SOUTH BOUND BROOK — Members of local Ukrainian communities are coming to the aid of Ukraine in its time of need.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA is collecting monetary donations for medical supplies in the embattled region.
Bishop Daniel Zelinsky recently returned from a six-day visit to Ukraine, where he presented $10,000 in donations collected by the church to portable hospitals located in various churches in the Kiev, the capital city. He also paid his respects to the families of two students, Ihor Kostenko and Vasyl Mojsei, who were killed in the February protest in Kiev, as well as visited a survivor, who was recovering in the hospital.
When he first arrived, Bishop Zelinsky said there was a feeling of great enthusiasm and hope. But that soon changed.
"As I was leaving Ukraine, the Russian federation attacked the Crimea region of Ukraine and that is where a majority of people are afraid for the lives of their loved ones and for the sovereign integrity of the Ukrainian nation," he said. "It's a clear aggression by the Russian federation. What's concerning is that things like this are still possible in the 21st century. My hope is that the people in Ukraine can experience the dignity and sanctity of human life, so they are not persecuted or told by other governments in that region that they are people of lower quality and they can be ruled over.
"For centuries Ukraine has been struggling for its own independence and this is the chance. The Ukrainian worldwide community has to tell the world we are a nation of one and we will stand up for our rights. We hope that the world will support us."
Zelinsky also paid a visit to grief-stricken families.
"Ihor's mother had a very difficult time comprehending that her 22-year-old son was killed in the streets of Kiev," he said. "She was so emotional. I had tears in my eyes. There is nothing you can say that will console the grief of a mother. You can reason. You can explain, but a mother's love has no limits."
Kostenko's grandmother also was devastated by the news of her grandson's death.
"This older woman was standing there telling me, 'Here I am crying for my angel today because he took care of me and now I am praying for him,' " Zelinsky said
Kostenko was studying to become a history teacher and at the same time wanted to be a journalist, Zelinsky said.
"For two weeks, he took care of his extremely-ill grandmother because his parents went to Russia to find jobs," he said. "When she felt better, he returned to Kiev. His parents were in Russia when they heard he was killed. They returned home immediately. When his body arrived into the town of Buchach at about 4 a.m., about 5,000 people came out in the streets to welcome his body to that little town."
Zelinsky also visited Volodymyr Vikarchuk, who was injured in the protest.
"About two years ago, the church supplied hospital beds for the sick of that region and I was there during the delivery," he said. "Here I was, again back in the same hospital, this time to visit a patient. This young man said to me, 'I am not a hero. I did what others were doing for our nation. ... I was wounded by a sniper. ... A bullet went through my leg and others carried me away in order to receive medical help. However, others lost their lives.' ... He broke down crying. He told me he stayed in touch with his friends in Kiev and he hopes to return there when he feels better."
Zelinsky said he also talked to the man's parents.
"I'm from their hometown, Buchach, and his mother remembers me when I was much younger," he said. "There was sort of a little reunion going on there, too."
In a statement, the Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA is calling on all clergy and parish communities of all faiths to contact President Barack Obama, members of Congress and the Senate, as well as state governors and legislators to urge them to stand firm in support of Ukraine and its people.
"No one envisions a military force entering Ukraine from the West," according to a statement by the council. "This would only inflict more unnecessary damage upon the people of Ukraine. ... Military force will not accomplish the necessary end. The words of modern diplomacy must be backed up with effective economic, political and social actions and sanctions, which will convince the invaders that its efforts are futile and counterproductive for its own welfare and the welfare of the people subject to it."
"We also are asking them to pray for the people of Ukraine," Zelinsky said.
The bishop said donations to the fund, which are being hand-delivered, are continuing to come in and he hopes to return to Ukraine with additional donations within the next week or so.
As of Monday, the church has collected about $40,000.
Donations may be made online at uocofusa.org or may be sent by special postal delivery to the consistory at P.O. Box, 495, South Bound Brook, N.J. 08880. They may also be hand delivered to the consistory office at 135 Davidson Ave., Somerset, N.J. 08873, marked "Ukrainian Assistance."
Other local efforts
The parish of St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church, 1700 Brooks Blvd., Hillsborough, also is doing its part to help those in Ukraine.
The parish is hosting an event to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Ukrainian poet, writer, artist Taras Shevchenko at 2 p.m. Sunday in the parish hall, parishioner Eugene Brenycz said. The event also will pay tribute to the Heroes of Ukraine - Heaven's Hundred. Tickets are $10. The event includes a concert and lunch. All donations will go toward Ukrainian relief efforts.
A requiem service will be at 8 p.m. March 13 at the church to commemorate the sacrifice of those who died in Kiev in February. Following the service, parish members will read the names of Heaven's Hundred, the individuals killed by actions of the government. Attendees are asked to bring a candle.
Three families, with children, who lost fathers have been selected and will be receiving Easter packages from the church, Brenycz said.
"In our church community, we have a lot of people who have ties to Ukraine," said Brenycz, who attended a rally in support of Ukraine on Sunday in Philadelphia. "Their family and friends live there and they visit them. It's also important to show our solidarity for them. I'm hoping we can reach a diplomatic solution, without any more bloodshed."
"Every day I lead service, I ask the people to pray for the people in Ukraine," said Father Vasyl Pasakas of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in South Plainfield. "I'm hoping it's going to end the way the people want it and the government would take the side of the people and get to an agreement. It's very painful and sad to see people dying and not being able to resolve things in a better way."
By Susan Loyer | @SusanLoyer MyCJ mycentraljersey.com
March 3, 2014
Staff Writer Susan Loyer: 732-565-7243; firstname.lastname@example.org