Graduate student’s connection to Ukraine raises money at Ray’s Place

Troy Pierson, Reporter

A Kent State alumna hosted a fundraiser at Ray’s Place April 6, 2022, to fund medical supplies for Ukrainian soldiers and citizens affected by the war in Ukraine.

 

Graduate student Lydia Lisowsky recently founded the KSU Ukraine Humanitarian Aid to generate local support for Ukraine in the Kent community. This was her organization’s first event, which generated close to $1,500 from the restaurant and donations. Twenty percent of the evening’s proceeds went towards the fundraiser.

 

“I wanted to bring this effort to Kent State because we have such a large student body,” said Lisowsky, a graduate student who is pursuing a master’s in higher education and student affairs. “And there’s so many students and staff members who want to help, but they’re not quite sure how to help, especially with right now because Ukraine is such a hot topic.”

 

Lisowsky said she wanted to create her own fundraising organization as a trustworthy source for community members to support, as the war has created opportunities for scammers to create fraudulent charities.

Organizers Lydia Lisowsky and Paul Jatsyshyn at the Ukrainian fundraiser on the second floor of Ray’s Place. (Troy Pierson)

 

Paul Jatsyshyn, a Kent State 2021 graduate and Lisowsky’s cousin, reached out to Ray’s Place and arranged the fundraiser. Jatsyshyn said he chose Ray’s Place for their first fundraising event because the locally-run business is a popular location for students and community members to visit and donate to the cause.

 

“If I didn’t believe in her [Lisowsky] and us, I wouldn’t have agreed to do this,” Jatsyshyn said. “I think she is a great person to lead this . . . and swing ideas off of each other and taking this to the next level is something we’re both capable of.”

 

While Lisowsky and Jatsyshyn are not from Ukraine, their family’s heritage experienced the hardships of war. Their grandparents were forced to flee Ukraine in World War II, and the resurgence of war in Europe has brought Lisowsky and her family to mobilize and support their community as much as possible. Lisowsky has family in Europe and knows a number of people in the Cleveland Ukrainian community who have moved to the U.S. in the last five years or so, which has made the current circumstances more personal.

Organizer Paul Jatsyshyn (standing) interacts with family members participating in the fundraiser. (Troy Pierson)

 

Lisowsky said she has found comfort in connecting with her Ukrainian community through packing medical kits at her church and hearing positive stories about Ukraine before the war started.

 

“There’s some things that’s definitely comforting to know that I personally am not staying awake through all hours of the night, hoping my family members survive the night because I know of so many people who are doing that,” Lisowsky said.

 

Lisowsky said the conversations she has with her American friends differ from those in her Ukrainian community.

 

“It’s really a time for healing for a lot of people. . . . While I can talk to my American friends about [the war],” she continued, “they recognize that it’s a horrible situation that’s happening. They don’t have that same connection as I would have. My family is from there. Ukrainian is my first language, and it’s just been a huge part of my life [for] my entire life.”

 

Lisowsky worked with Kent State to establish drop boxes around campus to donate medical supplies. She also created an Amazon Wish List for supporters to purchase supplies and a Venmo account for donations. All supplies and donations collected from Lisowsky’s fundraising will support the Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organization, an international nonprofit group that is fundraising and packing medical kits for the war in Ukraine.

 

Lisowsky and her family are members of Plast, and her father Danylo Lisowsky organized efforts with the Plast Cleveland branch to pack medical kits at the Pokrova Ukrainian Catholic Church in Parma. Lisowsky spoke of his daughter’s aspirations to spread the fundraising efforts to Kent by speaking with her graduate program and university officials to promote the organization.

 

Brothers from the Phi Delta Theta fraternity pose for a group photo at the Ukraine fundraiser. Jatsyshyn is an alumni of Phi Delta Theta and encouraged brothers to attend the event. (Troy Pierson)

“She actually took the initiative herself,” he said. “We did a packing event on Saturday (March 2, 2022) in Cleveland. We actually have a dedicated space there. We go there three days a week a couple hours at a time to go pack. And so after the first day she had in her mind, ‘I’m going to do this in Kent.’”

 

Lisowsky plans on organizing more events in Kent to support the humanitarian fundraising. More information can be found on the organization’s Instagram page @ksu_ukraine2022.

Troy Pierson is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected]