February 12, 2021

A shining example of community engagement


Last month members of the Ukrainian National Foundation (UNF), an affiliated company of the Ukrainian National Association, held a virtual winter fundraising gala. The event, “Rekindle the Magic of Soyuzivka,” raised more than $200,000 to benefit the Soyuzivka Heritage Center in Kerhonkson, N.Y., a place that is near and dear to many in the Ukrainian diaspora of North America. The amount of money raised is an outstanding achievement and organizers of the event should certainly be proud of the accomplishment.

Officials of the UNF set an original goal of raising $500,000. “A lofty goal,” wrote UNF President Dr. Wasyl Szeremeta in a letter prior to the event. “But we believe, with your generous help, it can be reached.” The goal was lofty because Soyuzivka, like many of our cultural institutions, faces truly difficult circumstances. Total fixed expenses (property taxes, insurance, utilities, etc.) for the Center reach over $500,000 annually. UNF officials previously estimated that, as a result of the ongoing pandemic, Soyuzivka had already lost more than $1 million in gross revenue – an amount that will not be recoverable as the Center has had to cancel all booked events.

“The COVID pandemic has caused a tremendous disruption of life as we knew it in 2020,” Dr. Szeremeta said in kicking off the gala fundraiser on January 16. “Our Soyuzivka was not spared injury from this virus, as essentially all operations were cancelled last year,” he said.

But this is not a story of woe or one of despair. Yes, Soyuzivka still needs your support to reach its fundraising goal, and donations are still being accepted in an effort to meet the goal (readers can visit the revamped website at www.soyuzivka.com/donate to help or learn more). This story, however, is a shining example of grass roots community activism and engagement.

The event, which so far has remarkably raised more than $200,000, happened because a group of dedicated, young individuals in our community saw that a place they love needs help. Determined to do something productive about it, they came together and decided to organize a gala fundraiser.

“I’m so impressed with this group of young professionals who took the initiative and started this project,” said Roma Lisovich, the chief financial officer/treasurer of the UNA and the treasurer of the UNF.

Led by Alia Paslawsky, the gala was conceived and organized by the “Rekindle the Magic of Soyuzivka” fundraising committee, which includes the following individuals: Lida Chopivsky-Benson, Stephanie Burachinsky, Steve Drabyk, Sue Hrib, Larysa Dyrszka, Lesia Kozickyk, Lara Littlefield, Andriy Olesnycky, Roma Lisovich, Nestor Paslawsky and Petrusia Paslawsky.

“They are amazing,” Ms. Lisovich said of the committee members, who also did much behind-the-scenes work, including organizing an online silent auction, updating the Soyuzivka website, and increasing traffic to the Center’s Facebook page for the event, which attracted 7,000 views.

It has certainly been a difficult year for all of us. We have been confined and isolated from one another, and it is all too easy in this environment to grow disillusioned and, in particular, vent our ire online. But this group of young professionals saw a problem and decided that they could – even in the most trying circumstances – take an active, constructive role in helping to maintain a part of our diaspora Ukrainian cultural heritage. They are a shining example for us all and one we should strive to emulate.