Courtesy photo: St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church

As the battle to deter a Russian invasion from Ukraine continues across the Atlantic, St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church in Riverhead is shipping roughly 300 pounds of donations a week from the local community to Ukraine, according to church pastor, Rev. Bohdan Hedz.

The church has updated the items being requested for donations to reflect the current needs of the Ukrainian people and refugees. Read the flier below for more information on what’s needed:

THANK-YOU-TO-ALL-WHO-HAVE-DONATED-AND-SUPPORTED-THE-HUMANITARIAN-EFFORT-IN-UKRAINE.docx-1

Local schools and businesses across eastern Long Island have made donations to the church’s humanitarian aid efforts. Other businesses have done separate fundraisers, including the Suffolk Theater, which raised $35,000 during a benefit concert, and local breweries Tradewinds Brewing Company and Twin Fork Beer Co..

“I’d like to say thank you, a big thanks to the whole community for standing with us and helping us out. This is phenomenal,” Hedz said. “From the get go — from the beginning of war — I mean the response was phenomenal.”

[See prior coverage: Local community rallies against war in Ukraine]

“We are grateful for the local people. We’ve had people as far as Florida responding to what they’ve read and seen on RiverheadLOCAL, and they wanted to help. So it’s been phenomenal and we are grateful. I mean it’s beyond words, beyond words, just pure gratitude,” Hedz said.

The invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops started in February and is now approaching its 100th day. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said today that Russia now occupied one–fifth of the country’s territory.

Hedz said the mostly Ukrainian parish of the church are still in dismay about the invasion. “The general sense of alarm and hurt and anger is still here. I think it’s gonna stay here with people, because, again, this war was fully unprovoked by Ukraine and the attack was not premeditated in any way shape or form,” he said.

“And of course people feel the injustice for people being destroyed and now we have reports [that] entire cities have been leveled. No regard for human life whatsoever,” Hedz said.

[See prior coverage: Riverhead’s Ukrainian-American community prays for peace as Ukraine tensions escalate]

“Where my wife is from, just yesterday, they were shelled and a rocket fell on the school,” Hedz said. “And Russians are claiming they’re only attacking military targets. So how is school a military target?”

The United Nations Human Rights Council ordered an investigation last month into possible war crimes from Russian troops during the invasion. Ukraine’s First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Emine Dzhaparova told the council Russian occupied areas “have experienced the most gruesome human rights violations on the European continent in decades,” according to Reuters.

Hedz said family members of parishoners at the church have been called to serve the country in the conflict. “They are going through a lot right now. We are trying to help out we’re trying to send some supplies to them directly to the units to help out any way we can,” Hedz said. They cannot send military armaments, but are sending clothing, medicine and other supplies to the troops. 

They are also collecting children’s items and sending them orphanages and refugee centers located in the western part of Ukraine, which have taken in refugees from eastern territories, where much of the fighting is taking place.

Although the war still rages  Hedz said “the feeling is there that we will win, because the truth is on our side,” Hedz said. 

“We are fighting for what is right, we are fighting for our home,” Hedz said. “Our people are defending their family, their home, their livelihood.”

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: [email protected]