Two organizations have joined together and planned an event in Carnegie to celebrate the Ukrainian people’s resiliency and the many Western Pennsylvania helpers who support them on Saturday, Feb. 24, the second-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Leaders of DTCare, a Moon-based nonprofit organization that collects and transports humanitarian and medical supplies to Ukraine and other countries, and the Ukrainian Cultural and Humanitarian Institute, a Carnegie-based group that has been developing cultural and humanitarian relationships between the United States and Ukraine since 2002, said the indoor street-fair-style event will engage the community and increase support for Ukraine. They have invited organizations and individuals who continue to work to relieve suffering for Ukrainians, abroad and locally, Courtney Robson, DTCare program manager, said, and at the same time showcase Ukrainian culture.  

Plenty of information on that work will be available along with music, video, artwork and crafts, dancing, food and more from the 20 confirmed participants. “Bridges Across Borders,” a documentary by Tiahna Kovarik, a Leechburg resident and filmmaker, will premiere that day.  The Carnegie Borough Building is the location for the free event, which will run from 1 to 5 p.m.

A memorial service for those lost in the war will be held at 12:45 p.m. before the event begins, led by the Rev. John Charest, pastor of St. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and the Rev. Jason Charron, pastor of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Catholic Church, both in Carnegie.

A display of Ukrainian photographer Iryna Puhach’s depictions of the war will be available, and the “I Am Ukraine” videos compiled by Sharing Our Story will be shown, too. Kateryna Boiko, a Ukrainian singer who created one of the videos, will perform, and Nataliia Sahaidak will be sharing her poetry and a multimedia presentation. Children from Ridna Shkola Ukrainian School will sing several songs, too.

Robson and Kara Walsh, DTCare assistant program manager, reached out to its partners last month to get started on the event. Prominent among those collaborators was Stephen Haluszczak, president of the UCHI board. Time was short, but they agreed it was important to hold an event and to work together.  “We decided to plan a Pittsburgh event and bring the helpers together,” Walsh said. “UCHI has a lot of connections in the Ukrainian community, and we have our own connections. What we envision is a celebration of Ukrainian culture — art, dance, music, food.”

Robson said so many people reach out to DTCare to ask how they can help Ukrainians. She also realizes that the war has been pushed back in the current news media cycle, too. “We just want to celebrate the helpers who are continuing to work and keep it in the news but in a really positive way,” she said. “Everyone is really exhausted by the stories of the war. We want to celebrate the positive, the people who make the difference.”

Haluszczak said the issues around the war can be overwhelming. “You can’t fathom them.  People just shut off,” he said. “We’re highlighting the helpers so that you just don’t have to despair.”

The program will include displays of the aid provided to Ukrainians in country and those who have resettled in the Pittsburgh area and elsewhere in the United States.  The organizers envisioned a cultural program that will give attendees a historical perspective of Ukraine.

UCHI is a small group, and members of its board and volunteers, like its founder Haluszczak, immerse themselves in Ukrainian culture and community. All his grandparents came from Ukraine before World War I, he said, and he grew up in his church, St. Peter and Paul Church Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Carnegie. He learned to speak Ukrainian and performed in dance troupes. Haluszczak studied it at the University of Pittsburgh and wrote a book, “Ukrainians of Western Pennsylvania,“ for Arcadia publishing.

And UCHI raises money, too — the Humanitarian Aid for Ukraine and Ukrainian Resettlement Information Exchange are its key programs — and maintains Ukrainian history here through its archives and materials it donated to the Heinz History Center and the Carnegie Library Main Branch in Oakland. Haluszczak was instrumental in formalizing a Sister City relationship between Pittsburgh and Donetsk, Ukraine, in 2000.

UCHI has contributed more than $180,000 in humanitarian aid to Ukraine to date. That has helped International Orthodox Christian Charities provide two transport vehicles needed to evacuate stranded civilians from the Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions to safe accommodations, according to Haluszczak.  The donations also helped cover costs for Velox International Shipping to send urgently needed equipment to the Izium, Ukraine, fire department.

