Professor Paul Gavrilyuk established a fundraising for teachers’ salaries, classroom, and medical supplies, as well as knee pads, camouflage gear, and tourniquets for troops in Ukraine, the country from which he emigrated 30 years ago as a graduate student.
Duluth News Tribune reported, that after he worked as a professor of philosophy and theology at the University of St. Thomas, he devoted his time at night to help his Ukraine compatriots.
He hopes to be assisting in the manufacture of flak jackets within a month. He's already started talks with an American boarding school in suburban Texas and a Chicago college about setting up student study-abroad opportunities once the war is over.
Donations have now surpassed $350,000, with more than $100,000 coming from his church, Holy Trinity Orthodox Church on Forest Street in St. Paul. Westminster Abbey, London's spiritual center for the Anglican church, donated its Easter collection to his new nonprofit, "Rebuild Ukraine."
Theology Professor's Efforts For Ukraine 'Phenomenal'
Father Jonathan Proctor of Holy Trinity, who called Gavrilyuk's efforts "phenomenal," emphasized Eastern European tradition in which the churches were "well-positioned to respond in a crisis." In Ukraine, religious institutions were known for "being a dependable way to get help to people in need without too much bureaucracy."
Gavrilyuk has managed another non-profit for many years, the International Orthodox Theological Association, which takes together the Eastern European Christian community for mega-conferences such as their inaugural conference in Romania in early 2019.
In 2023, he means to hold another mega-conference in Greece. He's been able to use many of the same connections, as well as others, to assist Ukrainian schoolchildren living as refugees in attending classes at two schools in Lithuania and Montenegro, while also giving desperately needed supplies to civilians who have taken up arms to defend their homeland.
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People Shift To Civilian Defense Network
As a result of the escalating war in Ukraine, ordinary residents were able to quickly transition into a civilian defense network.
Gavrilyuk noted that Russia did not anticipate "teachers, engineers, the unemployed, students, and others, joining primarily as volunteers or being drafted, undergoing a two-week to one-month training period and putting their lives in danger.
His fellow theology professor in Ukraine was previously stationed as a sniper in the Chernobyl area. He recently finished translating his friend's five-page written personal account regarding the ongoing attack.
He said that Ukraine refused to simply remain a victim. They desired to resist the completely unjustified aggression against Ukraine, noting that it was completely unprovoked.
As he couldn't fight physically, "As an academic, I've made my decision to fight against violence by peaceful means - creating a nonprofit that will endure beyond the war, and help rebuild Ukraine on a larger scale," he said.
So much more, knowing that his family was now living as refugees in Lithuania, along with thousands of other Ukrainians who have fled their traumatized homeland. They're in contact with many others who have stayed, including non-combatant wives who decline to escape Ukraine as long as their husbands fight for the civilian defense troops, a network of thousands of ordinary Ukrainians.
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