By Raymond Janis
Last week, Long Island leaders and community members gathered in Huntington to announce the Long Island-Ukrainian Emergency Response Campaign, a fundraiser to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.
The rally was held outside the offices of Dr. David Buchin, director of bariatric surgery at Huntington Hospital, and Suffolk County Legislator Stephanie Bontempi (R-Centerport), deputy chair of the Health Committee, who both share a business address. Buchin, an immigrant from the former Soviet bloc country Uzbekistan, says donation drives like these will help ease the suffering of Ukrainians.
“The horrors in Ukraine, I mean we see them all,” Buchin said. “It breaks my heart as it does all of us. We have to do something to help them all. Hospitals are full, their supplies are low, so we created this Long Island-Ukrainian Emergency Response Campaign. We call on everyone to help, with anything that can help the people of Ukraine, such as blankets, sleeping bags, medical supplies and first aid. »
Representative Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) was on hand for the announcement. He applauded the selflessness of ordinary Americans doing their part to support Ukraine. He also pointed to the dangers of factionalism amid so much uncertainty overseas.
“Taking steps like this to give people the opportunity to contribute is a great way to feel like we’re doing something, but we all need to do more,” he said. “We have to stick together. We need to keep Democrats and Republicans together. We have to follow the old idea that partisanship stops at the water’s edge. We must all stand together as we are today.
Bontempi described growing up in Sweden, a country now threatened by war. She fears that the conflict will spill over into Swedish territory and asks for immediate support.
“My family, I talk to them every day, are very scared,” Bontempi said. “We must all be very, very concerned about what this crazy [Russian President Vladimir Putin] made. I urge everyone to please tell friends, neighbors [to] donate items. It has to happen now – not in a week, now. People need help right now.
City of Huntington officials welcomed this public expression of solidarity and humanitarian assistance for the people of Ukraine. Councilman Sal Ferro (right) said he believed Americans and Ukrainians were united in common purpose, likening the local initiative to the cause of the Ukrainian resistance.
“Every little gesture we make can make a difference,” he said. “We can show the human side, why we live in a free country, why we live in a democracy. That’s what they’re fighting for in Ukraine: to stay free.
Huntington City Clerk Andy Raia (right) spoke about his own Ukrainian roots. He said his loved ones chose to stay in Ukraine to support the war effort and encouraged Long Islanders to do the same.
“Now is the time to act,” Raia said. “It was really yesterday, but we need to do more to ensure that Europe remains stable, that democracies around the world can flourish. This is just a small sign of what we need to do to ensure that the fight continues in Ukraine.
For those looking to donate, the Long Island-Ukrainian Emergency Response Campaign is setting up depots across the island. Buchin’s and Bontempi’s offices, located at 224 Wall St in Huntington, collected items through the end of the day March 4, and donations were delivered to the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge.