Brothers In The East: The Need to Aid Ukraine

Walking through Philadelphia and its neighborhoods, you’ll come across many different people made up of an array of different races and ethnicities. As you walk through Northeast Philly, you’ll take notice of a unique section of buildings, cathedrals that look as if they’ve come from a different time, and shops and businesses that have been there since the 1800s. It’s here you’ll find the bulk of the Ukrainian population of Philadelphia. 

Unfortunately for those Ukrainians living in Philadelphia, they are forced to cope with the reality that their countrymen are fighting miles away for their right to exist, and are subjected every day to hearing people say that their kin doesn’t deserve aid in their fight.

In 2022, on the 24th of February, after months of build-up on the border with Russia, Ukraine was beset by Russian troops, entering the country under the guise of a “special military operation” in order to “denazify” the country and protect the “independent nations” of Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbas region of the country. The war began with the unrelenting shelling of civilian centers such as Kyiv in the earliest days, with other cities, such as Odesa and Lviv, also suffering.

Kyviv under fire

While support for Ukraine started strong, recent trends have not been kind. Whether or not you attribute this to the nature of media coverage of tragedies, or a more sinister attempt to quell support for Ukraine, it cannot be argued that many have begun to cool on support for Ukraine. 

Many Republican politicians most notably have become critical of US aid to Ukraine.Representative Majorie Taylor Greene, for example, wrote on Twitter that “The only border that [Democrats] care about is Ukraine, not America’s southern border.” On average, US support for Ukrainian refugees has decreased since the start of the war, among other changes in overall support. 

Due to waning media coverage, people believe that the war has begun dying down. However, the reality is far from being so kind. Shelling still continues to this day, with recent bombings in the city of Kramatorsk leading to countless casualties and untold amounts of damage to the city. 

Fortunately, support has far from completely died down for the war-torn nation. 

This brings us back to the Philadelphia area. The city has heavy ties to the Ukrainian community, being home to the second-largest Ukrainian population in the country. After the invasion began, rallies were held in the city in an attempt to raise awareness and fundraise money to send to Ukraine. Many who attended these rallies expressed their desire to support their country no matter what, such as Ukrainian immigrant Max Koshel, who says, “I can’t be back home shooting Russians, so this is the only thing I can do.”

Pro-Ukraine rally in Philadelphia

This support continues strong to this day, with Ukrainians in the city still holding rallies and fundraisers in an attempt to support their comrades fighting overseas. Many are even personally lending aid in the field, volunteering to join the Ukrainian army in their fight to defend their home.

Holy Family University has also devoted time to fundraising for Ukraine. On top of efforts to raise money for the country, the university has also provided services for Ukrainian refugees, offering an English Language class for those that desire it. Much of the university’s support for Ukraine stems from the connection between Holy Family and the war-torn country.

It cannot be stressed enough the importance of continuing our support of Ukraine. Even disregarding the significance of fighting in the name of territorial integrity, sovereignty, and democracy, it would be an absolute disservice to the vibrant Ukrainian community in our city if we were to diminish or withdraw our support of Ukraine 

The roots of the Ukrainian community in Philadelphia trace all the way back to the end of the 19th century, when Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire, immigrated to the United States, arriving in Philadelphia. Many of these immigrants went on to become crucial parts of the community, founding many churches that still stand today.

So many of the over 60,000 Ukrainians living in the Philadelphia area even today have direct ties to Ukraine, whether it be through a family member, or being an immigrant from the country, which has been in turmoil since the removal of their pro-Russian president in 2014.

This partially fuels my reasoning for writing this article. Since even before Russia formally invaded the country, I’ve been strongly in support of Ukraine. I’ve spent much of my time tracking this invasion, as Ukrainian citizens put their life on the line in the name of their freedom. I’ve watched as people like Majorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz continually post their disdain for aiding Ukraine. In writing this article, I hope to overshadow this disregard for human life and promote a people defending their lives.

Volodymr Zelensky, president of Ukraine, speaks to US Congress

These people are our brothers, sisters, neighbors, teachers, our friends. They live their lives every day knowing that their home is currently under siege and fighting a power that, by the day, shows more and more the depths of their cruelty, and the extent they would go to to see their home erased from the map. Yet they still fight. They protest, they rally, they fundraise, and they do everything in their power to support their home from abroad.