Both DTCare and the UCHI support art therapy programs in Ukraine, efforts that help people traumatized and displaced by the war, Haluszczak said. He talks to the director and the children who take part in an intensive program UCHI supports, the Warm Hands Art Therapy Camps, every month.

The director sends UCHI art the children create, and the organization sells it to provide additional money for the camps.  Some of that artwork will be available for purchase at the Carnegie event.

“Just amazing art is made by these children,” Haluszczak said. “They have lost their parents, lost everything they know. They have experienced this trauma and tragedy.  It’s been done with such a high level of care. They learn from master artists, and they also learn culinary and business skills. It’s like a childhood in microcosm.

“I am working every day of the week on this. It’s an energy boost like you wouldn’t believe.   People there still see America as this shining city on the hill.  This is our gift to give back. We’re here in a country that has not really known war. We live in peace, and unfortunately that this not the norm in the world. It just puts it in perspective.”

He said it is difficult to know how many Ukrainians have resettled in the region, and he has been told there are at least 1,000. “Some people doing this on a private basis.  Families have issued invitations [to refugees],” Haluszczak said. “We’re checking through aid organizations and the county. With our program with the refugees and our resettlement program, we don’t always get reports back on companies hiring or aid. And people are fearful, too, especially those with a Soviet background, people who have been spied upon.  People are a little fearful to speak.”

Tiahna Kovarik interviewed the pastors of two Ukrainian churches, one Orthodox and the other Catholic, for her documentary. (Courtesy of Tiahna Kovarik)

Kovarik’s documentary includes an interview with Haluszczak. She said she had no idea how large the Ukrainian community is in the Pittsburgh area.

She came up with the idea around Christmas last year, and although she was following the war closely, others were not. “I wanted to make something that would keep Ukraine in the media’s attention somewhat and highlight what people in Pittsburgh are doing and not asking for much recognition for it,” Kovarik said.

She also saw a performance last year by the Slovo.Theater Group, a group formed in Pittsburgh the August following the Russian invasion that includes five actors from Kharkiv, Ukraine, and playwright Audrey Rose Dégez. Kovarik included them in her documentary. The group travels to increase the visibility of Ukrainian culture in the U.S., according to ArtYard, a nonprofit performing arts center located in Frenchtown, New Jersey, that lists it among its artists.

The 24-year-old who works as a para-educator in the Deer Lakes School District and live broadcaster for Murrysville also interviewed Robson and DTCare President Marco Gruelle, Lesya Jurgovsky of Sunshine for Tomorrow, The Rev. John Charest of St. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Carnegie, and Catherine Skolnicki City of Asylum’s residency manager.

“Throughout all the interviews there is a great deal of community,” Kovarik said. “Everybody is trying to help one another, no matter what.  The Pittsburgh community, even being so far away from Ukraine, everyone cares so much who is doing this work. They are keeping it and doing something to help people over there.”

Kovarik has acted and worked on other films as an assistant director, an editor and a camera operator in the Pittsburgh area. Jasnoor Kaur is her co-producer, and she has received help from Stephen Seliy, a Pittsburgh-area filmmaker and photographer. Kovarik hopes to submit it for film festivals and competitions after the Carnegie event.

Right now she is finishing the editing and post production work on the film. The year-long project has meant a great deal to her, and the reception to and interest in her work has been gratifying.

The work also become more meaningful because Kovarik and her family have found out recently through Ancestry that she is 20% to 30% Ukrainian. They knew they had Polish and Slovak heritage, as well as some Italian, but because those countries were all one at some point, the distinction was not apparent.

She said her documentary has proved that many smaller efforts can add up and make an impact. “That is what the film shows — a lot of individuals and smaller organizations that were able to help a lot of people,” Kovarik said. “It’s very impressive.”

Children from Ridna Shkola, a Ukrainian school of Ukrainian studies in Pittsburgh, perform at the Ukrainian Cultural and Humanitarian Institute Celebration of Ukrainian Christmas Traditions held on Dec. 30, 2023, in Carnegie. They will sing several songs at the Feb. 23, 2024 event. (Ukrainian Cultural and Humanitarian Institute)

Helen is a copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but she's currently on strike. Contact her at

Helen Fallon

Helen is a copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but she's currently on strike. Contact her at