Various students, faculty and staff from Rutgers are lending a helping hand to individuals caught in the middle of the current invasion of Ukraine by Russia, according to a press release.
These members of the Rutgers community were either born in Ukraine, are first-generation American citizens or have families struggling during the war, according to the release.
Oleh Matviyishyn, a student at Rutgers Law School, said he has close cultural ties to Ukraine, having been born there and still having relatives living there today.
He said he has taken action by setting up donation drives for supplies and advocating for Ukraine at school events and protests.
“I couldn't not take action. I feel like ... I'd be failing myself as a person if I didn't,” he said. “I want to do as much as I can even though I'm on this side of the world, and I'm not there.”
Similarly, Marta Savchuk, a Ukrainian-born graduate student at Rutgers—Newark, said the thought of not helping the country never crossed her mind.
“I think (the need to help) stems partially from the sense of duty that I feel for my county and people but also from the subconscious guilt I feel for being an ocean away and under a safe sky,” she said.
Savchuk, who was born in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, and moved to New Jersey at 9 years old, said she is in contact with friends and family in Ukraine who are providing relief and volunteering for their country.
Through them, Savchuk said she is able to understand what supplies they need and tries to get them to Ukraine as soon as possible through companies like Meest, which flies supplies to Poland and distributes them by ground in Ukraine.
So far, Savchuk and her family have sent more than $5,000 worth of supplies with help from donations made by friends and colleagues. In addition to donating supplies directly, Savchuk said she goes to fundraisers and charities and supports Ukrainian artists and businesses.
She also works with two organizations that help struggling citizens in Ukraine: the Rutgers Pre-Dental Society and Razom for Ukraine.
Matviyishyn said he has taken action by setting up a donation drive at Rutgers Law School and advocating for Ukraine at school events and protests.
He said he has also volunteered at Ukrainian community centers and churches as well as attended demonstrations and protests.
Matviyishyn said that Ukrainians and Eastern Europeans have been worried about Russia’s geopolitical actions prior to the invasion, but their fears were often not acknowledged by Western countries.
He said that if the invasion of Ukraine by Russia is not stopped, the conflict has the potential to spread through neighboring countries such as Poland or Georgia.
Matviyishyn said that when an issue such as the invasion of Ukraine has been the focus of attention for so long, individuals begin to feel apathy toward it. Students can combat this apathy by staying informed on the issue and keeping up to date on what is happening in the country, he said.
“I'm scared of this apathy, and we cannot be apathetic,” he said. “We need to be as loud as possible.”
Savchuk said that if any students are interested in joining the effort to help Ukraine, they can make monetary donations to organizations sending aid to the country, support local Ukrainian businesses and purchase Ukrainian goods.
“One of the biggest things that can be done is using one’s voice, not staying silent and pressuring for action and change,” she said. “Ukraine needs to be heard now more than ever, and by not letting this war be yesterday’s news, so much death can be prevented.”