Fund raising event aims to save lives in Ukraine
BROADVIEW HTS. — According to the United Nations, at least 4 million Ukrainians have fled their nation since Russia’s invasion began on February 24. More than 3,000 civilians have been killed, and 10,000 or more Russian and Ukrainian soldiers have died thus far as well.
One of the dead is a pastor, Rev. Surgiy Ilchuk. Russian troops shot and killed Rev. Ilchuk (pictured below) while he was on his sixth rescue mission to save civilians trapped in and around Kiev. Rev. Ilchuk had a wife and six young children, whom all attended his funeral service in Rivne.
“Almost all Ukrainians have family directly impacted by this war,” says Roman Skalsky, a deacon and administrator at Slavic Full Gospel Church. “Our community has never faced anything like this. We’re in tears. My wife and I were so saddened because even though we are safe here, we have relatives and family in Ukraine and we feel the death, pain and suffering which is being inflicted on our loved ones.”
Slavic Full Gospel Church took immediate action to help their endangered relatives and countrymen in Ukraine. The Church sent a team of nine volunteers to Poland earlier this month to assist in relief efforts. The volunteers checked in 108 suitcases full of first aid kits, tourniquets, bulletproof vests and other body armor.
But that’s just the beginning. It is hosting a “Support Ukraine Community Fundraiser” on Saturday (April 2) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the church, 5851 East Wallings Road (44147). Volunteers have already prepared more than 4,700 pierogis and other baked goods for the event, available for a donation of any amount. There will be art activities and other fellowship-building opportunities at this event.
Skalsky himself came to the U.S. as a refugee more than 30 years ago, after the fall of the Iron Curtain. He was once a conscript in the Russian army.
“With joy and pride, we saw Ukraine rising from being zero, part of the Soviet Union 31 years ago, to become a terrific nation,” he says. “We could never understand or believe that this could be happening to our people in a time of relative prosperity.”
Skalsky will be returning with another team of volunteers to Poland and Ukraine soon. This time they hope to have hundreds more bulletproof vests, along with medical supplies and other relief assistance.
LIES, WANTON AGGRESSION ON UNARMED CIVILIANS
One of the subjects which causes ire for Skalsky and others of Ukrainian origin is the disinformation, lies and propaganda which Russia’s regime, led by Vladimir Putin, is trying to foist upon the world.
“It’s especially distressing to hear all the lies that Putin is telling our people and his too,” Skalsky explains. “Lies such as Ukrainians are Nazis, or that Ukrainians have hatred toward Russians, or that Russians are persecuted are all untrue. The lies make it even more painful, and what’s especially important for everyone to know is that many Ukrainians speak fluid Russian, including me.”
L to R: Roman Skalsky with his son Tim; teen volunteers assembling body armor in bulletproof vests, first aid and tourniquet kits.
Journalists, human rights organizations, and Ukrainians have all observed Russia’s intentional aggression and horrific attacks on unarmed civilians in many cities. Missiles, artillery shells, and bombs have destroyed apartments, schools and even hospitals. Russian soldiers have fired upon and killed non-combatant residents such as Rev. Ilchuk.
Russia also persecutes the churches which haven’t aligned themselves with the Putin regime. “Ukraine is also one of the nations in Europe that’s most open to the Gospel,” Skalsky adds. “It’s been sending missionaries to Russia and to other places all over the world.“
In addition to countering Putin’s lies, the Slavic Full Gospel Church is focused on how it can assist refugees and the people in danger in Ukraine right now.
Slavic Full Gospel has powerful ethnic cords binding it and its members to relief and rescuers in Ukraine, about 5,000 miles from Northeast Ohio.
“We have connections with friends and relatives all over Ukraine, people who are on the front lines of the relief effort,” Skalsky says. “We know them. We’re on the phone with them regularly. We know some of them are risking everything to help save others.”
One of Skalsky’s contact is Rev. Geno Mokhmemko, whose family adopted took in 35 orphaned children in Mariupol in far eastern Ukraine.
“Rev. Mokhmemko spoke out against the 2014 Russian invasion, and he was lucky to be able to get his wife and all their children to safety in Western Ukraine just one day before the invasion began,” Skalsky explains. “Now he has returned to Mariupol, trying to help get other civilians out. We’re trying to help the rescuers like him.”
Skalsky has also seen reports that hundreds of thousands of men from Ukrainian ancestry are now returning to their native country, some to help with relief and some to fight the Russians. “They know this is ‘do or die’ now in Ukraine. They do not want to go back to the oppression our nation had under the former Soviet Union,” he says.
On Wednesday (March 30), more than three dozen volunteers assembled at Slavic Full Gospel Church to prepare for the Saturday community fund raiser. Many teens were putting armor plates into the bulletproof vests, along with a Gospel tract in each vest. “Help from Above” is the title of the tract.
“We’re also putting notes and Bible verses into the relief supplies,” Skalsky says. “We want everyone who receives these supplies to know that they are being prayed for, and that we’re doing what we can to protest and help them.”
Volunteers of Full Slavic Gospel Church preparing Perogis for Saturday’s Fund Raiser
Rev. Rick Duncan is the founding pastor of Cuyahoga Valley Church, a neighbor of Full Slavic Gospel Church. On March 6, Rev. Duncan gave the Sunday message there Here is a bit of what he said:
“I don’t know when God will save Ukraine. I don’t know how He will intervene. But I know that because God is mighty, just, generous, sovereign, and worthy He will make a way for the people of Ukraine. God’s purposes cannot be stopped by Vladimir Putin. One day, evil will be defeated. Glory is coming!
“Romans 8:18 says, For the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us.
“Meanwhile, we must pray. We must give. And we must serve. And we do all of that with hope and confidence that God will work all things together for His glory and for the good of His people.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Below are recommendation donation amounts. You can cover one of more of these items with your donation:
First Aid Kit $ 15.00
Stop the Bleeding/Tourniquet Kit $ 30.00
Level 3 Body Armor with Bulletproof Vest $300.00
If you also attend Saturday’s event, you can donate any amount while you are there. If you cannot be there in person, here’s a link for donations:
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The City of Parma and the Census Bureau both estimate that more than 4,000 people born in Ukraine are now living in Parma. Several hundred students at Cuyahoga Community College’s Western campus are of Ukrainian descent.
One of them, Solomiya Ostrovska, has been the main organizer for another fund raiser to support the relief and rescue efforts in Ukraine. This event will be held on Saturday night (also April 2) at Caffeine Lakewood in the center of that suburb. A full 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the Cleveland Maidan Association, a non-profit which has sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to Ukraine for humanitarian relief dating back to 2014. It’s also the charity which Cuyahoga Community College (my employer) has designated for donations to help Ukraine.
Kudos and to Solomiya for being behind this. (Disclaimer: Solomiya is one of my students at Tri-C.) You can get tickets for this fund raiser at www.caffeinelakewood.com
EYE ON CLEVELAND founder John Kerezy, associate professor of media & journalism studies at Cuyahoga Community College, wrote this. A Ukrainian translation of the story is appearing here: https://wp.me/p9toG-tX
LINK TO REV ILCHUK’S OBITUARY: