When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, the Ukrainian-Americans of Southwest Florida went into action to help provide relief. According to Ihor Hron, the former National Commander of the Ukrainian-American Veterans and the current President of the Ukrainian-American Men’s Club of Southwest Florida, there are around 12,000 to 14,000 Ukrainian-Americans living between Sarasota, Venice, and especially North Port.
“We are sending aid through our churches,” Ihor says. “If other people want to help, giving monetary contributions is the easiest way. The churches are partnering with different organizations within Ukraine such as the Ukrainian Humanitarian Fund to get the donations to the right people.”
Ihor’s very own priest, Father Vasyl Petriv of St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, left North Port in March to serve as a chaplain in the Ukrainian Army.
“The last we heard from him, he was on the Polish border,” Ihor says.
Money donated to Ukraine will be used for humanitarian aid and to purchase equipment for the Ukrainian Army.
It’s not just Ukrainian-Americans working to help democratic Ukraine survive Russia’s brutal invasion. Epiphany Cathedral Catholic Church in Venice donated all of its Ash Wednesday collections to Ukraine relief. (Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School is a Venice City Lifestyle partner.) Cash and material donations are also being raised by the Lithuanian Society of Sarasota. That organization’s President, Ruta Jouniari, takes collections during business hours at the Compassionate Cannabis Clinic, where she is Chief Operating Officer.
“We check in with the Ukrainian Embassy and they tell us the things that Ukraine needs,” Ruta explains. “Right now it’s baby formula, Army grade bandages, sutures, burn treatments, medications. A group of pharmacists in North Port and Englewood came through with a huge $200,000 donation of medical materials. We are working with a shipping company in New Jersey that sends everything directly to the Lviv Hospital in Ukraine. We’d really like to thank Dr. Barry Gordon (the clinic’s founder) for supporting these efforts with the donated space.”
While much of the world is surprised by the strong defense being waged by Ukraine, Ihor is not.
“MacDill Air Force base has a program that trains foreign officers,” he explains. “When Ukrainians have been there over the past ten years, some of our Ukrainian-American Veterans go to meet them. We have seen them getting better. The past two to three years, these young soldiers, both male and female, are dedicated and professional. The training they have received from the United States and other NATO countries has made them a formidable fighting force.”
St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, North Port
St. Andrews Ukrainian Church
Compassionate Cannabis Clinic
425 Commercial Ct., Suite C, Venice. 941.586.2426