth Hargrave

The funds from this campaign will be received by Holy Cross Orthodox Church.

Goal: USD $320,000
Raised: USD $ 198,513
Help iconographer Ugjlesa Mileta get urgent medical treatment

Ugljesa Mileta is a highly respected Orthodox Church iconographer from Belgrade, Serbia. He has decorated Orthodox churches and monasteries from Belgrade, to Vienna, to Greece and the Middle East, from Mt. Sinai to Mt. Athos and North America. He is currently the iconographer at Holy Cross Orthodox Church in Yakima, Washington in the United States. He has mentored many other iconographers who want to improve their skills... and at no cost! He was born with hemiparesis of the entire right side of his body, and he paints exclusively with his left hand. This disease caused him to almost lose his life this summer, but he was helped by the doctors at the Acute Center Denver Co and ERC in the same city. He was then diagnosed with SMA (Superior mesenteric artery) syndrome and an eating disorder. The treatment lasted 2 months and he returned to Yakima healthy. Unfortunately, funds ran out for continued therapy, his insurance is not covering everything, his condition got worse, and he needs to return to treatment in Denver. They are able to get him in as soon as next week (Week of 12/25). 

With your help, Ugljesa and Zvezdana will be able to cover the following medical bills and ultimately, continue their ministry:

Donations

$70,000 

Goal met!

$120,000

Goal met!

$200,000 - $320,000

Ugljesa gets back into critical medical treatment (urgent)

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 ✅

Pay for all past medical bills


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Set up a reserve fund for continued required treatment in 2025 and 2026



 


From our priest: After about six years into his recent project in Yakima, Ugljesa began experiencing episodes of anxiety that finally became so acute that he was rarely able to work. Unfortunately this affliction is not uncommon within the iconographic community. The evil one especially works evilly against such holy work and those who practice it. The Miletas amassed tremendous hospital bills and are seeking some form of relief.

The church can continue to cover living expenses and have enlisted the services of a patient advocate, but the funds required for medical needs are now well beyond the capacity of our church community. We are asking for help. Ugljesa’s iconography is truly a global ministry. May God bless this effort!

Note: Please follow this campaign as we will continue to update it with much loved icons painted by Ugljesa and their stories, along with check-ins on Ugljesa's health.

From Zvezdana, Ugljesa’s wife.

My name is Zvezdana Mileta, and I am 53 years old. I am writing this on behalf of my sick husband Ugljesa, who is also 53 years old. We were born in Serbia, and our blessed work took us all over the world. I want to share our life with you and explain this accident that befell us.

About Ugljesa

My husband has been an iconographer (a painter in the Orthodox Christian Church) for 33 years. He has worked as the main painter in a Serbian iconographic studio, but he has been working alone for the last 15 years. We have no children and live, if I may say so, a kind of an ascetic life. We have been married for 24 years and I have been following him all my life, traveling around the world and painting Orthodox churches. In addition, he provides free of charge training to many artists who want to do icon painting. I usually assist him with simple tasks. For these twenty years, my husband has decorated many temples and monasteries throughout Serbia, Austria, Germany, Greece, on the Holy Mount of Sinai where he painted the guest dining room in the monastery of St. Catherine and a hermitage dedicated to St. John the Russian. He had his own workshop at the monastery of St. Catherine where he painted icons for the needs of the monastery.

Mt. Sinai is close to our hearts, and we have returned to it trying to contribute to this holy place with our work. This is the place where we felt the great grace of God and met some of today's greatest spiritual elders. We were able to see how those holy elders lived, who in return showed us the Living God through their lives. Our spiritual father, Father Pamphilos, is the Archimandrite (the abbot) of the Monastery of St. Catherine in Sinai but is now on Mount Athos, where he fights the ascetic battle and prays for the entire world and for us sinners.

Ugljesa in America

We came to America for the first time in 2003 and painted the Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church in Butte, Montana with several of our colleagues. We really liked the life and people in America, and I always wanted to come back here. At the invitation of Father Joseph Copeland, we came to Yakima, Washington in 2012 and began painting Holy Cross Orthodox Church.

Everything was fine until about 6 to 7 years ago when Ugljesa's father died. His father was the only family member who, up until then, was alive. His mother died young from cancer, and his younger brother also died in 2007. These events, his inability to be present for his father’s funeral, hard work, and our regular life struggles combined with trying to figure out our life in America, created a lot of stress for him. He started to deteriorate and get sick. The biggest problem has been, and still is, the weight loss, vomiting, stomach pains and muscle contractions. He was born with hemiparesis of the entire right side of his body, and he paints exclusively with his left hand. This disease caused him to almost lose his life this summer, but he was helped by the doctors at the Acute Center Denver Co and ERC in the same city. He was diagnosed with SMA syndrome and an eating disorder. The treatment lasted 2 months and he returned to Yakima healthy. We were helped by the Church where we work, the priest and all the wonderful people in it.

