On May 11th, the Ukrainian Catholic University Foundation and the Philadelphia Friends of UCU Committee, held their signature fundraiser “Perelaz” – a “Crossover” folk gala and charity event where guests were invited to don their most beloved Ukrainian embroidery (“vyshyvanky”) to support Ukraine and to celebrate the successes of the Ukrainian Catholic University. The folk gala was held on the beautiful grounds of St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. The gala featured several deeply moving musical performances, a gourmet buffet, a panel discussion by leading experts on Ukraine, and a lively series of auctions featuring contemporary artwork from Ukraine.

The event attracted over 200 guests, some traveling from as far away as Washington, DC, Long Island and Connecticut.

Guest speakers and Moderators gather at the Perelaz fundraiser in Philadelphia. Left to right: UCU Foundation CEO Annetta Hewko; Canadian syndicated columnist Diane Francis of the Atlantic Council Eurasia Center; U.S. Ambassador John Herbst; Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak, program co-MC Christine Brozyna and panel discussion moderator Melinda Haring, Senior Advisor to Razom for Ukraine.

Following an outdoor luncheon and concert on the beautiful grounds of the parish, His Excellency Metropolitan Borys Gudziak welcomed all the guests on behalf of the Archeparchy of Philadelphia. He thanked the many longtime supporters of the Ukrainian Catholic University, as well as many newcomers to the Perelaz event.

Melinda Haring, Senior Advisor at Razom for Ukraine, moderated a lively panel discussion with two of the most knowledgeable experts on the current situation in Ukraine: US Ambassador John Herbst and syndicated columnist Diane Francis.

Ambassador Herbst of the Atlantic Council offered his insights into the fallacies and misconceptions that often plague policymaking circles in Washington. He pointed out that experts have consistently underestimated Ukraine’s ability to resist Russian aggression. “There seems to be an irresistible urge on the part of some analysts to offer ill-conceived predictions about Ukraine’s future.”

Herbst stated that Ukrainians have fought so valiantly because they understand that they have a brutally simple choice: a choice between victory or subjugation. They have defied what he called “straight line analysis” on the part of “Chicken Little” analysts and prognosticators in Washington who have failed to take into account the force multipliers of Ukrainians’ extraordinary grit, creativity and determination.

“They have proven to the world once and for all that they are Ukrainians, – a truly great and distinct people, not ‘Little Russians’.”

Renowned Canadian journalist Diane Francis provided her perspective on the fundamental morality at the core of Ukraine’s struggle for freedom. She commented on Ukrainians’ spirit of self-sacrifice and solidarity.

She also echoed Ambassador Herbst’s observations that the West has continually underestimated Putin’s brutality and shameless imperialism: “Putin and his… security elites are not transactional but seek a new World Order, with Russia in control. Their playbook is a 1997 book written by a Rasputin-like character, Aleksandr Dugin called The Foundations of Geopolitics. It espouses “world rule for the Russians” and provides the road map to get there.”

In her summary of the panel discussion Melinda Haring reminded the audience that fundraising events like Perelaz are crucially important. “When donors are looking for the right place to give, I urge them to give to UCU. It is the Harvard of Ukraine. UCU is unique. There is no institution like it in Ukraine. Please give generously!”

And give generously the guests certainly did. Thanks to lively facilitation by UCU Foundation’s former President John Kurey, the Perelaz held a paddle auction that raised $50,000. Later, UCU’s Director of Development Andrii Kurochka and co-MC Christina Brozyna led a live auction of unique works of contemporary Ukrainian art, including icons, evocative oil paintings by renowned artists, vintage jewelry by Philadelphia’s own master craftswoman Olenka Labunka, and other treasures.

Thanks to generous sponsorships by patrons Askold Sandursky, Dr. Yuri Deychakiwsky, Leonard Mazur, Andrew and Christina Fylypovych the event raised over $137,000 for the University.

Perelaz Cosponsor Askold Sandursky with wife Svitlana and son Dmitro at the entrance to the Perelaz celebration.

The event concluded with a deeply moving performance by Ukrainian composer and vocalist Yury Yosifovych, a former singer with the legendary ensemble “Kurbasy”. Singing against the beautiful backdrop of the Ukrainian countryside and candid video montage of children, Yosifovych reminded the audience of the very treasures that Ukraine’s armed forces are fighting to protect and defend.

Metropolitan Borys Gudziak best summarized the value of the Perelaz gala:

“When Ukrainians stand before the gravest of challenges, it’s important for us to come together, to be together. Here, on these beautiful grounds of St. Michael’s parish, we can see wonderful fellowship – joyful interaction between friends speaking heart to heart. At a time like this, good people need to think of the future: of Ukraine’s reconstruction. We need to think about the young people that thanks to a sound education and a strong moral core can help us emerge from the past into the fulfillment of our dreams for the future.”