Ukrainians in the United States watch their homeland be attacked by Russian forces, killing civilians, bombing precious monuments and forcing hundreds of thousands of citizens to flee or go into hiding for security reasons.
They watch, drape the now familiar blue and yellow flags around them, and pray. This is especially true in Pennsylvania, where as many as 120,000 people of Ukrainian descent have settled into communities that worship together and honor the traditions of their homeland.
Ethnic loyalty is strong in Montgomery County, home to St. Michael The Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church in Jenkintown and the Ukrainian American Sports Center in Horsham. Manor College, also in Jenkintown, was founded in 1947 by the Sisters of Saint Basil the Great and is the only institution in the United States founded by a Ukrainian Catholic order.
Eugene Luciw, of Towamencin, near Lansdale, is chairman of the Philadelphia branch of the Ukrainian Congress of America Committee, headquartered inside the Ukrainian Educational and Cultural Center in Jenkintown. He is also the director of external relations with the sports center and a key figure in the Ukrainian Folk Festival which is held every August – except during the pandemic – to celebrate Ukraine’s dance, food and traditions.
In the days immediately following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last week, local communities came together in prayer and unified support. A Solidarity Liturgy was held Feb. 24 at St. Michael The Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church with over 150 people in attendance.
On Sunday, a “Stand for Ukraine” rally on Independence Mall in Philadelphia drew more than 700 people. Luciw said people from Belarusian, Lithuanian and Polish communities in the region joined, as well as a “huge outpouring of non-Ukrainians, people who didn’t necessarily have a vested interest in a particular homeland which was the Ukraine or around Ukraine, just ordinary Americans who were with us.
Another rally is scheduled for this coming Sunday, March 6, outside the White House in the nation’s capital, according to Luciw, who highlighted continued advocacy. He encouraged people to contact their representatives at the state and federal levels to provide support and assistance to Ukraine.
Luciw is also among those leading a humanitarian fundraising effort. “It is now estimated that about half a million Ukrainians now have refugee status or are displaced from their homes, and the crisis begins, and of course humanitarian aid for the injured, the displaced, all kinds humanitarian aid is needed,” he said. “We call on people to do so.”
Here’s how to help you:
The Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy launched the Humanitarian Aid Fund for Ukraine. For more information, visit ukrarcheparchy.us.
The Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals of the Ukrainian American Sports Center have partnered with the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee to create “Humanitarian Relief for Victims of War in Ukraine” on GoFundMe.
An alumnus of Ukraine’s Manor College who now lives in New York is spearheading humanitarian relief efforts. Olya Yarychkivski, 33, co-founded Razom in 2014. The nonprofit aims to “unleash Ukraine’s potential”, according to the organization’s website. Razom is engaged in emergency response to purchase medical supplies, to aid the injured, such as bandages, tourniquets, gauze, and satellite phones. For more information, visit razomforukraine.org.
“Needless to say, we are doing our best to get as much support for the cause in Ukraine, for the defense in Ukraine against Russian aggression, the war that Russia has brought to us,” Luciw said. And he is touched by what he has seen in just a few days.
Local Ukrainians are gathering to pray and show their support, but they are also leading efforts to provide more tangible help with money, food and medical supplies. The life of the Ukrainian people has changed in just a few days and the fear and the need are very real. Here, on the other side of the world, the Ukrainian community is leading others to help.