UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — A Ukrainian Village Catholic school is appealing to the community for help supporting students who have fled Ukraine during the Russian invasion.
St. Nicholas Cathedral School, 2200 W. Rice. St., is holding a donation drive for school supplies, clothes and shoes, toiletries and toys for kids to play with at home to help students settle into their new school and city. The school also started an Amazon wishlist where people can buy specific items. New or gently used supplies can be dropped off at the school directly.
St. Nicholas is also raising money to cover tuition, tutoring and additional counseling and services for the new students. Donations are being collected through the Big Shoulders Fund, a Chicago-based nonprofit that supports St. Nicholas and other Catholic schools.
“Requests for support from St. Nicholas Cathedral and families are already coming in. Our hope is that this support will help families find peace, settle in, and make it through this extremely trying time,” according to the fundraising website.
About 80 percent of students at St. Nicholas have Ukrainian heritage, Principal Anna Cirilli said. More than 20 percent were born in Ukraine, she said.
St. Nicholas typically welcomes about two new families a year from Ukraine, Cirilli said. But in the past week, St. Nicholas has enrolled eight students who have left Ukraine since Feb. 24, and the school is preparing for more, Cirilli said.
St. Nicholas has about 160 students but could accept as many as 50 more if necessary, Cirilli said.
“All of our families have direct ties to Ukraine. The parents have sisters and brothers over there, and the parents had their own parents over there. So, yeah, we’re expecting students,” Cirilli said. “What we’re trying to navigate is, what’s our capacity?”
St. Nicholas is the parish school attached to St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, long a community anchor in Ukrainian Village. The church offers daily masses in Ukrainian.
Cirilli said the war has hit students very hard. St. Nicholas students have sent videos and artwork to Ukrainian soldiers. Last month, eighth-graders organized a candlelit vigil to pray for peace in Ukraine.
“I’ve told a lot of people, the morning drop-off on Thursday, [Feb.] 24th was the hardest moments of my life as a principal. …To see the anguish on so many people’s faces. They couldn’t even speak, and so our students were having a hard time with that, seeing their parents like that and also understanding this is impacting people that they know in Ukraine,” she said.
Any questions about the fundraiser or donation drive can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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