About two months ago the disease returned, he has been losing weight rapidly, vomiting constantly and has not been able to keep anything in his stomach. His suffering is immense, he moans in pain day and night. He is on the brink of physical and mental strength. My heart bleeds and my soul aches. His suffering has affected me, too, as I have lost 40 pounds. But I have to be strong, for him, for us. We have been fighting against this destruction with prayer. Many people and many monasteries are praying for him all over the world.

Why now?

However, our church is no longer able to help us financially with fighting this disease, and we have never had any money because we have been doing our work all our lives for modest pay and often for free.

We need help! We have never asked anyone for anything in our lives, and this is very difficult for us. We don't have our own house, nor do we have any material possessions. We live in a house provided by our Church here in Yakima, and they sponsored us in obtaining our Green Cards. My husband is a very modest man, and he is extremely ashamed that we are asking for financial help. We have never earned money from any work other than from painting the Face of the Lord, the Holy Mother of God, the Angels of God and all His Saints. May they always help us and all of you, dear unknown people!

In anticipation of Christ’s Nativity, we greet you all - Christ Is Born!

Zvezdana and Ugljesa Mileta

UPDATES

$100,000 donation received by mail last week, bringing us to an updated total of $198,230 raised.
January 28, 2024
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Dear donors, A little over a month after beginning this fundraiser: 

  • Over 530 people from around the world donated to this fund (and helped us through countless prayers!)
  • To date, we have raised $88,030 dollars through this website.
  • We received $10,200 by check last month.
  • And last week, Holy Cross Orthodox Church received a check for $100,000 from a single donor, thanks to God and His providence! 

Between online and offline donations, we have hit our second fundraising target and raised $198,230 to 1) help Ugljesa get treatment in 2024 and 2) wipe out past medical debts. We have adjusted the online total to reflect the donations that were received offline.

As the church is funding living expenses, all future donations will go into a reserve to help cover future medical expenses (or unexpected ones this year), which will inevitably add up as well.

Glory to God for all things! And thank you, dear friends from near and far. Your support has meant so much, especially to Ugljesa’s wife, Zvezdana. We are touched and amazed by the outpouring of support.

[EDITED- Returned fundraiser goal to the original amount. The organizer finally figured out how to enter offline donations that would be reflected in the total giving number received! ]

Update on Uglesa
January 20, 2024
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Dear donors, We thank you again for your generosity and your prayers. We wanted to give an update to you as we head into the second half of January. Ugljesa was admitted to a program that ended up not being at the level of care that he required and he is now awaiting the assessment of a few alternative programs. May God give wisdom! Please keep him and his patient advocate in your prayers. Things are looking more hopeful, but there is still quite a bit to work through to get him the care he needs. 

St. Sava the Santified
January 6, 2024
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HYMN OF PRAISE

by Saint Nikolai Velimirovič

Saint Sava the Sanctified
Spiritual commander of Christ’s heroes,
Was glorified by fasting, vigils and meekness,
By prayer and faith and blessed mercy.
You taught the monks to not be concerned with bread;
You entrusted yourself to heaven, with labor and prayer.
You sought neither precedence nor rank of any kind.
Most rarely did you taste of oil and wine.
You kept all the services at the appointed time.
“Let the service be a joy and not a heavy burden,”
St. Sava told the monks,
And he showed this to all by his example.
Like a wise gardener, he enclosed the garden,
And carefully planted many young men.
The young men grew and brought forth fruit:
A regiment of monks, to the glory of Sava.
Fifteen hundred years have passed,
Yet Sava’s spiritual garden still blooms:
One thousand monks, a hundred thousand,
Have been raised up by Sava’s community up to now.
St. Sava, glorious recluse,
O God-pleaser, pray for us also.


The Prologue from Ohrid: Lives of Saints by Saint Nikolai Velimirovič for Old Calendar date December 5 , and New Calendar date December 18.


Icon of St Sava written by Ugljesa, Holy Cross Orthodox Church, Yakima. 

“We do not think about how to change the world with our own powers. We strive to receive strength from God in order to act at all times with love.” -St. Sophrony of Essex
January 2, 2024
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Icon written by Uglesa. Holy Cross Orthodox Church. Yakima, Washington, United States. 

"Stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel." (Phil.1:27)
December 31, 2023
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Elder Porphyrios taught that the basic element of the Spiritual life in Christ, the great mystery of our faith, is unity in Christ. It is that sense of identifying with our brother, of carrying the burdens of one another, of living for others as we live for ourselves, of saying "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy upon ME" and for that "ME" to contain and to become for ourselves the pain and the problems of the other, of suffering like they suffer, of rejoicing like they rejoice, their fall becoming our fall and their getting up again becoming our getting up again.

From: Elder Porphyrios: Testimonies and Experiences, by Klitos Ioannidis. Source: https://orthochristian.com/66300.html

Icon of St. Porphyrios of Athens written by Ugljesa. Holy Cross Orthodox Church, Yakima, Washington, United States. 


Update on Ugljesa- "A Nativity Miracle!"
December 31, 2023
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Dear donors, It's been several days since one of our parishioners was able to fly with Ugljesa to Denver to admit him into treatment. The trip was difficult and Ugljesa had to spend a couple of days in the hospital when he arrived, but he's safely back into the treatment facility and working on healing. Our prayers are with him and already we've been able to release (there's a multi-day processing period with GiveSendGo) over $57,000 to help pay for his entry into the program. This only covers half the cost of the total treatment, but it got him in the door! That was the biggest challenge and what you helped make possible.  

Glory to God! And thank you for opening your hearts to us. As someone appropriately said to us, "it's a Nativity miracle!" Over 440 people came out of the woodwork to help Ugljesa get back into treatment and did so in a little over a week. 

It's been a big effort to get this up and running (you might have noticed a little break in updates and communications while we recuperated after the first big campaign push!) but through your prayers and donations the word has spread to literally the ends of the earth. We are touched by your generosity and messages. 

In the coming weeks and months we'll be reaching out to parishes and people we are not connected to and attempt to continue our cause. There is a long way to go and this part will be harder as it is outside our network. Please continue to pray for us- prayers are most important!  

Sketch by Ugljesa, 2023.

Ugljesa has been admitted in Denver. Glory to God! Thank you for your generous donations!
December 28, 2023
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Christ is Born! Glorify Him! In just a little over a week after starting this fundraiser, your donations have made it possible for Ugljesa to enter treatment.

Ugljesa was admitted this morning at the Denver ERC facility. Thank you all for your prayers and continued financial help. We can't thank you enough!

Photo credit: Barbara Clark, Yakima. 

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
December 25, 2023
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Nativity icon written by Ugljesa. Holy Cross Orthodox Church. Yakima, Washington State, United States.

To those of you celebrating today, Christ is Born! 

To all of those on the Old Calendar, good strength for the remainder of your Nativity fast!

Photo credit: Barbara Clark, Yakima. 


"It is truly right to call thee blest, O Theotokos."
December 24, 2023
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Icon of the Theotokos watching over the Yakima Valley, written by Ugljesa. Holy Cross Orthodox Church, Yakima, Washington State. United States. 

In the bottom of the icon you will see a landscape that reflects the Yakima Valley’s landscape in a high desert with a river running through the valley. The city of Yakima is surrounded by apple and cherry orchards, hop fields, and vineyards. Snow melts in the mountains and that water is captured and used to irrigate land that is otherwise dry and barren.

Holy Cross Orthodox Church is an Antiochian parish and the only parish serving a city of nearly 200,000. The church building was finished in the early 2000s. Over the past twenty years, we have added an iconostasis, frescos, and stasidia.

Ugljesa’s iconography that adorns the temple has brought great comfort for those attending and those simply passing through.

Over 320 donors and $60,000 raised in 4 days. We met our first milestone!
December 24, 2023
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Thank you again, dear friends! With your help, we raised an additional $22,000 today alone. This brings us to our first milestone of giving, which is getting Ugljesa into the treatment facility in Denver. We hope to get him there as early as next week.

As always, please continue to pray for us and the distribution of this fundraiser. The road and the expenses continue, so please help us as we reach our next goal. We are hoping to wipe out Ugljesa's medical debt so he can continue treatment and stay ahead of the debt.

We cannot thank you enough for your generosity. May God bless you this Nativity season! 

Icon of the Hospitality of Abraham written by Ugljesa. Mt. Sinai, Egypt. 

Thank you, dear donors! Over 230 donors and $38,000 raised in 3 days.
December 23, 2023
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Our hearts are full! Thank you so much for your generous donations that will go towards this first milestone of $60,000 of getting Ugljesa back in treatment. Thank you also for the many shares all over the globe. Glory to God in all things. 

