Fund aims to give anxious Ukrainian students a sense of family

The Ukrainian Canadian Club of Kingston (UCCK), under the honorary patronage of the Mayor, has set up a fund to help Ukrainian students studying in Kingston, and they are counting on the region’s generosity of spirit for it to succeed.

Kingston City Hall illuminated in blue and yellow as part of the ‘Stand with Ukraine’ rally on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. Photo via the Ukrainian Canadian Club of Kingston.

“Imagine your child [living in a different country when your home country is attacked] and your child not knowing if you’re going to be okay,” said Nadia Luciuk, secretary-treasurer for the UCCK. “It’s something so horrible that most parents don’t even want to imagine.” This is the impetus for the newly established fund to support students from Ukraine currently studying at Queen’s University or St. Lawrence College: The Mayor’s Fund for Students from Ukraine.

After being contacted by St. Lawrence College for ideas about supporting international students from Ukraine, the UCCK executive met to discuss the situation. As Luciuk explained, they talked about how these 13 students had come to Kingston to get a good education and improve their own lives, with the intention of returning home to better Ukraine and help it develop as an independent and free country.

“So what do we do [in response]?” Luciuk asked. “Well, our parents were displaced persons from Ukraine after the last war, so when they ended up in Kingston, Kingstonians opened their arms and said, ‘How can we help?’”

Luciuk and her brother, Lubomyr Luciuk, the president of UCCK, were able to attend university and become professionals due to that generosity of spirit. She described how their father, who was a watchmaker and jeweller by trade, got a job at Brock Jewellers, and the owners helped him set up his first bank account.

“These parents in Ukraine sent their kids so that they would have that kind of future as well,” said Luciuk. “And now these kids are lost… they’re having difficulty reaching [their families], or it’s sporadic. They’re worried about their moms and their dads and their siblings, grandmothers… So they really need somebody to do the same thing [that was] done for the immigrants that came from Ukraine after the last war.”

Given that most of the students had planned to return home to Ukraine during their summer break, Luciuk said, many of them had only planned financially that far ahead. So the fund will help those in financial need to pay for accommodation, food, and everything else a displaced student might need.

“What we’re really asking Kingston to do is to dig into their pockets and give what they can. [We want to] wrap our arms around [these students], reassure them that things are going to be okay,” she explained.

This fund has the full endorsement of Mayor Paterson and the support of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Beth Israel Synagogue, Queen’s University, and St. Lawrence College.  

According to a release from UCCK, “There are a large number of humanitarian organizations helping Ukraine and her people for which we are truly grateful. Here in Kingston, we can help approximately 20 students from Ukraine directly and ensure that their future is guaranteed. This certainly would relieve some of the anxiety that these students are feeling right now. These Ukrainian students are now the victims of an unprovoked war in Ukraine. They do not know what the future holds for Ukraine but they do know that their parents sent them to study in Kingston so that they could better their lives and make a positive contribution to Ukraine when they return. We must help them to meet their goals.”

“This is a critical time for everyone in our community to stand with the people of Ukraine, who are now being forced to defend their land from the terrible aggression of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Canada has the world’s third-largest Ukrainian population, and here in Kingston we have a strong and vibrant local Ukrainian-Canadian community,” said Mayor Bryan Paterson.

“As we stand in solidarity with the nation of Ukraine, I’m so pleased to partner with the Ukrainian Canadian Club of Kingston in setting up a local community fund to assist these Ukrainian students. I’m asking Kingstonians across our community to contribute what they can, to help support students in our city who are facing uncertain and traumatic circumstances.”

Paterson also wants to tell local Ukrainian students and community members, “During this terrible time you are not alone. Kingstonians stand with you.”

The Mayor’s Fund for Students from Ukraine committee has already met with some of the students to assure them that they have the backing of a large community, said Luciuk, and donations are already pouring in from members of the club.

“I have to give a shout-out to the Kingston Community Credit Union: in less than 24 hours, they had our account up and running without a problem,” Luciuk said.

The funds are being managed by a committee that includes Nadia Luciuk, Ukrainian Canadian Club of Kingston Executive Member; Laura Caldwell, St. Lawrence College International Student Advisor; Katrina Korotky, Queen’s University Ukrainian Students’ Association president; Father Shawn Hughes, Rector of St. Mary’s Cathedral; and Leonard Harris, a Beth Israel Synagogue representative.

Due to the high and urgent needs of these students from Ukraine, the committee members will meet and review each request for financial assistance as they are received. Each student has been vetted and verified that they are from Ukraine, registered at either post-secondary institution, and have no family in Kingston and area to rely on. 

It is important that these students know they have a community that they can fall back on here in Canada, explained Luciuk, as some of the students feel like they should be at home, on the front lines of the fight. “They feel like they’re not doing enough, and yet, on the other hand, they’re saying, ‘I know [studying in Canada] is what I’m meant to be doing right now to help.’ It’s a different side of the battle.”

Yet, she added, they have the usual concerns over assignments and exams as well as paying for rent and food. The fund will mean they do not have to worry about making ends meet. As Luciuk put it, the goal is for these students to be able to say, ‘I will be okay because there is a community in Kingston.’

Donations (cheques or cash) are now being accepted at any branch of the Kingston Community Credit Union. Cheques should be made out to ‘The Mayor’s Fund for Students from Ukraine.’ E-transfers are also accepted: [email protected]

Additional information can be found on “The Mayor’s Fund for Students from Ukraine” Facebook page or by contacting Nadia Luciuk at 613-549-5060.

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