NYC’s Ukrainian community mobilizing on behalf of their countrymen

The city’s Ukrainian community is praying, protesting and politicking in anguished attempts to help their former countrymen, as the crisis in Kiev spins into a horrifying bloodbath, with the death toll there hitting 75 Thursday, according to Reuters.

The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, located in the East Village, announced a protest in front of the Consulate General of Ukraine, 240 W. 49th St., at 2 p.m. Sunday, with a march to the Russian Embassy.

“Everyone is extremely worried and concerned. Things seem to be escalating so fast — on a minute by minute basis,” said Elizabeth Szonyi Donovan, UCCA Assistant Director. Local Ukrainians, she said, are glued to coverage of Kiev on the news and via social media

Father Bernard Panczuk, pastor for the East Village’s St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church, where about “3,000 souls” worship, announced that he would hold a “requiem memorial service following the Sunday’s noon liturgy for those who have been killed in Maidan,” the city plaza where riot police have clashed violently with protestors.

His congregants, he said, “are looking for ways to help,” and trying to figure out how to get tetanus vaccines to the historic city, he said. Panczuk, clearly frustrated, had some choice words for the U.S. government: “It just doesn’t seem like our government is doing much,” helamented. “It’s so frustrating.”

At St. George, “we pray for peace and for justice to be restored, for the Ukrainians to be able to determine their fate without outside oppression. We pray for the killing to stop,” Panczuk said.

Markian Surmach, owner of Ukrainian store Surma, placed posters in the establishment advertising the Sunday protest. “There is great concern and momentum building, and a great consciousness of what’s happening,” Surmach said.

Lesya Yurchyshyn, a press officer for the United Nations who also works in the Ukrainian arts community, said she was unable to worry about the potential destruction of Kiev’s beautiful historic buildings. “Innocent people are dying!” and are the first priority, exclaimed Yurchyshyn, who has been following the events closely on social media and live-streamed video.

Yurchyshyn wants to see Yanukovych brought up on charges “for all his atrocities” in the Hague’s criminal court, among the objectives of Sunday’s demonstration.

The crisis in Kiev has united New York’s Eastern European immigrant communities, said Yurchyshyn. “The Polish people were the first to support the Ukrainians, but others have helped too — Georgians and Lithuanians and people from Belarus,” all of whom empathize with people seeking freedom from Russian oppression, she said.

But, Russian immigrants to the city “are supporting us,” too Yurchyshyn said, adding, “They can speak freely here.”