On a beautiful fall day in New York City, nearly 240 guests gathered to attend the 19th annual benefit luncheon in support of Ukrainian Catholic University. Held at The Yale Club on Sunday, November 6th, this successful event raised $350,000 to benefit the university, with special attention this year for the funding of scholarships.

Organized by the volunteers of the New York Friends of UCU committee, the event began with an opening prayer led by His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York. Cardinal Dolan, after beginning the event, shared moving recollections of his experience visiting the campus of UCU in early May 2022. “Thank you, thank you so much to the Ukrainian Catholic University, that instills those, and sustains those, and furthers those – this is what it’s all about…and this is why the people are so strong…because of the very virtue of values that this magnificent university inspires.”

Archbishop Borys Gudziak meets with keynote speakers and diplomats: Left to right: Ukraine’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsia, Ambassador William Taylor, Professor Timothy Snyder and Archbishop Borys

Professor Timothy Snyder of Yale University offered a riveting keynote address as he spoke about Russian’s brutal war against Ukraine, which he calls genocide. The renowned expert on Ukrainian history also noted that civil society organizations have played a particularly important role in post-Soviet Ukraine and are proving to be a source of great strength for Ukraine in wartime.  “The Ukraine that we can see today – the Ukraine that is resisting this horrible genocidal invasion is a Ukraine of civil society.  And for me, one of the most beautiful examples of civil society in Ukraine is the one we are all here to support – the Ukrainian Catholic University.”

Snyder offered many profound insights into Russia’s campaign of genocide and the heroic response of the Ukrainian people, and UCU students in particular.  He reflected on the guiding principles upon which UCU was founded. “There is the idea of the person, of personhood, which I think is essential to UCU, to the kinds of Catholic ethical teachings that are associated with UCU, and the notion that a person has inherent dignity.”  Snyder went on to say, “That a person is not just part of the larger forces – that we are not just in this physical universe… but in fact there is a certain kind of dignity within us which means that… we can assert freedom and take responsibility.”

Snyder highlighted Ukrainian Catholic University as a prime example of this leadership and strength. Emphasizing his support for UCU, several times he referenced the role that UCU and its graduates continue to play in shaping Ukraine as a nation and urged guests to support the university.

Among the group of visionaries who established UCU is Professor Jeffrey Wills who gave an in-depth presentation of the commitment of UCU students and faculty to alleviate the pain and destruction caused by Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Members of the UCU community, men and women, have joined the armed services of Ukraine and have gone to the front to fight. UCU has provided refuge for families fleeing areas of invasion, continues to organize food assistance and medical aid, manages shipments of electronic equipment, all the while continuing with classes. Leading this complex multi-front effort of service and education, stated Wills, is UCU’s rector Rev. Dr. Bohdan Prach.

In his remarks, Ambassador William B. Taylor highlighted the important role UCU has played in building the civil society of Ukraine. Ambassador Taylor, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, reassured the audience that strong bipartisan U.S. support for Ukraine would continue:  “I’m absolutely convinced of it,” said Taylor, “because the vast majority of the American people have seen the valor, the courage, the success of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.  Of course, Western military and humanitarian aid and weaponry have been extremely helpful.  But the real reason why Ukraine is winning on the battlefield is because of Ukrainian courage and Ukrainian bravery.  We see this courage and valor in the graduates and faculty of UCU.”

Also attending the event were Ambassador Serhiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, a guest of the New York Friends of UCU committee, as well as Archbishop Gabrielle Caccia, Vatican Representative to the United Nations, a guest of Archbishop Borys Gudziak.

Archbishop Borys, Metropolitan for the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States is also one of the founders of UCU and currently the president of the university. He shared his inspiring message as the final speaker, focusing on one vital aspect of Ukrainian Catholic University’s mission – the two M’s – serving the martyred and the marginalized. He spoke about UCU’s integration of individuals with intellectual and physical challenges into the heart of university life.  Archbishop Borys also thanked the multi-generational donors and friends of the university, as well as the many first time guests in attendance.  During his remarks,  Archbishop Borys turned his attention to veteran Roman Horodynskyi, brought to the United States from Ukraine for special surgery, and expressed gratitude for his bravery. As is the tradition in Ukraine when a veteran is acknowledged, all guests rose and gave Mr. Horodynskyi a resounding round of applause to thank him for his service.

Mistress of Ceremonies Vira Slywotzky

This same resiliency and passion was felt all throughout the entire program.  Mistress of Ceremonies, operatic soprano Vira Slywotzky, sang a moving excerpt from a Ukrainian operetta and accompanying pianist Pavlo Gintov played an excerpt from a recently discovered early 20th century Ukrainian composer who was exiled from the USSR.  Among the beautiful selections performed by Mr. Gintov and soprano Vira Slywotzky was a beautiful elegy by the little known Ukrainian composer Serhiy Bortkiewicz.  Mr. Gintov told the audience that Bortkiewicz was just one of many Ukrainian musicians who had been repressed or forced into exile as part of Russia’s centuries-long campaign of cultural genocide against Ukraine.  Ukrainians now strive to revive these works and introduce them to international scholars and audiences.

The November 6 luncheon completes a series of sold-out fundraising events in 2022 held throughout the United States organized by Ukrainian Catholic University Foundation and regional volunteer committees. In addition to the luncheon in New York, the Perelaz Folk Ball was held in Chicago, an event at which more than $240,000 was raised, as well as an event in San Francisco at which more than $93,000 was raised and featured the renowned Stanford University professor and political philosopher Francis Fukuyama.

A sincere thank you to all of our Event Sponsors including Diamond Sponsors Helena and Leonard Mazur ($100,000), Self Reliance (NY) Federal Credit Union ($30,000), The Klufas Family and Open MRI of New England, Inc. ($25,000), Tetyana Pilyukova Tisch and David G. Tisch ($25,000); Benefactors SUMA Federal Credit Union ($15,000), Roma and George Temnycky ($12,600); Gold Sponsors Maria and Bohdan Chaban ($10,000), NOVA UA Federal Credit Union ($5,500); Bronze Sponsors NOVA UA Federal Credit Union ($3,500), Trillion ($3,500); Patron Sponsor Meest ($1,500).