The Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 set off repercussions that were felt at the geopolitical level—and as close as the neighborhood gas pump.
The war has also brought a heightened awareness of that historical area and unprecedented support for Ukraine in general and the estimated (per the Bureau of the Census) 5,200 residents of Ukrainian descent in Nassau County, many of whom still have relatives and friends in that troubled land.
On March 8, the Town of Oyster Bay held a candlelight vigil for peace and a donation drop off at St. Josaphat’s Monastery in Lattingtown, longtime home to a Basilian order of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Dozens of people showed up at the historic site, which began life as Gold Coast mansion back in the early 20th century. Many sang the Ukrainian national anthem in their native tongue.
Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino said he came up with the idea to hold the vigil because, as he told Anton Media Group, “It’s so important to show hope, to show support, and to pray for the people of this independent nation. We want to provide an opportunity for everyone to come together and help the people of Ukraine. We feel as though this collection drive of clothes, food, medical supplies and resources will be very important as one of many steps to help people through this most crucial time.”
Asked about the logistics of getting the supplies to those in need, Saladino said there’s a depot in New Jersey that delivers materials to countries that border Ukraine.
“What’s happening is that refugees are coming in trains and then the trains are going back with supplies,” the supervisor explained.
He added, “My heart was torn seeing a picture of a mother and her children dead in the street, gunned down purposefully. It is outrageous, the war crimes that are going on. It hearkens back to the 1940s, one of the most terrifying times in world history.”
Saladino was joined by Oyster Bay Councilwoman Michele Johnson, Receiver of Taxes Jeff Pravato, Clerk Rich LaMarca and Daniel Alter, representing Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman. From the dais hung a blue and gold Ukrainian flag gifted by the Ukrainian Embassy.
“Words are difficult because the emotions surrounding this tragedy run so deep,” Saladino said in his remarks. “That’s why each and every one of you have come out this evening, The people of Ukraine have undergone unfathomable chaos due to the invasion of their country and it’s changed their lives forever.”
After noting that more than 2 million refugees have escaped the chaos by finding havens in neighboring countries such as Poland, Romania and Slovakia, Saladino drew applause when he thanked those states for welcoming the refugees.
“The people of Ukraine have shown a resilience and strength that is awe inspiring,” the supervisor praised. “Even as innocent civilians, families and children, people of all ages, even senior citizens, are being gunned down in the street, they show solidarity and a love for their country which is truly remarkable.”
He added, “Let us draw on their strength and their hope. Let us draw inspiration from the people of Ukraine. We all want to find a way to help. That’s why this evening we’ve invited residents to bring donations. Whether it’s tonight or in the coming days. much needed supplies will be sent to key refugee locations overseas.”
He concluded, “The people of Ukraine are not alone. The world stands with them.”
Father Philip, superior at the monastery, gave an historical overview, noting that Ukrainians often suffered through their history, bordered by many different empires in Europe.
“They’ve gone through many tragedies. Suffering is not new for the Ukrainian people,” Father Philip said before introducing a parishioner who emigrated from the Ukraine and still has family there.
“Olga” said, “I am now a U.S. citizen. But my heart aches for the peaceful country that I came from.”
Her immediate family lives in the as yet untouched western Ukraine, but is ready to flee at a moment’s notice. She spoke of a cousin who took his wife and three children to Poland.
“After ensuring their safety, he returned to Ukraine to defend it. He enlisted to fight and I have not heard from him since,” she continued.
Olga’s grandmother was born during WWII and lives in a small village in Western Ukraine on a plot of land where she grows fruit and vegetables.
“During World War II that home was destroyed by a bomb and to this day when she gardens she still finds ammunition in the soil,” she said. “I hope that her home will not be destroyed by a bomb again. I hope that people will not find ammunition from this invasion in her garden. I pray that this war will soon be over, and Ukrainians whose lives have been destroyed will soon be able to return to their homeland. I hope they get to enjoy the same fundamental rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness that we are so fortunate to have here in the United States of America.”
Helping Out Ukrainian Refugees
Generally, needed donation items include soap bars, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shaving kits, baby wipes, feminine hygiene products, shampoo/conditioner, deodorant, brushes, band aids, gauze, wipes, surgical kits, wound care supplies and personal protection equipment.
Oyster Bay locations are Town Hall North (54 Audrey Ave, Oyster Bay), Town Hall South (977 Hicksville Rd., Massapequa), or the Ice Skating Center (1001 Stewart Ave., Bethpage) weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. through March 25.
The district office of Assemblymember Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) is also collecting supplies at 1 School Street # 303-B, Glen Cove from Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Nassau County Legislative Majority has also started a humanitarian relief drive. Drop donations off between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday through March 25 at the Eisenhower Park Administration Building (Merrick and Stewart Avenues, East Meadow), The Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building (1550 Franklin Avenue, Mineola), Cantiague Park (480 West John St., Hicksville), Grant Park (1625 Broadway, Hewlett), Nickerson Beach (880 Lido Blvd, Lido Beach), Wantagh Park (One King Rd., Wantagh) and Christopher Morley Park (500 Searingtown Rd, Roslyn).