WOMEN CHANGING WISCONSIN: Wisconsin Ukrainians shares culture, saves lives
GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Olga Halaburda Hietpas said her childhood was typical of a first-generation Ukrainian-American.
Her parents joined the wave of immigrants who built self-sustaining communities in the East and Midwest, in search of industrial jobs. Within those communities, church was often an integral part of life and love.
“Both of my parents grew up in the Carpathian Mountain region,” Hietpas said. “And so they actually emigrated to the U.S. separately—did not know each other there—and met in the U.S. in the Detroit area through the Ukrainian church.”
Hietpas grew up in Detroit, fully immersed in an immigrant community with its own businesses and cultural centers.
She and other children attended Ukrainian school to retain their culture while in Detroit. She didn’t know many non-Ukrainians, but she knew they existed.
“And you can go into neighborhoods and you can be like ‘Ukrainian, Ukrainian, not a Ukrainian, Ukrainian, Ukrainian...”
In 2014, Olga and several other moms started the Ukrainian Cultural School of Green Bay where they passed down the love and understanding of the culture to their children and others in the community. The group took inspiration from Ukrainian tradition and a childhood hero.
“Vera Andrishiv—she was my Ukrainian teacher... so that was a lot of good memories, and truly inspired me to know more about Ukrainian history and to feel more connected to Ukraine’s history.”
The other women who inspired Hietpas and kept her connected to her history were her mother and aunt who lives in Florida.
The sisters were two of 10 siblings who made sure the extended family always remained in close contact between the states, Ukraine and the rest of the world.
“My cousin was just telling me this morning that it’s getting harder and harder in the West,” Hietpas mentioned. ”Western Ukrainians are taking in these Eastern Ukrainians who have suffered and those from the other areas, and they’re really suffering and have a lot of trauma.”
Hietpas has many cousins back in Ukraine, including a priest and nun who work tirelessly to help their communities.
Local efforts have provided toys, food and medical supplies to Ukrainian survivors and defenders.
“So when you walk into a room, someone says ‘Slava Ukraini’ and everybody responds ‘Heroyam Slava!’ And what that means is ‘Glory to Ukraine.’ Then they respond ‘Glory to the Heroes.’”
Wisconsin Ukrainians raised over $100,000 so far in supplies.
Hietpas said monetary donations are the most effective way to help, because right now cargo can take several weeks to reach Ukraine. Many needed items can be bought overseas.
To donate, visit https://donorbox.org/wisconsin-ukrainians.
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