The war in Ukraine hits home for many Selfreliance Federal Credit Union employees and members.
The Ukrainian founders of the $800 million asset credit union in Chicago were displaced by World War II. Now, the credit union is supporting Ukrainians displaced by the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, which started Feb. 24.
“Most of our employees have close family in Ukraine, so what is happening in Ukraine is very close to them,” says Selfreliance Federal President/CEO Vitaliy Kutnyy, who immigrated to the U.S. in 2002 and has worked at the credit union since October 2002, when he took a part-time role while attending Loyola University. “It is tough … our cities are being destroyed, innocent people are being killed, many people are displaced, kids lost parents … Because our staff are under huge stress, we put many credit union projects and business initiatives on hold at this time.
“Our members, the Ukrainian community, our business partners, other credit unions, and the general community are willing to help Ukraine win this war, and to help Ukrainians displaced by the war,” he continues. “We will do whatever we can to help.”
In order to provide support during the humanitarian crisis, the Selfreliance Foundation set up the Ukraine Relief Fund, which received $400,000 in donations as of March 23. The funds have been distributed to the Ukrainian Medical Association of North America (UMANA), the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee (UUARC), and Revived Soldiers Ukraine.
The UMANA Foundation will use the funds to purchase and pack medical supplies to ship to Ukraine. Revived Soldiers Ukraine, which welcomes the families of soldiers undergoing rehabilitation, will purchase generators and portable X-ray and imaging units to distribute to mobile clinics and hospitals in Ukraine. UUARC works with organizations like the Ukrainian Embassy to provide medical supplies to victims, as well as shelter and food to displaced individuals.
“We concentrate on helping equip the armed forces—regular and volunteer—with supplies, armor, other non-lethal equipment, and medical supplies,” Kutnyy says of how the Ukraine Relief Fund determines organizations to support. “We selected volunteer-based organizations to which we have previously made donations and on the basis of their past work, and also information on their current involvement in the war effort.”
Selfreliance Federal also eliminated wire transfer fees to Ukraine and Poland, and facilitates transfers to the Bank of Ukraine’s fund in support of Ukraine’s military.
Individuals can also support the effort by asking government representatives to provide additional assistance to Ukraine, participating in public demonstrations supporting Ukraine and opposing the war, and supporting initiatives like Chicago Chefs for Ukraine and benefit concerts, Kutnyy says.
The credit union plans to continue to raise funds and encourage others to support the effort. Selfreliance Federal is also doing its part by providing financial needs and welcoming new immigrants to the Chicago area.
“We are seeing an influx of displaced individuals arriving in Chicago and other areas that our credit union serves,” Kutnyy says, adding that 16 new students registered at St. Nicholas Cathedral School, the local Ukrainian parochial school. “These new immigrants will be welcomed into the credit union family. Our staff is bilingual, and new members will be able to take care of their finances in their native language.”
Visit selfreliance.com/supportukraine for more information on the Ukraine Relief Fund.
Read more about how credit unions are supporting Ukraine.