HOST INTRO: Despite being on the other side of the world, Ukrainians working in New York City are concerned about the violence in Maidan Square, the main protest camp back home in Kiev. Lara McCaffrey reports on how they finding different ways to send help and raise awareness.
Parts of the East Village in New York City are traditionally Ukrainian. There are plenty of Ukrainian restaurants, bars, churches to service any Ukrainian New Yorker. Bernard Panczuk is the pastor of St. George Catholic Church on East 7th Street. He was born in Chicago and had Western Ukrainian parents. Panczuk says St. George prays for those back in Ukraine.
PANCZUK: We remember them at every divine liturgy or mass everyday praying for better conditions there with the hopes that they’ll be able to choose a leader that will be able to unite the country and choose a leader without any oppression from the former Soviet Union. (00:21:62)
Photos of those who lost their lives in the conflicts have been hung up. Candles are lit in remembrance of the deceased. Some Ukrainians in the East Village have responded creatively to the violence in Kiev. Ukrainian-American Virlana Tkacz, is a theater director at La Mama on East 4th Street. She has been working on an original play called “Captain John Smith Goes to Ukraine”. The play is based on the explorer’s autobiography but also tells today’s story.
TKACZ: When Smith does come through Ukraine, a lot of these places are devastated by the wars and he writes about that. And the contemporary story of the square and the Maidan and what’s happening in it became part of that section of the piece. For the last month it has been totally changing in reaction to what was happening there, because, it had to. (0:14)
The play opens tonight. Iryna Vitkovfka is a bartender at the Sly Fox Bar on 2nd Avenue. Sly Fox is a traditional Ukrainian bar. Vitkovfka was born in Western Ukraine, raised by a traditionally pro- Ukrainian family. As the conflicts she has been feeling guilty.
VITKOVFKA: I decided just to create a fundraiser, for one night. (0:12) She held the event at Sly Fox and raised $2500 for medical supplies for Maidan.
Vitlatali Desiaynchenko works at Veselka, 24 hour Ukrainian restaurant. He got back a week ago from his native Kiev. After seeing a lot of young people in Maidan, he joined in.
DESIATNYCHENKO: Me and my Dad we went to Maidan, we stood over there we donated some money, a couple of nights we were helping people to throw those little pieces of road at the police. (0:24)
Friends and coworkers have been handing him money to donate to Maidan. He’s been surprised by the generosity.
DESIATNYCHENKO: When people live in Ukraine, they don’t really care about that. Butover here, in NYC, or other places when people live abroad they start to care about each other and they start to care about their motherland. (0:13)
Larissa Kyj is President of the Board of United Ukrainian American Relief Committee in Philadelphia. It’s the only Ukrainian charitable organization in the US. Kyj has been told there are 3 basic humanitarian needs right now in Kiev, and they are all medical.
KYJ: One of them is to train a team of psychiatrists to train the doctors there to deal with the young people who have experience this for 3 months, especially the ones that saw their friends die. (0:14)
The others are to get rehab doctors and prostheses to the Maidan. Kyj’s organization has been donating basic supplies.
Altogether they’ve raised $350,000 since Thanksgiving thanks to donations from Ukrainians based in the United States. Kyj says young Ukrainians in the US have been proactive.
KYJ: A lot of young people, especially the people that have arrived from the Ukraine in, I would say, the last 20 years, what they were doing was using Western Union to just wire money to their friends (0:08)
The future of Ukraine is unsure, but at least the country knows that people all over the East Village have got their back.
Lara McCaffrey, Columbia Radio News.