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Philadelphians protest in support of Ukraine on Feb. 27, 2022, shortly after the Russian invasion. Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

Two years after its founding, Penn Ukrainian Student Association continues to host events to preserve and celebrate Ukrainian culture.  

Penn Ukrainians is a student organization that aims to preserve and promote Ukrainian culture, connect Ukrainian students on campus, and raise awareness about Ukraine, according to its leadership. The group revitalized in 2022 as a support system for students following Russia’s invasion on Ukraine.

“One of the central reasons we decided to continue with the club was to give a space for Ukrainian students on campus to keep connected to their identity and culture,” Co-President College sophomore Yaryna Uhera said.

College junior Daniel Trincher founded the club in Feb. 2022. It was the first formal Ukranian student association on Penn's campus.

“For a long time, Penn had Ukrainian clubs, but they weren’t very active,” Wharton junior and Penn Ukranians treasure Andrii Cheremysov said. “The beginning of the war galvanized the club to be more active, do more events, be more visible on campus.”

Following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, College junior Olga Loiek and Trincher served as co-presidents of the Club. Now, the club hosts various activities for students from Ukraine and those interested in Ukrainian culture or their cause, including cultural events, social events, and fundraisers.

“We have many events,” said Cheremysov. “We had a more relaxed social event where we [painted tote bags, and] the day before the anniversary of the invasion, we had a vigil in front of the Ben Franklin statue. We also collaborate with the broader Philadelphia community.”

For those in the club, being part of Penn Ukrainians has provided a source of community, particularly for the those forced to leave Ukraine following the invasion.

“In the past two years, Penn has accepted a lot more [students] from Ukraine,” College first year and Penn Ukranians’ secretary Mykhailo Sesin said. “It’s fostered the development of the club and the need for unity among those who come from Ukraine.” 

Sesin applied to Penn as a refugee in Belgium fleeing Ukraine after the invasion. He recalled that in Europe, surrounded by other Ukrainian refugees, it was “quite easy” to feel a sense of community, something he felt was lacking in the United States. until he joined Penn Ukrainians.

“Here in the U.S., I think it’s a bit harder to connect with Ukrainian people,” he said. “That’s why I wanted to join the club: To stay united with Ukrainians and be involved in activities that can help our country while we are here abroad.”

As club board members, Uhera, Cheremysov, and Sesin described the sense of “duty” around ensuring the club carries out its various goals. They say an ongoing effort for the club is securing recognition from the Student Activities Council, which helps support the state of student groups on campus.

“The more funding opportunities we have, the more opportunities for better events we have,” said Cheremysov. “I think our vision for this association is to organize great events that involve not only Ukrainians, but also the broader community.”

As the war persists, Penn Ukrainians continues to draw support for Ukraine.

“What we’re trying to do with the majority of our events is ask people to stand with Ukraine to help as much as they can,” Uhera said. “Even a small donation or small involvement is [makes] a big difference.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify that College junior Daniel Trincher founded the Ukranian Student Association in 2021 and the club was active during the 2021-2022 academic year.