WHIPPANY, N.J. – Assemblyman Christian Barranco on Friday presented a $1,000 check to Rev. Stepan Bilyk of St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church to help civilians in war-torn Ukraine. He was joined by Bernard T. Corrigan, president of IBEW Local 102.
The 101-year-old church serves more than 200 families and has been the center of Ukrainian-American culture in Morris County for decades. It made sense to reach out to Bilyk when news of war between Ukraine and Russia broke. Barranco approached his union about raising money, and the members of IBEW Local 102 stepped up.
“I’m a first generation Hispanic-American. I grew up hearing stories about oppressive communist regimes like Fidel Castro’s Cuba, where dissidents were jailed and the government controlled every aspect of life,” Barranco (R-Morris) said. “Today, Ukrainians are fighting a new form of authoritarianism with those same age-old consequences for freethinkers. Since our federal government has been slow to respond, freedom-loving Americans have done their part to ensure they fight in the face of expansionist Russia.”
Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 24 launched missile and artillery attacks against Ukraine, including Kyiv, its capital. The United Nations reports 1,119 civilian deaths and 1,790 injuries, including 99 children killed and 126 injured.
Fighting rages as peace talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations in Instanbul, Turkey, have stalled mostly over land disputes, including Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014.
Both the New Jersey Senate and Assembly on Feb. 28 passed a resolution (ACR115) condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and voicing support for its citizens and government.
“New Jersey is home to the fourth-largest Ukrainian population in the country. Ukrainian nationals throughout America and in their home country can count on New Jersey government, labor and businesses for humanitarian support during these hard times,” Barranco added.
Barranco says anyone who wants to contribute to Ukraine can do so at St. John’s Ukrainian American Cultural Center of New Jersey Humanitarian Relief for Ukraine.