Greenpoint neighbors raise more than $20k for Ukrainian refugees arriving in Poland

People fleeing from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Kroscienko
Greenpointers have raised more than $22,000 to support Ukrainian refugees arriving in Poland.
REUTERS/Hannah McKay

In just a few weeks, a fundraiser spearheaded by Greenpoint residents has raised more than $20,000 for Ukrainian refugees arriving in Poland.

When the invasion began late last month, New York City’s focus turned largely toward the Ukrainian enclaves in the city, in Manhattan’s Ukrainian Village and Brighton Beach’s Little Odessa — but the news was hitting just as hard in heavily-Polish Greenpoint, especially once millions of Ukrainian refugees fleeing their homes found safety in Poland.

Jennifer Cooper, a longtime resident of Greenpoint, spoke with her friends and neighbors as the war unfolded on television screens and newspapers, and as firsthand accounts from friends and family on the ground in Poland started coming in.

They decided to do something, and joined forces with the Greenpoint-based Polish and Slavic Federal Credit Union to launch an online fundraiser for Caritas, a nonprofit providing direct aid for Ukrainians crossing the border.

“They mobilize volunteers, they really do provide frontline relief to those who are entering the country at the border,” Cooper said. “Meals, money, directions, a place to stay. All of the things that they need in an emergency situation.”

ukraine protest
New Yorkers rally in support of Ukraine following Russia’s invasion late last month. Residents of the heavily-Polish Greenpoint neighborhood have raised more than $22,000 to support millions of Ukrainian refugees arriving in Poland. File photo by Dean Moses

A longtime employee of the United Nations, Cooper is familiar with Caritas’s work and knew the money raised would be well used.

The GoFundMe went live on March 4. By March 7, more than $5,000 had been donated. On March 9, that number had doubled, and, just two weeks later, 156 donors have contributed more than $22,000 to support Ukrainian refugees.

“Most of the contributions have been generated through word of mouth, I have to say, and direct outreach,” she said. “And a number of local businesses have contributed as well.”

Working with the credit union spares the group having to collect the money in one of their personal bank accounts, and, even better, the company has agreed to waive all the international transfer fees, so not one cent is wasted.

“The credit union has a long history in the neighborhood of supporting people arriving from Poland,” Cooper said. “Who, when they came here back in the 70s, they couldn’t get credit. [PSFCU] was able to give credit to people who were arriving to buy houses. So they’re a really important part of the building of this neighborhood and its identity.”

According to the UN, more than 3 million people have left Ukraine since February, with more than 1.8 million crossing the border to Poland. Many are staying with friends and family, but thousands more are seeking aid and shelter, especially in the country’s large cities.

ukraine refugees
Brooklynites have turned out in force to support Ukrainians in the borough’s Ukrainian enclaves, and now Greenpointers have raised more than $22,000 to support Ukrainian refugees fleeing to Poland. File photo by Caroline Ourso

Nonprofits like Caritas are providing food, shelter, medical care, and guidance, and Cooper said many of her Polish friends and neighbors are sending money right to their family members on the ground.

“What I really hope is that people who are not necessarily old-school, so to speak, from the neighborhood, will also continue to care about this,” Cooper said. “And I hope we started the conversation. The new people moving in have an appreciation for the cultural heritage of this neighborhood and take some responsibility to help out in a situation of dire need. I’m optimistic on that.”

She’s also hopeful that people will stay engaged with the conflict and the needs of Ukrainian refugees as the war draws on, as the demand for resources is probably only going to grow as time passes. The fundraiser has no end date or fundraising cap — it will stay open as long as it needs to.

Two of Cooper’s neighbors are getting ready to take a trip to Poland in the coming weeks, she said. They’re feeling nervous, but also like it’s an important thing to do.

“We’re trying to do whatever we can,” she said. “We tried to make it easy for people who had the question ‘What can I do to make a difference?’ We just tried to set something up so people could have an easy solution to contribute cash, which is really the most needed thing, in an easy way.”

Contribute to the GoFundMe for Caritas PL here.