Pictured: The dome in Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, Butte, Montana, United States. 


"Nothing is fearful for the person whose hope is in God." - St. John Maximovitch
December 22, 2023
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Icon of St. John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco written by Ugljesa. Holy Cross Orthodox Church, Yakima, Washington. 

Photo credit: Barbara Clark, Yakima, Washington. 

"Your endeavors should begin with God and end with God, and do not fear the temptations that come. For, by the grace of Christ, they dissipate like smoke." - Elder Joseph the Hesychast
December 22, 2023
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Icon of Elder Ephraim and St. Joseph the Hesychast, written by Ugljesa. Shortly after Elder Ephraim's repose on December 7th, 2019, a photo of this fresco went viral online. Part of a Saints of North America fresco at Holy Cross Orthodox Church in Yakima, Washington, in the United States. 



Fr. Seraphim Rose, St. Sebastian, St. Mardarije.
December 22, 2023
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Fr. Seraphim Rose, St. Sebastian, St. Mardarije. Part of a Saints of North America fresco written by Ugljesa. Holy Cross Orthodox Church, Yakima, Washington. 

Space in treatment facility is open as early as next week!
December 21, 2023
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Glory to God! We just learned that the treatment facility in Denver is able to receive Ugljesa as early as next week (week of 12/25). This is specialized medical care that requires upfront payment to be admitted for a 2 month treatment program. We hope to send him there next week, but in order to do so, we will need to raise $60,000. 

Thank you so much for the support and generosity you have shown. We have donors from all over world helping us and we are so very grateful! 

Photo credit: Barbara Clark 

Thank you! Day One complete, and nearly $10,000 raised in 24 hours
December 21, 2023
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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I humbly extend my deepest gratitude for your selfless contributions to my GiveSendGo campaign. Your generosity in helping me manage my medical expenses is a true testament to the spirit of Christian love and compassion.

I am blessed by your kindness and uplifted by your prayers. May the Lord bless you abundantly for your graciousness. Thank you for being a beacon of hope and love in my journey.

My hope for the future is to help other iconographers as you have helped me.

In Christ's Love,

Ugljesa

St. John the Russian Chapel- Mount Sinai, Egypt
December 19, 2023
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Ugljesa lived for a while on Holy Mount Sinai where he painted the guest dining room in the monastery of St. Catherine and a hermitage dedicated to St. John the Russian.He had his own workshop at the monastery of St. Catherine where he painted icons for the needs of the monastery.

Church of the Resurrection of Christ in Vienna, Austria
December 19, 2023
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Exterior iconography by Ugljesa. Vienna, Austria, Church of the Resurrection of Christ

Raising of Lazarus
December 19, 2023
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Icon by Ugljesa. Holy Cross Orthodox Church, Yakima, Washington. United States. 

"Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
December 19, 2023
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Icon by Ugljesa. Holy Cross Orthodox Church, Yakima, Washington. United States. 



The Monastery of St Catherine in Sinai and its importance
December 19, 2023
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From Zvezdana, Ugljesa's wife: We want to share with you about the Monastery of St. Catherine in Sinai, one of the oldest in the world, a monastery (6th century) where the Holy Liturgy has been served CONTINUOUSLY for 15 centuries!

We stayed there for years, Ugljesa studied and worked on icon painting in this monastery, which has a treasury of the oldest and most valuable icons in the world. We have the blessing of Saint Catherine throughout our lives. She is our protector on every occasion, including this one. Now the brotherhood of the monastery is praying for Ugljesa's health at 40 daily liturgies. They are informed about everything that happens with us.

May the Grace of Saint Catherine be upon all of you, dear people!

Pictured: This icon of St. Catherine was painted by Uglješa in 2010 at the request of Archbishop Siani Damianos. He took this icon as a gift to the Metropolitan in Russia to the city of Yekaterinburg. The reason for leaving was to bring the Saint's relics to this part of the world that bears her name. The archbishop later told how the whole airport stopped when the relics passed through the people...

Getting to know Ugljesa and his work
December 19, 2023
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Over the coming weeks, we will be sharing stories and icons painted by Ugljesa so you can get to know him and his work. May God bless it! 

Moje ime je Zvezdana Mileta, pisem u ime moga bolesnog muza Ugljese.
December 19, 2023
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Moje ime je Zvezdana Mileta(53), pisem u ime moga bolesnog muza Ugljese(53). Rodjeni smo u Sbiji, a nas blagosloven posao, vodio nas je sirom zemljine kugle.

