By Joshua Sotomayor-Einstein
Since Russian dictator Vladimir Putin launched his most recent invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022 (his first being in 2014), Jersey City Ukrainians and other residents have mobilized a massive fundraising effort supporting Ukraine’s battle for freedom and to help refugees. Ukrainian Americans in Jersey City — from residents to elected officials — come from all socioeconomic strata and practice a wide range of religions including Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. I had a discussion with two resident Ukrainian American leaders, Natalia Ioffee (Board of Education vice president) and Mariya Soroka (Razom Ukraine co-founder and board member), in late February.
Since that interview, both Putin’s war and the Ukraine aid efforts have ratcheted up exponentially. Here in Jersey City, a rally was held March 1 at the Katyn Memorial, the Downtown bar Pint a held a fundraiser for the Ukrainian military, the Waterfront Montessori Middle School collected humanitarian supplies, and the Ukrainian National Home (a community center located in the Heights) sponsored a fundraiser and gathered aid supplies. There is a deep well of support for Ukraine in New Jersey’s cultural capital. On March 11 the County Board of Commissioners passed a unanimous resolution supporting Ukraine.
With most Americans supporting Ukraine, a majority of New Jersey’s residents supporting aid to Ukraine, and the significant Ukrainian community, it’s no wonder Jersey City has been an epicenter of support for the Ukrainian freedom movement. But many questions remain.
Jersey City resident Boris Ioffee, a Ukrainian American of Jewish descent asked: “Where is Jersey City and the other towns in our county when it comes to freedom? Hoboken, a town with many fewer Ukrainians, passed a resolution advocating state and federal officials push for more aid to Ukraine as she fights for freedom. Why is our city council quiet? Where is their support for people living in cities and homes being shelled and rocketed for almost a month? We need everyone to speak up now, or their silence will be both deafening and defining.”
Oksana Condon, a Jersey City resident since 2013 and president of Ukrainian Jersey City, a cultural association, brought up the Ukrainian refugees coming to U.S. shores, stating, “There is no clear path to legal status. Ukrainian refugees do not want to be a drain on America and want to get to work, support their families, and send money back to support a free Ukraine so they can return as soon as Putin is defeated. We will never stop advocating for freedom. For every hospital, school, and home Putin bombs, we will increase our efforts to aide Ukraine that much more.”
Condon invites everyone to the “#Stand With Ukraine Charity Concert” on March 24 at 6 p.m. organized by the Jersey City Theater Center and Ukrainian Jersey City and featuring Ukrainian and Jersey City artists and poets.