At the Holy Cross Ukrainian Catholic Church in the Queens borough of New York on a Sunday afternoon in late February, Ivan Rodichenko is delivering a presentation to a rapt audience before him. As images of war-torn eastern Ukraine appear on the projector screen behind him, it becomes clear he has not traveled all the way from Kiev to deliver a religious talk.
The real reason Rodichenko, an officer with a volunteer battalion fighting in the civil war, came to the U.S. is contained in a white envelope that is passed from table to table. One by one, the group of about 40 people write their names down on a piece of paper and then slip money into the envelope.
Departing this church basement in New York, the money will be turned into basic equipment for the cash-strapped Ukrainian volunteer battalions that are helping the regular army fight pro-Russian separatists. Almost everyone in the room is an immigrant who still calls Ukraine home and harbors strong feelings of nationalism.
“Without this help from people like them, the war is already lost,” said Rodichenko, 33, who is midway through a tour of the eastern U.S. to raise money for the 25th Territorial Defense Battalion of Kiev, a military unit that was mobilized in the wake of the eastern Ukraine conflict.