In 2021, Razom for Ukraine navigated a changing world allowing us to return to some in-person events while also continuing to organize online with volunteers around the globe. By working together and by experimenting, we made an impact.
To ensure equal and safe access to opportunities, we continued to keep some of our projects remote, including the Co-Pilot initiative. As the Covid-19 situation improved, we were able to resume some in-person meetings and gather for the Razom annual event in October 2021 — the first time we’ve done so since 2019.
Please read about our most notable achievements in 2021 and join us in our efforts to support Ukraine in 2022.
Since the initial drafting of this annual report, Russia further invaded Ukraine in late February and Razom has been all hands on deck focused on humanitarian aid efforts. To learn more about those initiatives please visit our Emergency Response Project section for the latest updates.
Emergency Response: Covid-19 in Ukraine
Over 2020 and 2021 Razom spent $82,500 helping Ukrainian doctors and nurses fight the Covid-19 pandemic. In the spring of 2020, Razom purchased personal protective equipment helping 44 hospitals in 29 towns and cities to prepare for the coming wave of patients. Once the second wave hit Ukraine in the winter and spring of 2021, Razom helped by purchasing 32 oxygen concentrators. This essential equipment helped Covid-19 patients as they waited for hospital admittance or when they were discharged to convalesce at home. The 32 concentrators were bought for patients in eight different regions of Ukraine.
Razom also hosted webinars about the pandemic. The first one in the spring of 2020 shared information on what to expect once the next Covid-19 wave hit Ukraine. The second, in March 2021, was a panel with a medical researcher and immunologist explaining how vaccines work and answering questions on the risks associated with them. The panel featured Dr. Olya Yarychkivska, from the Rockefeller Institute, and Dr. Evelyn Tolston, MD, Allergy and Immunology, NYU School of Medicine. We conducted these sessions in Ukrainian; people participated from around the world. You can watch a recording of the March 2021 panel here.
The Co-Pilot Project, an initiative that focuses on the deficit of high-quality neurosurgical and spine surgery training in Ukraine, continued its work in 2021 and had one formal trip led by Mariya Soroka and Dr. Luke Tomycz. During this trip, several epilepsy and brain tumor surgeries were performed with surgical partners in both Kyiv and Lutsk. We also traveled to Uzhgorod where we had a busy day of consultation with the local epilepsy team on various complex epilepsy patients who came from all around the country.
Unfortunately, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, trips by both Dr. Matthew Geck of Austin, Texas, to perform scoliosis surgery and Dr. James Liu of Newark, New Jersey, to perform skull base surgery were canceled this year. We hope to reschedule both of these trips. Additionally, several of the Ukrainian surgeons who were slated to visit Dr. Jonathan Forbes in Cincinnati, Ohio, had their fellowships delayed.
With the help of Maria Borisovska PhD, the project was able to locate and purchase an EEG amplifier and it was transported to Dr. Kostiuk, the chief of epilepsy surgery at Romadanov Institute in Kyiv. He has already used this for intraoperative electrocorticography and we hope to assist them in their first extra-operative mapping case. This technology should substantially improve this center’s capabilities to offer surgery to a wider number of patients with drug-resistant, refractory epilepsy.
Razom saw significant growth in 2021 with its Veteranius project that first launched in 2020. The initiative helps Ukrainian veterans, volunteers, and internally displaced persons master programming skills and then get a job in the Ukrainian IT industry. During 2021, the program received a record number of applications and 43 IT mentors and 28 volunteers – who provided support for English language study, IT help, and psychological support – worked on the project. Since its inception, the project has helped 80 veterans gain employment. We’ve seen Veteranius graduates go on to create amazing projects, including a website for Ukrainian Institute of London, and a one-of-a-kind chat bot that enables people to report on sexual harassment in the military in Ukraine by providing information anonymously and directing users to appropriate resources.
The project had over 280 veterans apply to participate in an IT bootcamp that included classes on IT basics, networking, cybersecurity, and web development. Of the 61 selected bootcamp participants, 22 received certificates for completing the full course of homework and projects.
The project is supported by IREX in Ukraine, IREX Veteran Reintegration Program, and the NGO Development foundation. We had outstanding partners join the project in Ukraine, including the Cisco Networking Academy, Ministry of Veteran Affairs, Institute of Gender Programs, VeteranHub, Development Foundation, and Open Doors.
The Bohdan Radchenko Stipend for Veterans program provides highly motivated and accomplished Ukrainian veterans with the possibility to gain a Master’s degree in the specialization of their choice and covers tuition at three of Ukraine’s leading universities.
In 2021, there were three stipend recipients – all female veterans. Two of the students awarded stipends attend the Ukrainian Catholic University and the other is a student at the Kyiv School of Economics.
Public administration has been the most popular field of study so far with stipend recipients.
This initiative was named for Bohdan Radchenko, a student of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy who volunteered to serve in the East and was killed in 2016.
The SMAKids initiative is focused on improving healthcare and access for Ukrainian children suffering from spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). This initiative launched in 2021 and Razom became one of the co-founders of the civic movement and advocacy campaign “Dity, My Vstygnemo” – “Children, We Will Make It” – vstygnemo.org.ua.
The press conference announcing the start of the campaign took place in May 2021. The campaign has worked to engage with families dealing with SMA diagnoses. Local awareness events took place throughout Ukraine in August and September 2021 and sticker packs and information flyers about SMA were distributed. The Razom team in New York City supported the sticker pack campaign during an Independence Day celebration at the Ukrainian Institute of America in New York City. Razom volunteers in Ukraine submitted an official request to the Ministry of Health to explain the distribution of funds dedicated to the acquisition of innovative medicines. Razom volunteers in Kyiv, including Evelina Kurilets, actively joined the campaign team. Ms. Kurilets is working to organize the first in-person rehabilitation training on SMA with an internationally renowned expert from Europe.
