By Andrew Pawuk | April 1, 2022

It’s difficult to ignore the news of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  As a fourth generation Ukrainian-American, I feel great uncertainty watching the Russian army invade the birthplace of my ancestors. I am reminded of the world destruction of two world wars, of authoritarian communism, and of Stalin’s subjugation of Ukrainians, Holodomor, a forced famine in 1932-1933, resulting in the tragic death of at least 3.9 million Ukrainians. 

My great grandparents immigrated to the United States as teenagers at the onset of WWI and began a new life in our country.  During WWII, another family member left Ukraine with his pregnant wife in a horse-drawn wagon with a cow to sustain them and traveled hundreds of miles through mountains to Switzerland. There they lived in a refugee center, where their first son was born, and eventually secured passage to the United States.  Settling in northeast Ohio, they worked hard to rebuild their lives and our country during the postwar era.  I continue to be awed by the risk that they took to leave everything behind, their work ethic to begin a new life…their tenacity, their resilience.

I continue to be awed by the risk that they took to leave everything behind.

The current war in Ukraine is a stark reminder of the ongoing political conflict in Ethiopia that has brought suffering to the northern region of the country.  Like Ukraine during Holodomor, over 1 million Ethiopians starved to death in the 1980s. Due to the recent conflict, almost every Ethiopian with whom I speak has family, friends, or relatives who are cut off from communications and from seeing their loved ones. Since November 2020, ethnic Tigrayans, many of whom I know personally, have been inexplicably detained and jailed.  Fortunately, they were released weeks later. 

Russia’s war on Ukraine reminds me that, in both current events and throughout history, the vulnerable and marginalized are always the most impacted in our world picture. 
My hope is that you feel called to help those who need us.  Many worthy organizations serve the millions of refugees who are fortunate to escape atrocities like the events in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, Jesuit Refugee Service, Catholic Relief Services, and Caritas are a few of many nonprofits which can help you make a difference.
International Samaritan continues to support those living next to the garbage dump in Ethiopia by providing a monthly supply of food to our 246 scholars and families. My hope and prayer is that all of those on Earth who are under conflict, whether in places like Ukraine or Ethiopia, stand firm that their leaders and armies put down their weapons and become instruments of peace and reconciliation.

Andrew Pawuk

Vice President of Operations

Andrew has been with International Samaritan since 2007 and oversees its programs in five countries.  He graduated from St. John’s Jesuit High School and holds a Master’s degree in International Studies.  He attends St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor, is an avid bird watcher, and sings with Measure for Measure men’s chorus.