It should go without saying that organizing and running large-scale fundraising events and gala celebrations for our community organizations is a challenge even in the best of times. But to hold these events virtually in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is a feat that deserves recognition and our kudos.
There are several recent examples that readily come to mind, although there are many more that deserve to be mentioned.
On December 6 the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America held a gala celebration to mark the organization’s 95th anniversary. That event raised more than $36,000, and UNWLA officials estimate that more than 1,200 people joined the live video feed from across North America to watch the festivities, which were “a celebration of the generations of unique Ukrainia-American women who, quietly and without much fanfare, have accomplished so much over the decades.” The money raised during the event will support educational, cultural and humanitarian initiatives spearheaded by the UNWLA.
One such initiative, the “Spiritual Rebirth of Ukraine Fund,” which began in March 2019, provides financial support to two theological seminaries in Ukraine: the Kyiv Three Saints Theological Seminary of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Volyn Theological Academy. Future priests trained at these seminaries will then work in the eastern regions of Ukraine, where they can help Ukrainians heal from the impact of war and unrest.
More recently, the UNWLA held a fund raising drive called “UNWLA for USA” which raised $31,400. That money was donated to Feeding America, an organization dedicated to helping individuals in the United States who have struggled financially because of the coronavirus pandemic and, as a result, don’t have enough food to feed their families. These are truly wonderful causes and the events which raise money for their support took place despite the current pandemic.
In another example of how our community life has endured recently, on November 24 people from Ukraine, Western Europe and North America gathered virtually to celebrate and honor Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak’s 60th birthday. The multi-media event, held via Zoom, included humorous slide shows, heart-warming reminiscences and greetings from friends and colleagues all over the world. According to the Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation, it was estimated that nearly 1,000 people viewed the event on roughly 300 computer screens. What they saw was not only a celebration of the archbishop’s life and accomplishments, but they saw and participated in a technologically savy program that found a way to bridge the distance that separates people in Ukraine, Western Europe and North America. To cap off the birthday celebration, organizers even went so far as to simultaneously present the archbishop with identical-looking birthday cakes – one in Lviv and one in Philadelphia.
These are difficult times, indeed. Despite the challenges, our diaspora organizations continue to do great work. They have found novel ways to keep us connected and keep us engaged in our shared community life. We applaud the remarkable work they have done, and we look forward to all of the great things they will no doubt continue to accomplish. Kudos!