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Ukrainian Village Catholic School Receives Outpouring Of Donations For Students Arriving From Ukraine, But Could Use More Help

The school is looking for donations of toys, shoes and other items. It's also raising money to cover tuition and counseling for students from Ukraine.

8th graders at St. Nicholas Cathedral School in Ukrainian Village, where they've been helping collect and organize an influx of donations for new students arriving from Ukraine
Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
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UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — St. Nicholas Cathedral School has been inundated with donations to help students arriving from Ukraine — but it could still use specific items and financial support.

The school issued a call for donations Monday, looking to help eight students who arrived from Ukraine last week. Since then, six additional students from Ukraine have enrolled, and administrators expect more to come.

St. Nicholas is the parish school for St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, long a community anchor in Ukrainian Village. About 80 percent of students at the school have Ukrainian heritage, with more than 20 percent being born in Ukraine, Principal Anna Cirilli said.

Families who have fled Ukraine during Russia’s invasion have enrolled their kids at the school, and they often need basic supplies, including toiletries and coats.

Block Club reported on the school’s donation drive, and the response from the community was overwhelming, administrators said.

Most of the donations are arriving via delivery, Assistant Principal Lisa Swytnyk said. The school received more than 100 boxes just on Wednesday.

Faculty and students have converted a teachers lounge into an impromptu warehouse to hold all the supplies. New students and their families can come by to pick up book bags, notebooks, sanitary products and other items.

Swytnyk said the school could still use shoes, clothing for uniforms and other items on this Amazon wishlist.

Another need: toys and stuffed animals, which have proven important for kids having trouble transitioning to their new home, Cirilli and Swytnyk said.

“Yesterday, a little girl was hysterical. We brought her up here, and there was one of these [toys] with glitter nails stuff. And then she grabbed one of those, she was fine, she was happy. Today, she came excited for her first day of school,” Swytnyk said.

Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
Toys and school supplies collected by St. Nicholas Cathedral School for new students arriving this month from Ukraine

Older students at St. Nicholas are also volunteering part of their school day to unpack the boxes and organize the donations.

Eighth-grade student Vlad Mamchur has many family members living in Ukraine, including an uncle who’s been drafted and is fighting on the front lines against Russia, he said.

“We’re just trying to help the people that are coming from there. A bunch of refugees are coming to America,” Mamchur said. “I think everyone should support at least a little, not just by looking at the news but being more involved. You can talk online about it, you can try connecting more people, helping people that are refugees coming from there.”

Eighth-grader Sophiya Kovalchuk came to Chicago from Ukraine four years ago. She said she’s shared her experience immigrating to the United States with the new students.

“We are organizing all the things for them so they can just take it, because I know it’s really stressful coming into a new country. You don’t know the language, and you don’t know where to go. I think this … will help them,” she said.

Kovalchuk is helping students from Ukraine practice their English, and said she’s praying for them as they make the transition to the United States.

Even if people aren’t able to support the donation drive, expressing support and solidarity with Ukraine goes a long way, Kovalchuk said.

“… It does do something, you know. We know that Ukraine is not alone,” she said.

St. Nicholas is also seeking financial assistance to help cover tuition, counseling and other services for its new students. Donations are being collected through the Big Shoulders Fund, a Chicago-based nonprofit that supports St. Nicholas and other Catholic schools.

Any questions about the fundraiser or donation drive can be sent to admin@stnickschicago.org.

Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
Winter coats collected by St. Nicholas Cathedral School for new students and families arriving from Ukraine

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