On October 13th at the Civic Hall in New York’s Chelsea at the Razom Annual Meeting 2018, the hall on the 12th floor reminded me of a hive, a home-like Ukrainian hive in the heart of New York’s concrete jungle. For the fourth consecutive year Razom for Ukraine reported on their progress. More than 100 Ukrainians of the last migration wave and Americans of Ukrainian descent came to listen and support Razom. Another 600 watched the online stream on the Social Media.
by Iryna Solomko
Changing a place of residence is always a very tough decision. I have never condemned my friends who took this difficult step, just as I have not ever dreamed about or planned to leave Ukraine myself. All of my professional life first as a journalist, then, for the last two and a half years, as a communication chief officer of the largest coalition of public organizations called the Reanimation Package of Reforms, which has been around for almost 5 years, which is just unprecedented for Ukraine, I have been working to make my country strong, democratic and pro-European. My country needed, and still needs me, so leaving it thought I consider close to treason. But my life changed almost three years ago, when I by accident met an American journalist at my podcast recording at my favorite Hromadske Radio. This “atypical”, as I jokingly call him, American in a week and eight months became my husband.
He moved to Kyiv where we lived and worked together in Ukraine. My husband is a huge patriot of Ukraine, who cares no less than me. That is why many times he worked as a journalist and a project manager in the East, and wrote a collection of poems about ATO and Ukraine.
But our quiet Ukrainian happiness ended in a year and a half, when my husband said he was to go to the United States to get a “decent job” that he could not get in Kyiv due to a lack of Ukrainian or Russian language skills. It was a blow to me because I had to leave Ukraine to keep the family together. I felt like a traitor, thinking that everyone would condemn me, until my brother told me: “Iro, over there you can do for Ukraine even more than you can do here.” I really wanted to believe him, but just couldn’t.
On October 13th at the Civic Hall in New York’s Chelsea at the Razom Annual Meeting 2018 I felt how my brother was right. The hall on the 12th floor reminded me of a hive, a home-like Ukrainian hive in the heart of New York’s concrete jungle. For the fourth consecutive year Razom for Ukraine reported on their progress. More than 100 Ukrainians of the last migration wave and Americans of Ukrainian descent came to listen and support Razom. Another 600 watched the online stream on the Social Media.
The first person I met was a Ukrainian from Hawaii. He just moved to New York and came to meet Razom. People of all ages, fortunes, interests, professions, destiny gathered together. We have come to listen, see, plan for the common goal – to help Ukraine become stronger and more prosperous. Could something be a greater inspiration for me in my desire not continue working for Ukraine even in the distant States than this meeting? No…
Listening to the reports of Razom’s founders and volunteers, I understood that this new generation and migration wave is progressive, proactive, innovative, untamed, creative, and modern. For me, this is a unique case, because the organization was formed in New York during the Revolution of Dignity by the Ukrainians of the last migration wave, with a few exceptions. Ukrainians who are keen on trying to help Ukraine while being thousands of miles away from it. And this is the unique quality and ability of Ukrainians, probably of all migration waves, and of all migration geography.
I was struck by the fact that Razom is developing along with Ukraine, trying to understand its needs and new challenges. After the end of the Revolution of Dignity and the active phase of the war in the East, when all the efforts of the Razom volunteers were absorbed by providing operational assistance to the protesters, the main focus in the recent years has switched to powerful, meaningful development projects. After all, Razom’s goal is a free, democratic and prosperous Ukraine. As Razom President Mariya Soroka said, Maidan might be over, but Ukraine is still fighting… and “we are optimists. We see many positive changes in Ukraine. We see the incredible work of our friends in Ukraine,” concluded Mariya. So what can we do here in America to help Ukraine win this fight?..
Razom projects are different in their essence and directions, but all of them try to reach out and find solutions important to the post-Maidan Ukraine. Working with doctors and hospitals, startups, young Ukrainian Olympiad students, the mass media, ATO veterans, fashion designers, people in the East who live in the conflict zone – all this is important and the in focus of volunteers… Razom collaborates with non-governmental organizations in Ukraine, and with well-known and influential diaspora organizations that arose in the United States during previous migration waves.
Among the newest and essential Razom projects for Ukraine is the Co-Pilot Project. The project goal is to train a new generation of Ukrainian neurosurgeons. The first trip to Ukraine took place in August 2016. In two years the team has visited Ukraine six times, expanding the geography from Kyiv to Odesa, Lviv and Lutsk. The team conducted over 500 consultations and 62 extremely complex surgeries. Another $ 250,000 were invested in medical equipment. Yet, this is just the beginning, more is to come: educational trips and scholarships for Ukrainian doctors and deepening of cooperation with the Ministry of Health of Ukraine.
Among the brightest projects of last year was the organization and support for the movie screening tour of the “Invisible Battalion”. “Invisible Battalion” is a Ukrainian documentary cinema almanac that speaks up about women fighting in the East of Ukraine. Film screenings and discussions with heroines and film producer took place in Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York. Equally important project, which has been successfully implemented, is the fundraiser for scholarships at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy for ATO veterans.
Razom has continued and strengthened its social and educational projects and partnerships. The new goal is to raise $ 50,000 in support of the project of the well-known Ukrainian historian journalist Vakhtang Kipiani “Istorychna Pravda”; some money will be spent on the translation of unique content in English and its dissemination.
The next year with Razom will be no less fascinating and active, because a new ambitious goal of the organization is to create its own permanent space, like as Razom-hub, where American Ukrainians can meet, network and create new projects.
During 2017 and part of 2018 volunteers successfully raised $200 thousand in donations for Razom projects. A larger amount – more than $210 thousand – was received only in 2014 during the EuroMaidan and the active phase of the war in the East of Ukraine.
The number of individual donations to Razom increases every year. For example, in 2018 they accounted for 76% of the total amount of raised funds. The “corporate support” share is also growing. Razom uses modern fundraising practices, such as, Facebook Birthday Fundraisers for Razom projects.
The high numbers indicate that people believe in Razom and its projects. Another impactful factor that encourages donations is that only 10 cents from one dollar are spent on reinvestment and administrative expenses, while 90% directly go into the implementation of Razom ideas and projects. The fact that the organization consists solely of volunteers helps to minimize administrative costs and maximize the efficiency of using funds.
The Razom format is unique and versatile. In essence, it is a platform that unites people who want to help Ukraine. Volunteers are freely joining and working on the projects that they believe in. If someone does not have enough time for volunteering, Razom will understand, and if, eventually, a person will want to join in again, Razom’s doors are always open, because together – RAZOM – we are Ukraine.
In Razom you feel wild genuine Ukrainian energy thousands of miles away from home, and you dream of helping Ukraine and realizing now your project together with them.
So, on one hand statistics of the migration of Ukrainians is frightening, on the other hand, this issue is quite complex. Because life circumstances vary in different ways, life is rather unpredictable, and likes to play jokes with you, as it did with me, and threw me overseas. The question is, does Ukraine remain in your heart, and are you Razom with Ukraine?