Ukrainian Federation of America gives $7 million in aid to Ukrainian soldiers, opens office in Kyiv
By Mariya Kapinos, Kyiv Post, Kyiv, Ukraine
Tue, Aug. 8, 2017
Zenia Chernyk, president of Ukrainian Federation of America talks to children of wounded Ukrainian soldiers (photo from official website).
When in 2014 Sergyi Babskyi, a Ukrainian soldier in the war-torn Donbas, was injured in a grenade launcher attack, he suffered burns to about 40 percent of his body. After couple of months of treatment in hospital in Ukraine, Babskyiwas in despair and fearing he might die.
But then he was rescued by an organization he hadn’t even heard of before.
The Ukrainian Federation of America (UFA) learned of his case and offered help. He was sent to the United States for vital skin transplant surgery, with all expenses covered by the federation.
And Babskyi is not the only one the federation has helped since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea and unleashed its war in the Donbas in 2014. The organization has provided around $7 million to pay for medical treatment for at least 20 Ukrainian soldiers.
Established back in 1991 to help Ukrainians in the United States, the federation opened a representative office in Kyiv 26 years later, on Aug. 3. The federation hopes this will help to establish better communication between Ukraine and the United States.
The UFAworks in six areas: humanitarian aid, healthcare, education, arts and culture, advocacy and information, and social services. The organization also helps Ukrainians in the United States find employment and adapt to life in America.
The UFA is headed by a well-known leader of the Ukrainian community in the United States, Zenia Chernyk, who won Ukraine’s “Person of the Year” contest in 2015.
US medical support
Talking about his experience in the United States, Babskyi can’t stop smiling. He has been across the Atlantic twice: the first time for the skin transplant surgery, when he stayed for six months, and the second time for two months, as he needed minor follow-up surgery. Both times he stayed with a U.S. family with Ukrainian roots.
What surprised him the most was the fact that people he lived with spoke very good Ukrainian.
“Although they were born in the United States, they cherish their Ukrainian heritage so much, and their children go to Ukrainian Sunday school.”
Grateful for all that the federation has done for him, on Aug. 3 Babskyi came to Kyiv from Zhytomyr Oblast to attend the opening ceremony of the UFA’s representative office in Ukraine.
Among the other attendees were Mustafa Jemilev, the former chairman of the Mejlis (parliament) of the Crimean Tatars, Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksandr Motsyk, who was Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States in 2010-2015, and Volodymyr Kovtunets, the first deputy minister of Education and Science of Ukraine.
The opening ceremony was hosted by Ukrainian lawyer VasylKostytsky, who has been appointed the head of the UFA’s representative office.
Aside from medical support, in 2005 the UFA fought for the cancellation of the Jackson-Vanik amendment to the Trade Act of 1974, which restricted any financial and trade relations between the United States and countries that deny their citizens the right or opportunity to emigrate. If the amendment hadn’t cancelled, all American non-profitable organizations, including the UFA, wouldn’t have been allowed to function in Ukraine.
Iryna Mazur, the director of the UFA’s Advocacy and Information Program, says their projects have achieved important results. Apart from its aid activities, the UFA lobbies congressmen and senators in the United States, informing them about Ukraine and why it is important to support the country.
The federation now wants to create an advisory committee in Ukraine to strengthen society, involving more people in their projects, launching workshops, and organizing meetings, conferences, and educational programs.
“I have spent more than 600 working hours on developing my program in the U.S.,” says Mazur. “And I want to see Ukrainian lawyers doing the same thing, contributing their time and effort for the common good.”
Taras Levitskyi, the director of the UFA’s Arts and Culture Program, says the organization is more of a think tank, but it also raises money from people that love Ukraine. And these are not only U.S. citizens with Ukrainian roots, he says, but other Americans who see Ukraine as being on the front line of an attack against democracy.
“Our organization has a very good rating because we spend nothing on administrative costs,” says Levitskyi. “I even paid for my trip to Ukraine myself, and so did everybody else.”
“(The money) comes from my own pocket, from my children’s future -I could buy something for them, but instead we spent it here, and we take this responsibility very seriously.”
To donate money to UFA, go to www.ufofa.org.