‘Chicago Tonight’ in Your Neighborhood: O’Hare

The O’Hare community area sits just east of the namesake airport, running along Cumberland Avenue between Foster and Lawrence. It is an often forgotten residential and business corridor west of O’Hare, characterized by bungalows and home to Cook County Forest Preserve areas like Schiller Woods.

It abuts the municipalities of Harwood Heights and Norridge and is a crucial center for Ukrainian-American life, commerce and culture.

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The community is coming together to assist the war effort in Ukraine.

St. Joseph Ukrainian Catholic Church is a mecca for Ukrainian Catholics who travel from all over the region to attend service.

It has been a staple in the community for the past 60 years and is one of the more architecturally striking churches in the country, built in the eastern Christian tradition.

The church has held daily morning liturgies for family members and friends that are still back home.

As the Russian invasion shows no signs of abating, the Rev. Mykola Buryadnyk says the parish has arranged food and humanitarian drives, but also drives to send body armor to troops on the front lines.

He says he’s also needed to personally counsel members who are terrified, and often he says he runs out of words himself. But this week offers some comfort for Ukrainian Catholics with the start of the holiest season of the year — Lent — leading up to Easter.

Buryadnyk says that his parishioners are not alone and can take solace in the fact that in Catholic scripture, this was the time of the greatest suffering of Jesus Christ.

“There’s a crucifixion going on, there’s a lot of betrayal, a lot of loneliness. There’s a prayer that we can say, ‘Lord, why have you forsaken me?’” Buradnyk said. “At the same time, we know there has to be a resurrection, there has to be a new day. We’re waiting for that, for victory, for peace. This is the only thing we can pray right now.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, who represents a part of the O’Hare area and also chairs the congressional Ukrainian Caucus, says that although the Ukrainian defense is putting up a strong fight, it is facing a “mismatch on paper” against Russia.

“This was meant to be a massive all-country invasion on several fronts,” Quigley said. “They [Ukraine] have held off the Russians significantly. Unfortunately, there have been breakthroughs…the assistance has to be extended on the sanctions front. It is starting to have some effect on the Russian economy.”

Video: Watch our full interview with Mike Quigley

Meanwhile, the Illinois division of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America is currently preparing for refugees fleeing war in Ukraine.

“We have set up a refugee committee and have a coordinator who is responsible for taking names who are volunteering to have refugees stay with them in their homes temporarily,” said Pavlo Bandriwsky, vice president of UCCA-IL. “We are hoping and praying.”

Video: Watch our full interview with Pavlo Bandriwsky

The Biden administration announced Thursday that it is offering tens of thousands of Ukrainians living in the U.S. a temporary humanitarian protection from deportation.

Next door to St. Joseph is the Self Reliance Federal Credit Union – a lender that is a lifeline for Ukrainian Americans in good times and in bad.

It plays an important role because all mortgage officers speak Ukrainian, and they can help with mortgages and other loans for immigrants that might be shut out of traditional banking.

Walter Tun, senior manager, says they too have helped organize fundraising that has sent direct money back to Ukraine for war and humanitarian efforts.

“We’ve waived all wire transfer fees for any wire transfer to Ukraine,” Tun said. “We’ve made it easier for our members who choose to send money to help their relatives and humanitarian aid in Ukraine to do so.”

Employees at the Credit Union all have family in Ukraine – they are on edge as every other Ukrainian American is.

It’s not just the stories of a valiant defensive effort that make it back to them, but of bombarded cities and civilian deaths.

Tetyana Novikova, a mortgage officer, says she does not sleep. Her elderly infirm parents are in western Ukraine and cannot leave. She stays up all night monitoring the situation on the ground there for them.

“They are sick and cannot move anywhere without help,” Novikova said. “I’m always on the phone, always online. When we have the day, they have the night. Any news, I’m calling them. I wake them up because they’re sleeping.”

Ald. Nick Sposato (38th Ward) represents the area and says he believes Chicago should take in Ukrainian relatives and refugees but is skeptical that shelters have enough room.

Instead, he proposes the city assist families taking refugees into their homes.

“My answer would be asking Ukrainian families to take them in and then maybe we could compensate them,” Sposato said. “If Mary and John live here, speak the language and could take in a mom and two kids, let’s give cash assistance to people who want to help them.”

Community Reporting Series

“Chicago Tonight” is expanding its community reporting. We’re hitting the streets to speak with your neighbors, local businesses, agencies and leaders about COVID-19, the economy, racial justice, education and more. See where we’ve been and what we’ve learned by using the map below. Or select a community using the drop-down menu. Points in red represent our series COVID-19 Across Chicago; blue marks our series “Chicago Tonight” in Your Neighborhood.

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