Oby Nicholas Sathi ‘20
On a busy New York City street last year, twin brothers Andrey and Daniel Mychajlyszyn ’19 were getting ready to perform a traditional dance for the annual Ukrainian festival held at Saint George Ukrainian Catholic Church. There, they noticed a man in a soldier’s uniform greeting a nearby crowd. He was missing a leg and clearly suffering from other gruesome injuries received in combat. The brothers went to go meet him and were profoundly impacted by their encounter. He was just 22 years old – a young man with his whole life ahead of him – yet his world had been turned upside down by the tragedies of war.
“[My brother and I] were truly inspired by this interaction; more than ever, we really understood the horrors of what’s going on in Ukraine,” reflected Andrey.
Andrey and Daniel have always been in touch with their roots; they often partake in traditions like this dance, as their Ukrainian culture plays a large role in their lives. Disheartened by the ongoing military crisis in their family’s homeland – a conflict which has caused the deaths of over 10,000 people and left approximately 21,000 wounded – Andrey and Daniel have grown increasingly worried about the impacts of the events which have taken place in Ukraine over the past four years.
“We have been heavily connected to our heritage from a very young age, and seeing what’s happening over there has been heartbreaking,” said Andrey. “I talked to Daniel after [the dance], and we became inspired to help these courageous soldiers like the one we had just met.”
“Our parents always tried to instill in us the value of helping others,” added Daniel.
To the twins, this was a perfect chance to reach out to those in need.
The Mychajlyszyn boys joined with nine other students from Catholic high schools in New York, such as Regis and Archbishop Stepinac, who had established an organization called Relief United. The group’s initial goal was to provide assistance to individuals affected by the Syrian refugee crisis.
Thanks to the twins, though, it has expanded to helping wounded Ukrainian veterans gain the medical, financial, and moral support they need to get through their tough times. The goal of these 11 driven teenagers remains the same: “to spread the mission of helping others,” according to an Instagram post
from the Mychajlyszyns.
Andrey and Daniel began their philanthropic work by helping three sponsored soldiers – Evgen Redka, Dimitri Kotov, and Sergei Bipan – all of whom risked their lives fighting in the Ukrainian conflict. Since each of these men required expensive medical operations to treat his injuries, Andrey and Daniel utilized various platforms to raise money to help fund these procedures.
The twins first published a GoFundMe page, which raised nearly $2,000 for Evgen and Dimitri. However, they knew that they needed to do more to help their friends in need. Their next idea was to team up with the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), a nonprofit group based in New York City. (Andrey and Daniel’s uncle is currently a representative on the Committee.) The UCCA seeks to empower Ukrainian-Americans, giving
them stronger voices within their local governments and communities.
Drawing upon their traditional Ukrainian roots, Andrey and Daniel decided to sell pierogies (Eastern European dumplings filled with either meat or potato) through the UCCA. The sale took place at St. Vladimir Parish Center in Uniondale, and it brought in another $500.
The brothers’ next project proved to be their most productive so far. They decided to host a benefit concert filled with singing, dancing, and art demonstration – all based on the Ukrainian culture. The event took place on October 29, 2017, also at St. Vladimir, and it proved to be a tremendous success.
Famous Ukrainian singers accepted invitations to perform, and the two brothers danced with their ensemble, Yunist. A work of art by well-known Ukrainian painter Oksana Tanasiv was even auctioned for $200.
Several veterans were present, making the event even more special for Andrey and Daniel. They personally thanked the former soldiers for their service with a touching speech in front of the audience which commemorated the soldiers’ sacrifice and devotion to their homeland. The speech also recognized the recent 75th anniversary of the formation of the Ukrainian Insurgent
Army that fought in World War II.
The event raised more than $7,000, bringing the twins’ total contribution to an impressive $9,600. This amount is enough to cover the majority of the costs for the aforementioned medical procedures, and some money will be put towards additional medical aid, as well.
“We are very humbled to be able to help these brave men who were fighting to protect [Ukraine]’s freedom,” explained Andrey.
Daniel echoed his brother’s sentiments, saying, “After helping people on such a large scale, we felt a real sense of accomplishment. Andrey and I look forward to organizing more projects and hosting similar events to this one in the future.”
To keep up with Andrey and Daniel in their continuing mission to serve, be sure to follow @reliefunited on Instagram.