Ukrainian students begin fundraising after Russian invasion


Jonah Elkowitz/The Daily Northwestern

Ukrainian students painted The Rock blue and yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag, on Monday and fundraised by The Arch.

Emma Rosenbaum, Assistant Campus Editor

McCormick sophomore Sonya Voloboi couldn’t focus in her class Thursday afternoon after Russia invaded Ukraine. She said she was in a state of panic, tearing up as her professor lectured about differential equations. 

After finding out some students were going to a protest at Chicago’s Ukrainian village, she left class early and hopped in an Uber with other students she didn’t know well. During the ride, they discussed holding a fundraising event the next day.

While tensions between Ukraine and Russia aren’t new, they escalated in December 2021 after Russia positioned troops on the Ukrainian border as early as November. Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday. 

Voloboi moved to the U.S. from Ukraine in 2010, but the majority of her family still lives there. Before last week, she said there was no centralized Ukrainian community on campus. Some Ukrainian students said they generally knew others, but did not have a formal organization nor gather informally. 

Since going to the Chicago protest with Weinberg sophomore Valeriia Rohoza and Weinberg freshman Inna Sokolenko, both Ukrainian international students, Voloboi said she’s barely seen anyone else. The three students, with the help of others, spent Thursday gathering supplies and making pins for their Friday event. 

Voloboi hasn’t looked at Canvas or engaged as much with her classes recently. She said it’s been great to be around other Ukrainians who have also “stopped their life.”

“Being around other people that are deeply impacted by the situation has just been a tremendous relief,” Voloboi said. “I don’t know how I would have gotten through the situation without having that community to fall back on.”

Students fundraised for the Ukrainian army in the Technological Institute on Friday for five hours, first selling pastries and candy, and then asking people to give what they could. Voloboi said many students came up to their table expressing sympathy and support. None of them expected so many students who aren’t directly affected to care so much about the conflict, she said.

The students received more than 200 Venmo donations and fundraised $3,156. They immediately donated the money to Come Back Alive, a Ukrainian nonprofit organization that helps the Ukrainian military fund defensive initiatives. 

“We didn’t expect that many students to support us,” Sokolenko said. “We were expecting like, $300. Instead we made $3,000, and we’re super grateful for that.”

After the Friday fundraising event, some students went to another protest in the Ukrainian village Sunday and had a meeting to plan fundraising events that night. They painted The Rock the colors of the Ukrainian flag and hosted another fundraising event Monday by The Arch. Their combined fundraising efforts have raised more than $7,000. The group has also expanded to include non-Ukrainian students.

The students will host another fundraising event Tuesday in Technological Institute from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and will plan for future events later this week. Sokolenko said the group hopes to create a formal club for Ukrainian students during Spring Quarter. Both Voloboi and Rohoza said having something to do has helped them deal with the stress about their home countries.

“It’s been really helpful to find ways I can support my country,” Rohoza said. “I feel like there are not a lot of things that I could do, but there are still things like fundraising, trying to educate people about what’s happening, trying to get more support, and going to protests.” 

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Twitter: @EmmaCRosenbaum

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