Ukrainian-American credit unions continue to support their brethren under attack in Ukraine with every resource they can mobilize from such a great distance.
But for Andre Vygnanski and others, each day resonates with a mix of raw emotions that include anger, sadness, fear, and uncertainty, but little comfort despite their best efforts.
“Do you remember 9/11?” says Vygnanksi, CEO of $129 million asset Ukrainian Selfreliance Michigan Federal Credit Union, Clinton Township, Mich. “Do you remember the moment you saw the first tower go down? For us, every day is like that, over and over.”
Vygnanski says the attack on Ukraine “is surreal. Something that shouldn’t happen in 2022.”
Vygnanski is chair of the nominating committee at the Ukrainian-American Credit Union Association (UACUA). Ukrainian-American credit unions were organized after World War II to help refugees who emigrated to the U.S.
Today, the UACUA has 12 member credit unions with roughly 100,000 members and $4 billion in assets.
UACUA member credit unions have always been active in their communities, Vygnanski says.
“We work with legislators,” he says. “We’ve taken in refugees. We’ve assisted with English as a second language schools, Ukrainian Catholic schools, and what we call Saturday schools.”
Currently, the group’s focus is on medical aid. “Mainly it’s logistics,” he says. “Many local hospitals and medical centers have donated. The response has been incredible.”
Locally, he credits the Michigan Credit Union League for its assistance.
Those who want to donate to the cause can do so through the World Council of Credit Unions’ Ukrainian Credit Union Displacement Fund or the Ukrainian-American Crisis Response Committee.
“Other credit unions have started their own drives, collecting blankets, diapers, formula, canned goods, and clothes,” Vygnanski says, although not all donations are emergency items. “For a child who lost everything, a stuffed animal means a lot. It’s something they can hold on to when there’s nothing else.”
Vygnanski attended the 2022 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C., and came away impressed with how credit unions can connect for a common cause, unlike virtually any industry.
He believes that same spirit can be applied to this crisis.
“If you know someone who works in a medical facility or a hospital, please contact them,” Vygnanski says. “They may know someone who can help us access additional resources. That’s a huge help as well.”