In October, Razom organized an SMA event with the family of Dmytro Svichynskyi, whose son was diagnosed with SMA, at the Ukrainian Institute of America. During the event, we discussed the national campaign and how to launch a global initiative to include partners across many countries. The permanent representative of Ukraine to the UN Ambassador Serhiy Kyslytsya attended and gave a speech.
Together with “Dity, My Vstygnemo,” the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the UN, and the Permanent Missions of Honduras, Lithuania, and Georgia, Razom co-organized a UN virtual event titled “Awareness of SMA for Successful Application of Existing Solutions and Beyond” on October 28.
Razom co-hosted the second annual Ukrainian Contemporary Music Festival in New York City in March 2021. The aim of the festival, which is open to the public and held in English, is to showcase Ukraine’s complex and unique contributions to contemporary music through musical performances and discussions with music scholars, performers, and composers.
The 2021 festival was organized around a celebration of 30 years of Ukraine’s independence. The festival focused on living composers from different eras to showcase the wide breath of Ukrainian composition over the last 80 years.
The opening concert featured works written since 2000 highlighting Ukraine’s youngest generation of composers along with compositions by established Ukrainian composers Victoria Poleva and Oleh Bezborodko. The second day focused on the pivotal work of the Kyiv Avant-Garde, known as the Sixtiers or in Ukrainian shistdesyatnyky.
Peter Schmelz, of Arizona State University, Tempe, introduced the performance with a pre-concert talk about this period. The second day of the festival featured a panel discussion with music festival curators and scholars Liubov Morozova, from Ukraine, and Christopher H. Gibbs, from the U.S., discussing the challenges and rewards of bringing new repertoires to modern audiences. The final day highlighted Electroacoustic Voices with Ukraine’s foremost composer of electronic music, Alla Zahaykevych, introducing a concert featuring electroacoustic works by Ukrainian composers.
Razom provided organizational support and funds to put the festival together. Razom co-invested with the Ukrainian Institute in Ukraine on this festival.
At the end of 2021, Razom supported the first Ukrainian movie to ever be selected for the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the Sundance Film Festival. Writer and director Maryna Er Gorbach’s movie, “Klondike,” tells the story of a family living in the war zone in eastern Ukraine at the time that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) was shot down. Razom provided funds for the team’s travel to the U.S. to attend the festival. Due to the surge of the Covid-19 omicron variant in January, the Sundance Festival went all virtual. Razom reallocated the funds from travel to promoting the online work of the filmmakers.
The Razom Book Club is a group of engaged readers who read Ukrainian literature and works about Ukraine and support Ukrainian authors. In 2021, the club had an active year meeting monthly and sometimes even more. In 2021, the club read 13 books and was able to meet with the authors of five of those books including Volodymyr Rafeyenko, Vasyl Makhno, Artem Chapay, Olena Stiazhkina, and Oleksiy Nikitin. Club members loved Volodymyr Rafeyenko’s book “Mondegreen: Songs about Death and Love” so much that they partnered with The Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University (HURI) publications’ arm to raise money for the book’s translation into English. The book is forthcoming in the Harvard University Ukrainian Literary Series.
Razom volunteers spent time in 2021 planning and developing a program for a 2022 concert and event celebrating the renowned Ukrainian song “Shchedryk” also known as “Carol of the Bells” in English. The event will celebrate the 100-year anniversary of when a Ukrainian chorus first performed the song in New York’s famous Carnegie Hall. We collaborated with many Ukrainian and Ukrainian-American organizations to draft a program, submit an application to rent the iconic hall, and started to raise funds for this project. We plan to build on our relationship with the Ukrainian Institute – Kyiv and to work with American and Ukrainian organizations to showcase the little-known, but rich interconnections of Ukrainian and American music traditions. Stay tuned for updates on this project throughout 2022.
Razom navigated the hybrid environment of 2021 and still managed to hold several successful events in-person and online. Razom hostes a wide variety of events and 2021 included everything from a flash mob in Times Square to celebrate Ukraine’s Independence Day, to an event with one of Ukraine’s top chefs, Ievgen Klopotenko, in New York City. Other events included a pop-up with Ukrainian fashion designer Ira Lysa, a Toy Drive picnic, happy hour events to allow our members to meet, and a panel on Clubhouse with Nova Ukraine.
Razom helped to support events including an exhibit at the United Nations on “Chornobyl 35: Contemporary History of a Historical Disaster;” PEN America’s hosting of a delegation from Ukraine including Stanislav Aseyev (RFE/RL journalist and former Donbas hostage), Maria Tomak and Tetyana Katrychenko (Ukrainian Media Initiative for Human Rights – UMIHR), and Julia Savko (the daughter of a current Donbas hostage); New York City’s UA30 celebration; as well as Koliadky Reimagined.
Razom’s partnership with Vakhtang Kipiani’s Istorychna Pravda continued in 2021. Razom purchased and distributed copies of Mr. Kipiani’s book on Vasyl Stus to people that donated $40 and more to Istorychna Pravda. Since Mr. Kipiani is also an avid bird-watcher, we hosted a walking tour of Central Park so people could meet him, learn about New York wildlife and Ukrainian history, while observing Covid-19 appropriate outdoor protocols.
Thank you for volunteering your time, donating funds, making introductions, and supporting our efforts together.