Minnesotans rally around Ukrainian-American community

People waited patiently in their vehicles as long lines snaked around the Ukrainian American Community Center parking lot in Minneapolis. More than 650 people were expected to pick up fish fries, complete with pierogi, on Friday.

The tradition of Lent has taken on new meaning since Russia invaded Ukraine.

“We love the pierogis and the fish fries and I saw on Facebook that they do both on Fridays,” said Vanessa Hauge, who waited in line. “Everyone is upset about the situation that is happening there […] I think it’s a way for Minneapolis to support what’s going on there.

Members of the Ukrainian American Community Center, including Bohdan Kuczwarskyj, waved to drivers to line up. He told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that more than 500 people turned up each of the past Fridays. Every car brings the opportunity for a conversation.

“It goes from ‘I want to go out there and help fight’ to ‘what can I do?'” he said. “We are really happy with all the support from the Ukrainian Center and to be able to talk about what is happening in Ukraine and to support this effort as well.”

Kuczwarskyj has been a member of the community center since he was little. He said, “I came with my parents in 1958.”

He still has 22 cousins ​​in Ukraine. From donations to refugee services, he told us he does everything he can to help his family overseas.

“I call them every other day,” he said. “Refugee status is not set up, so I can’t get them here, so it’s difficult.”

Community center president Paul Jablonsky was unable to reach his distant cousins ​​in Ukraine.

“A lot of the Ukrainian-American immigrants who came here have been pretty quiet in the cities, living the American life, enjoying the freedoms that we have here, finally realizing how important that freedom is,” Jablonsky said. “Unfortunately, their parents are in Ukraine, their brothers and sisters, their cousins. At the Ukrainian Center we have a huge map and on that map are pins showing where many of our members still have family members.

He explained that the grief and hardship of the loss and destruction in Ukraine is deeply felt in the Twin Cities community. The images remind him of past wars that forced Ukrainians to flee. His father left the country during World War II when he was only 14 years old.

“This experience was traumatic for him and for many other people,” Jablonsky said. “Now we are faced with the same dilemma, which is the Ukrainian question, what is the world doing with Ukraine? This is a question that has persisted since the First World War and has never been answered and here we are two generations later and we are facing the same problems that our parents and grandparents faced generations ago.

He estimates that the Ukrainian American Community Center has raised between $80 and $90,000 to support humanitarian efforts. Jablonsky explained that their main areas of focus are refugee aid, medical supplies for civilians and injured soldiers, and personal protective equipment for paramedics and first responders in Ukraine.

“[We are] who passed [the funds] to other nonprofits that have usable people on the ground and get medical supplies to them very quickly,” he said. “These nonprofits are fully vetted, they are better equipped than us to do that.”

He said other companies, including Dangerous Man Brewing, have held events to support the Center’s humanitarian efforts. Non-profit organizations have also dropped off medical supplies to ship overseas. Several local schools, including Washburn High School, also fundraise.

“I think it’s fantastic to see how the American public has come to the aid of Ukraine in small and big ways,” Jablonsky said.

The Ukrainian American Community Center suggests contacting one of these organizations for assistance:

– Ukrainian American Community Center

– Stand with Ukraine

– Ukrainian Congress Committee

– Ukraine.ua

– Razom for Ukraine

– Peace Sunflower

– Ukrainian Red Cross Society

– New Ukraine

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