Featured Story

Suffolk Closeup: Suffolk supports Ukraine

“It’s murder,” said Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue).

“There’s no other way to look at it,” he said last week about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “To attack your neighbor and to kill them. Murder.”

In Suffolk, there’s been an outpouring of support for besieged Ukraine.                  

Days before in remarks at a “Rally for Support of Ukraine,” sponsored by St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church of Riverhead, Mr. Krupski stressed that Ukraine is an independent and democratic nation. He’s also been circulating a letter to fellow members of the Suffolk Legislature stating: “We stand with our allies and friends in the region who are doing everything possible to protect the Ukrainian people and their right to self-determination, many of whom are friends and relatives of residents here in Suffolk County. The Suffolk County Legislature also believes it is an imperative to deescalate the prospect of violence and war in the region for the safety and security of Ukraine and the rest of the global community.”

The rally was held on the grounds of Riverhead Town Hall and among the 100 there were Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, Suffolk Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac) and Deputy Suffolk County Executive John Kayman.

Mr. Krupski is a fourth generation Suffolk farmer whose family heritage stems from Poland, next door to Ukraine, and where more than a million Ukrainians have fled since Russia started bombing and shelling Ukraine. He noted to me that his aunt was married at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church.

County Executive Steve Bellone, Suffolk government’s top official, went, with his children, to Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Mission in West Islip to declare that he “whole-heartedly” backs Ukraine.

A parish of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, it subsequently said on its Facebook page of his visit: “We cannot thank you enough for your support for the Ukrainian community at this difficult time. Your compassion, generosity and words of support to us last night was something we will always remember.”

St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church and Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Mission are among the churches and other religious as well as secular institutions — along with many private citizens in Suffolk — sending donations to Ukraine.

On the St. John the Baptist list of needed items are “compression bandages, tourniquets, tactical first aid kits” and “military needs” including “sleeping bags, tactical knee and elbow pads, tactical gloves, tactical backpacks” and also “winter hats, socks, sweaters.”

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office last week announced it is sending 450 bulletproof vests to Ukraine. “We stand with the people of Ukraine and we want to offer our help any way that we can. I’m proud to announce that the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office is able to step up and provide materials that can help keep them safe,” said Suffolk Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. The Suffolk Police Department is sending 750 bulletproof vests.

Ms. Fleming, who represents Shelter Island said at the St. John the Baptist rally: “The Ukrainian leadership and the Ukrainian people must have the full support of allies across the globe. We must remain united in our resolve and decisive in our action — condemning Russia’s unwarranted aggression, imposing effective sanctions and providing necessary military aid.”

On March 27 there will be a benefit concert for Ukraine at the Suffolk Theatre in Riverhead with a variety of Long Island musicians.

The Ukraine situation is heartbreaking. The words of the many victims are chilling. The brutality of the Russian assault is packed with international war crimes. As I write this, news comes of Russia’s bombing of a maternity hospital. Russia’s insane shelling at two nuclear plant sites puts all of Europe in jeopardy.

There are more than a million people of Ukrainian ancestry in the U.S., according to the 2019 census. New York State has the most. The St. John the Baptist website under “Our History” notes: “Immigrants from Ukraine first began arriving on the East End of Long Island about a century ago … Arriving by steamship in New York, they were young, hoping to earn a decent living in America … Some found work on Long Island, on the potato and vegetable farms … These pioneers lived frugally, and within a generation many had farms of their own … Others became successful builders, businessmen, carpenters and masons, establishing themselves in Riverhead, Westhampton and Southampton.”

At this point, we don’t know how Putin’s catastrophic move will end. But as for now: murder is happening and is ongoing.