Ukrainian American students share culture, spread awareness through club 

By Kaitlyn McCormick

People globally have likely been getting their  impressions of Ukraine from the news headlines that have been taking over newsstands and social media feeds across the world since Russia’s invasion last February; this year, Ukrainian American Rider students have spearheaded an initiative to educate and share their culture, introducing a new club to campus.

Sophomore accounting major Olena Mykhaylyshyn is the president of the Rider University Ukrainian Club (RUUC), and while the club was finalized last semester and welcomed new members in a general interest meeting and various events, its executive board is looking forward to planning many more cultural and social events for all students this upcoming semester. 

“You won’t find too many Ukrainian American students here, and if there are, then we want to find them and be like, ‘Oh, hey, there’s this club,’” Mykhaylyshyn said. 

She is joined by her siblings, global supply chain management majors Chrystyna Mykhaylyshyn and Taras Mykhaylyshyn, on the club’s executive board as social media manager and secretary respectively. The sophomore triplets and first generation students have already been involved in supporting their Ukrainian lineage on Rider’s campus, helping to plan a vigil for Ukraine last fall in the Kaplan Plaza. 

The rest of the executive board consists of senior biochemistry major Daniel Geller as vice president and senior environmental science major Ethan Melniczek as treasurer. 

Geller, a first generation Ukrainian American, has family from Kyiv, the country’s capital, though he explained they’ve since relocated to Germany due to the invasion. While Melniczek doesn’t know anyone in his family in Ukraine currently, his grandparents came from Ukraine. 

Psychology professor Chrystina Dolyniuk, the club’s faculty adviser, explained the important space that an organization like this provides to students with ties to Ukraine. 

“I am a Ukrainian American, so I can relate to these students personally, I think on a different level than perhaps other faculty can, particularly given the current events. … I think that it’s important to kind of be a support for them,” Dolyniuk said. 

The main goal of the club, according to Chrystyna Mykhaylyshyn, is expanding the knowledge of Ukrainian culture at Rider. She also made sure to highlight the use of the club’s social media, suggesting that anyone who wants to get involved find them at their Instagram handle, @ruukieclub. 

Geller said, “It’s really just awareness of what’s happening … so often in Western society, we’re sort of blind to what goes on in other parts [of the world].”

Dolyniuk explained the continued role of advocacy that she and her fellow Ukrainian Americans have taken on to educate those who may be unfamiliar: “It’s not just a social club. This club that has formed on campus is in many ways a club to advocate for an awareness of what it means to be Ukrainian, with an awareness of Ukraine’s history and culture.”

The club’s president stressed the importance of differentiating between Ukraine and other Eastern European countries. “They’re not all the same,” she said. “There’s differences even in the food and the traditions … even major differences like language.”

RUUC will hold its first meeting of the semester on Feb. 23 in the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, a day shy of the first year anniversary of Russia’s invasion last February, inviting students to partake in “Ukraine101: Where you will be able to learn more about Ukraine, its traditions, culture, and try some Ukrainian food,” according to an email sent out by Taras Mykhaylyshyn. 

In addition to this event, the club is discussing a potential egg dyeing event around Orthodox Easter to teach students more about Ukrainian tradition.

Melniczek expressed how important it is to “give people a bigger picture” of Ukraine. “History goes back further than 2022,” he said, mentioning that he wants to be able to give the entire backstory between Russia and Ukraine and the surrounding area. 

“We want people to be able to come and experience more, or just have a nice time and learn something new,” Olena Mykhaylyshyn said. 

Originally printed in the 2/15/23 issue.

Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button