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Father Jerry says Sault Ste. Marie stepping up for Ukraine

Well-known former Sault clergyman says he's raised $22,000 for Ukrainian refugees in Poland. Sault residents dropping off cheques at his former parish have played a large role in delivering humanitarian aid
20211010-Jerry Lazoryk St. Mary's Ukrainian Catholic Church-DT
Rev. Jerry Lazoryk says Sault Ste. Marie residents played a large role in raising approximately $22,000 to assist Ukrainian refugees in Poland. Darren Taylor/SooToday

Rev. Jaroslaw Lazoryk says he’s grateful for the support of his former parishioners at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church and community members in Sault Ste. Marie as he filters cash donations to Ukraine as part of his ongoing humanitarian efforts.  

The clergyman known as ‘father Jerry’ says those efforts began when he asked his immediate family in Poland to take in a pair of mothers with infant children fleeing Ukraine.

Although Lazoryk was transferred to a parish in St. Catharines last year, donations from residents of Sault Ste. Marie rolled in to help the mothers and children living with his family near the Poland-Ukraine border. 

Approximately $22,000 in donations have been raised to date, with much of it delivered to St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Lazoryk’s name.  

“I was basically supporting them with the funds, and then mysteriously the parish in Sault Ste. Marie — I served there for 24-and-a-half years — had found out that we have refugees in our home, and they somehow started supporting that program too,” said Lazoryk, speaking with SooToday while visiting Sault Ste. Marie earlier this week. “We’re talking about purchases of pretty much anything and everything that mothers and children do need. We had to purchase a washing machine and a whole bunch of little things that the little kids need.”

Lazoryk says the mothers and infant children arrived at his family’s home in Poland with next to nothing. 

“They have no money. They just left,” he said. “That’s why the people who support me here, I’m forever grateful because it changes the lives of those women and those babies.”

After the needs of those families were met, there was still money left over. It was then that Lazoryk decided to extend humanitarian aid to other Ukrainian families seeking refuge in Poland. 

“We have a quite impressive Ukrainian Catholic presence in churches in Poland, so I started to reach out to priests who are friends of mine who have in their cities extremely large amount of refugees,” he said.

Donations to Lazoryk usually appear at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in the form of a cheque with his name on it.

After the church sends him the donations, Lazoryk will have a conversation with his colleagues and family in Poland to find out what’s needed and how much it will cost. He then wires them the money. 

“It’s very, very simple because it’s used immediately, and the end result, I see it because they send me invoices and pictures,” he said.

The clergyman says his next goal is to send an ambulance full of medical supplies from Poland to Ukraine, which carries an estimated cost of about $12,000 in Canadian currency. 

“There’s always need. There's a neverending need to take care of the wounded. The barbarism of the army from Russia is beyond any comprehension, so there is a need for anything medical,” Lazoryk said. 

That barbarism, Lazoryk says, has led to other parishes fundraising just to bury the dead. 

“Unfortunately, some other parishes were forced to fundraise to purchase trucks with freezers so the deceased are brought back to their own families for burial,” he said. “Many parishes in Poland, they fundraise to get body bags.”

Lazoryk says he lived a good life in Sault Ste. Marie, making a number of connections with its residents while leading the congregation at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church. 

“The Sault has been my home for almost 25 years and I have deep roots here. I’ve been very active in the community, and I’m so grateful and overwhelmed by the support I’m receiving,” he said.