A University of Nebraska–Lincoln group’s desire to give back bloomed into an evening of support for Ukrainian refugees.
Organized with support from the College of Arts and Sciences and the University Honors Program, a UNL for Ukraine fundraiser held April 27 drew dozens to Lincoln’s Yia Yia’s pizza parlor. The event featured a silent auction, chance to donate, music from the band Montage, and speeches by those impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“We hoped to create a tsunami of goodwill and love for people we know are struggling,” said Hana Waisserova, an assistant professor of practice in Modern Languages and Literatures. “I think we were successful.”
The event took root during a meeting of “Springtime of the Peoples,” a discussion group named after a series of political upheavals in central Europe in 1848. The group is led by Patrice McMahon, director of the University Honors Program and a tenure professor of political science. While numerous students join in as time allows, regular participants include Waisserova; Mila Saskova-Pierce, emeriti professor; Lukasz Niparko, graduate student in political science; and Song Wang, a graduate student with a focus on international relations.
“We meet almost every week and focus on events in central Europe. We also discuss other parts of the world and sometimes hold language lessons if needed,” McMahon said. “Most of our discussions center on democracy, communism and the post-communism era.”
In recent weeks, those discussions have centered on Ukraine and related events within Europe.
“We all felt the need to do something, to show support for Ukraine,” McMahon said. “That led us to holding this fundraiser.”
As Yia Yia’s workers prepped pizzas nearby, members of the campus and Lincoln community delivered testimonials on the impacts of the Russian invasion.
Michael Ivashchenko, a Fulbright scholar from Ukraine who is attending the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, talked about staying in touch with his family. He tries to call his mother as often as possible and recounted a recent chat during which he heard a message about seeking shelter being repeated in the background.
“My mom just kept talking about hearing bangs all over the place,” Ivashchenko said. “But she reassured me that everything was OK. That the walls were shaking, but that she was fine.”
Other speakers included State Sen. Adam Morfeld (District 46); Tatyana Gulchuk, a finance coordinator who recently assisted refugees crossing over into Poland; Niparko; and leaders of local organizations that assist refugees in the Lincoln community.
All proceeds from the event (from food sales to donations) are being directed to the Rotary Disaster Response Fund — a non-governmental organization identified by McMahon as a conduit to quickly deliver funding to those in need.
Details on the fund and how others can donate are available here.
“It’s been incredible to see so many people here supporting my nation,” Ivashchenko said. “It is not going to be easy, but we’ll get through this, in part because each of you is with us.”