Zelim da podelim sa vama nas zivot i objasnim ovu nesrecu koja nas je snasla.

Moj muz je ikonografer ( slikar u hriscanskoj pravoslavnoj crkvi) vec 33 godine.Radio je kao glavni slikar u jednom ikonografskom srpskom ateljeu, a vec 15 godina radi sam. Nemamo dece i zivimo, ako smem reci, jednom vrstom asketskog zivota. U braku smo 24 godine i ceo svoj zivot ja pratim njega, putujuci po svetu i oslikavajuci pravoslavne crkve. Inace besplatno poducava mnoge slikare koji zele da se bave ikonopisom.Ja sam njegov pomocnik za jednostavne poslove. Za ovih dvadesetak godina, moj muz je ukrasio mnogo hramova i manastira u Srbiji, Austriji, Nemackoj, Grckoj, Na Svetoj Gori Sinajskoj (gde je radio gostinjsku trpezariju u manastiru Sv Katariana i skit posvecen Svetom Jovanu Rusu).Tamo ima isvoju radionicu gde je slikao ikone za potrebe manastira. Sinaj nam je prirastao srcu i uvek smo mu se vracali pokusavajuci da nasim radom doprinesemo ovoj velikoj svetinji. Tamo smo osetili veliku blagodat Boziju i upoznali neke od danas najvecih duhovnika. Videli smo kako zive ti sveti starci, koji su nam svojim zivotom pokazali Boga Zivoga. Nas duhovnik Otac Pamfilos je arhimadrid Manastira Svete Katarina na Sinaju, on je sada na Svetoj Gori Atonskoj gde se podvizava i moli za ceo sveti i za nas gresne.

U Ameriku smo prvi put dosli 2003. i sa nekoliko kolega oslikali Srpski hram Svete Trojice u Butte MT. Zivot i ljudi u Americi su nam se veoma dopali i ja sam uvek htela da se vratim ovde. Na poziv Oca Joseph Copeladn, dosli smo u Yakima WA 2012. i poceli oslikavanje Crkve Casnog Krsta.

Sve je bilo dobro do pre 6-7 godina kada je Ugljesi preminuo otac. Inace, otac mu je jedini clan porodice koji je dotle bio ziv. Majka mu je umrla mlada od raka, preminuo mu je i mladji brat 2007. Sve to i tezak rad, ne tako lak zivot i snalazenje u Americi, doveli su ocigledno do stresa. Poceo je da propada i da se razboljeva. Najveci problem je bio i jeste, gubljenje kilaze, povracanje, bolovi u stomaku i kontrakcija misica.
Inace on je rodjen sa hemiparezom cele desne strane tela. Slika iskljucivo levom rukom. Bolest je dovela do toga da ovoga leta skoro izgubi zivot, pomogli su mu doktori u Acute Centar Denver Co i ERC u istom gradu. Imao je SMA sindrom i poremecaj u ishrani. Lecenje je trajalo 2 meseseca i vratio se zdrav. Pomogla nam je crkva u kojoj radimo , svestenik i svi divni ljudi u njoj.

Pre 2 meseca bolest se vratila, on rapidno gubi kilazu, povraca konstantno i ne moze nista da zadrzi u stomaku.Njegova patnja je ogromna, jauci i bol noc i dan.Na ivici je fizicke i psihicke snage. Moje srce krvari i dusa me boli. Pocinjem i ja da se razboljevam, izgubila sam 40 funti. Ali moram biti jaka, zbog njega, zbog nas. Molitvom se borimo protiv propasti. Mnogo ljudi i monastva se moli za njega sirim sveta.
 Crkva vise nema novca, a mi ga nikada i nismo imali jer svoj posao radimo celog zivota za skroman novac, a cesto i besplatno.

Potrebna nam je pomoc! Nikada uzivotu nismo ni od koga nista trazili. Kucu svoju nemamo, niti ista od materijalnih dobara. Zivimo u crkvenoj kuci ovde u Americi i imamo zelenu kartu. Moga muza je sramota sto trazimo novac, on je veoma skroman covek. Nikada nismo zaradili novac od drugog posla osim od slikanja Lica Gospodnjeg, Presvete Bogorodice, Andjela Bozijih i Svih Svetih Njegovih.

Neka su oni u pomoci stalno u zivotu kako nama, tako i svima vama, dragi neznani ljudi!

U susret Prazniku - Hristos Se Rodi!

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