Chicago’s Response To The War

I take back all my resentments about Chicagoans – here is today’s tribune front-page article:

Marta Farion received a call from a friend in Ukraine on Tuesday, asking her how she was helping the embattled country from Chicago. Her friend, a veteran in Ukraine who had stayed behind to fight, was calling from an actual trench, one of many that have appeared in the country as it resists its Russian aggressors, using a generator for a phone charge.

Farion, president of a nonprofit that supports the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy, had a variety of answers: lobbying the American government, supporting a protest this weekend and fundraising.

For Chicagoans with or without connections that close in Ukraine, it can be overwhelming to know how to help. Here are some of the ways advocates suggest people get involved.

Where can I donate supplies?
Ukrainian shipping service Meest-Karpaty is organizing a major effort to send a plane of supplies from Chicago to Kyiv every week, a representative from the company’s location in Palatine said.

They’re looking for military goods, as well as nonperishable food, blankets and clothes, advocates said.

Supplies can be dropped off or shipped to the Chicago location, 6725 W. Belmont Ave. The shipping service is also collecting supplies at 1645 Hicks Road in Rolling Meadows, a representative posted on social media.

Edgewater resident Leonard Mogul, a community advocate and founder of Chicago children’s organization Arts4Kids Foundation, is partnering with Waukegan pastor Julie Contreras to send care packages to women and children in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, Mogul said. Mogul’s organization has previously sent food to refugee children in detention centers at the Mexican border, he said, so Contreras reached out to him about turning aid toward Ukraine.

They’re looking for essentials including diapers, children’s clothes, socks and women’s hygienic products, Mogul said. People can donate or volunteer time by contacting, he said.

When is the next big rally?
Supporters of Ukraine plan to gather in Daley Plaza at 2 p.m. Sunday, said advocates including Pavlo Bandriwsky, vice president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America in Illinois.

How can I tell if a fundraiser is legitimate?
Chicagoans should look for established organizations that have a proven track record of providing assistance with low administrative costs, Bandriwsky said.

Smaller campaigns, like those organized on social media, can be positive resources as they may have very low overhead, said Mogul, who has helped found and moderate Facebook pages for Eastern European people across Chicago. But potential donors should make an effort to ensure those smaller fundraisers are legitimate, he said.

Donors should see how well the purpose of the money is described, and what means the fundraiser has to deliver the results, Mogul said. They should also feel free to ask the organizer any questions, he added.

What are some national or international organizations I can donate to?
Locally, people can donate to the Ukrainian Congress Committee for America in Illinois, advocates said. F.R.E.E., a synagogue for the Russian Jewish community in Chicago, is hosting a fundraiser for Jewish people in Ukraine.

The nonprofit Razom for Ukraine has a list of army, medical and humanitarian initiatives accepting donations, and is accepting aid to its own emergency response fund.

The National Bank of Ukraine is accepting funds to both its humanitarian account and military account. The Red Cross, UNICEF and World Central Kitchen are all accepting donations for the crisis.

Advocates have also asked people to contact their representatives to demand stricter sanctions against Russia, and the closure of airspace over Ukraine.

One Chicago couple is worried and asking for funds to get their preemie newborns, born via surrogate, home safely from Ukraine.

Alexander Spektor and Irma Nuñez became parents on Feb. 25 when their twin sons, Lenny and Moishe, were born in Kyiv. They were born two months early and need continued medical care before traveling to the U.S. The family is frantically trying to coordinate a specialized medical transport capable of moving preemies out of the country.

“It’s unimaginable,” Spektor told the “Today” show. He explained that the twins’ prematurity works against them as they need stability and care, but also to be moved out of a war zone.

In the meantime, they were able to transfer the twins to a hospital in Kyiv better equipped with supplies and staff, according to a GoFundMe raising money to help cover medical and travel costs.

What if I want to help refugees? Or advocate for Ukrainian citizens in the US?
The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America in Illinois is starting to prepare for refugees to resettle in the Chicago area, Bandriwsky said. People in Chicago with space to potentially help shelter refugees can contact the Ukrainian National Museum, he said.

Northbrook immigration lawyer Gene Meltser started a petition to grant Temporary Protective Status to Ukrainian citizens in the United States, a form of deportation relief for people whose visas are from places involved in strife.

Meltser, an immigrant from Belarus with family and friends in Ukraine, said he hopes people will sign the petition and call their representatives in favor of granting the status, regardless of political party.

What will people need when they arrive?
Many groups in Chicago constantly work with refugees and are always taking donations to help the many refugees already in Chicago. World Relief, RefugeeOne and Catholic Charities are all groups that work with federal agencies to resettle refugees.

People who may eventually arrive from Ukraine will be handling layers of trauma, said Corina Ratz, a faculty member of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology who trains people on treating immigrants and whose family in Romania has seen firsthand waves of people already arriving at the border.

Not only were their lives suddenly upturned by war, she said, they are suddenly faced with uncertainty they never could have prepared for.

“It is something you can imagine may happen, but until it actually happens, you’re not dealing with the repercussion of it,” she said.

So they will arrive fresh from a wartime exodus, likely unable to bring much from home, with the double uncertainty of not knowing whether or when they’ll be able to return.

When people have the ability to have a conversation with an immigrant or a refugee, she said, what’s important is to listen. Hear their story, and their narrative of what happened. “Validate their story,” she said. “It’s so basic, and it is so important.” People might assume that refugees are thrilled to be here, or heartbroken. It’s different for everyone.

How have people in Ukraine reacted to support from the States? How do Ukrainian Chicagoans feel about the support from the city?
Advocates described the support from Chicago over the weekend as overwhelming — “nothing short of incredible,” Mogul said. People in Ukraine are grateful Americans are protesting and not remaining indifferent, he said.

Orysia Kourbatov, administrator at the Ukrainian National Museum in Ukrainian Village, said people have been calling every five to 10 minutes, asking for flags to display. The museum was out as of Tuesday afternoon but was expecting more shipments soon, she said.

The conflict may have even incited a cultural change: If there’s a “silver lining to any of this,” it’s that people are becoming more familiar with Ukraine and rallying around it, said Yara Klimchak, a Chicagoan who grew up visiting relatives in Ukraine. Klimchak, who once heard people frequently mistake Ukraine for Russia, now has people from all different parts of her life reaching out and asking how they can help, she said.

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