Local Ukrainian community offers help amidst chaos overseas

By Matt Porter
By Julianne Peixoto

Local Ukrainian community offers help amidst chaos overseas

February 21, 2014 Updated Feb 21, 2014 at 6:31 PM EST

Johnson City, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Members of the local religious community are reaching out to help Ukrainians affected by the recent violence and protests.

A new deal was struck Friday morning between opposition leaders and President Viktor Yanukovych which may lead to an election in the near future. But in the meantime, local Ukrainians are working to offer a little help.

Father Teodor Czabala of the Sacred Heart Ukrainian Catholic Church is offering special weekly prayers for the community.

"The best and the first and foremost is really to pray, pray for peace, pray for God's guidance," Czabala said.

Czabala has been coordinating joint prayer services with Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Church down the road.

Czabala said he wants to see the current president of Ukraine step down.

"We have hope we always hold out hope for the best and for a peaceful outcome," he said. "But I really think until he steps down the people of the square aren't going to go home"

Protestors have been demonstrating against the government since November, but in the last month, the government has stepped in with violence.

Many local Ukrainians came to the United States to escape fighting from Russia years ago.

"Even though we live here in the US and are all US citizens," Czabala said. "We remember where we came from and how important that is for us."

At Saint John's Ukrainian Orthodox Church, tissues line pews for people upset by the violence.

Parishioner Stephan Wasylko is helping the community raise money to help Ukrainians in Kiev.

"This is not political, this is simply humanitarian aid to those who have been wounded and to the families of those that have been killed," Wasylko said.

The church has raised a couple thousand dollars so far, but thinks more aid is still needed.

When asked if he thought the Ukrainian people will persevere, Wasylko said. "They believe in family, they believe in their traditions, and they will, but they're going to need a lot of help."

Wasylko has a friend who was among the hundreds injured in the recent violence.

"He was clubbed by the riot police, there's actually videos of him that we saw," he said. "He's lucky he was not one of the people shot by the snipers."

For those wishing to contribute, donations can be made to the following St. John's humanitarian relief fund.

Please make checks payable to:
St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Church--Ukrainian Assistance Fund

Checks should be mailed to One St. John's Parkway, Johnson City, NY 13790-1699.

Call (607) 754-1204 with questions or for further information.

To submit a comment on this article, your email address is required. We respect your privacy and your email will not be visible to others nor will it be added to any email lists.