EASTON — War-torn Ukraine is a world away from Talbot County, but the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic school community has opened their hearts to those with loved ones in Ukraine.
Among them is native Ukrainian and realtor Nataliya Moskalyuk of Trappe whose friends asked how they could help. On March 3, she posted on her personal Facebook page an appeal for donations to help her family and friends — refugees and those who decided to stay in the country.
“And all of a sudden, my post went viral. I had over 120 shares,” Moskalyuk said. “It was shared everywhere. And all of a sudden, everybody started calling and texting me and bringing a lot of items.”
In fact, so many poured into her Coldwell-Banker Chesapeake real estate office and SS. Peter and Paul Elementary School, where her son Danilo is in sixth grade, that she is asking folks to hold off until she and St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Philadelphia can catch up.
Nataliya, her husband Ruslan, and Danilo, worship on holidays at the cathedral. The couple emigrated from western Ukraine almost 20 years ago.
The Moskalyuks loaded Ruslan’s work truck and trailer, with help from SSPP elementary students, and headed for Philadelphia with donations of first aid items, toiletries, baby care products, and even dog food on Tuesday, March 8, and Saturday, March 12. Poland paid the shipping costs to fly the donations there, Nataliya said. From Poland, the shipments head to Lviv, Nataliya’s hometown, to be distributed to other parts of the country.
A March 4 elementary school tag day raised more than $3,000 which was donated immediately to Catholic Relief Services to aid people in Ukraine. Instead of their uniforms, students wore blue and gold shirts designed by a third-grade mom.
“Then we started that Friday collecting items,” said SS. Peter and Paul Elementary School Principal Sherrie Connolly.
From March 4 to March 10, “we also collected a trailer load of items (that) were delivered to St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Philadelphia,” Connolly said. “They were very thankful to receive such a generous number of items” from students, staff members and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Easton.
The school sent a second truckload comprised mainly of medical supplies and cots on March 10. “We’re going to wait and collect again when they have space,” Connolly said.
Nataliya is concerned for family and friends in Ukraine, but especially for her brother and his young family who are staying in Ukraine.
“I talk to my brother all the time, and I think the saddest thing about this is just a lot of kids died,” Nataliya said. “I don’t know why they are bombing all these children’s hospitals. They (have) already destroyed 221 schools in Ukraine.”
“We have several families that are either from Ukraine or have family there,” Connolly said. “And so, I think that (the response) means a lot to them. The children are definitely very tender-hearted about it.”
Besides Danilo Moskalyuk, a first-grade student with dual Ukrainian and U.S. citizenship, fourth and sixth grade students whose aunt lives in Ukraine, a second-grade teacher with a lot of relatives in Ukraine, and a third grader whose mom is from Ukraine are all part of the school family. “So, we have a fair number considering we’re on the Eastern Shore,” Connolly said.
The school community prays often for their peers and the Ukrainian people, she said.
Nataliya said she is grateful for the school. “The school is just wonderful. From every single family to the principal to all the teachers and all the students I couldn’t barely keep a dry eye. It’s just how thankful I am for everything,” she said.
“I truly believe that seven years ago my husband and I made the best decision of our lives for our son to attend SSPP,” Nataliya wrote on her Facebook page. “SSPP is an amazing school, and I am glad my family is a part of it. On behalf of my family and the people in Ukraine, I would like to say thank you to every staff member, every student and their families. I love SSPP!”