UWL student from Ukraine launches fundraiser amid conflict with Russia

Jamie Schoen (left) and Dan Fedorenko (right)
Jamie Schoen (left) and Dan Fedorenko (right)(UWL)
Published: Mar. 31, 2022 at 9:24 AM CDT
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (KTTC) – To a current University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (UWL) student, the war between Ukraine and Russia is much more than a distant news story.

Dan Fedorenko grew up in Kharkiv, a city of 1.4 million people about 25 miles from the Russian border. He spent his first 16 years there. He and his immediate family moved to the Netherlands when he was 16, then moved to the United States a year later.

According to UWL, many of Fedorenko’s friends and family still live in Ukraine. Initially, when he heard about the Russian attacks he wanted to drop everything and fly there to help. His family in the United States advised him against it.

“The first four or five days, I couldn’t sleep for more than a few hours each night,” says Fedorenko, a junior at UWL majoring in computer science. Since the war broke out, he starts each morning by checking the news and contacting his loved ones, to see if they’re still alive. “Knowing what’s happening and who’s still over there, feeling like there’s nothing I can do … it’s been really hard.”

So, Fedorenko thought of a way to help Ukraine from here.

With help from classmates, faculty, and the Archaeology & Anthropology Club at UWL, he is launching a fundraiser supporting those affected by the conflict.

The group will be selling buttons on the UWL campus with student-made artwork. They will be there the week of April 4-8 in the university’s Student Union. Proceeds will benefit Razom, a nonprofit organization supporting the people of Ukraine.

“People need to know that war is not as glorious as it’s shown on TV,” Fedorenko says. “People are suffering, and how can you be OK with that? They need our help.”

To Fedorenko, the possibility of war with Russia never seemed real until it happened. But, he remembers growing up in Ukraine with Russia posing a constant threat to his home.

While some of Fedorenko’s loved ones have escaped to Poland, others remain in Ukraine.

“Being friends with Dan really pulled me into it, to the point where Ukraine almost feels like my second home,” notes Jamie Schoen, a junior at UWL. “When you’re exposed to someone who has lived there and had those experiences, it really puts you in that person’s shoes.”

UWL says Fedorenko hopes Ukrainian allies will pass stricter sanctions on Russia, and that the Russian people will come together and overthrow their government.

“Ukraine has a history of being attacked by so many different people over the years, and we always come back. I know my people will never surrender,” he says. “But as much as I want Ukraine to win, I know it will come at the cost of normal people having to do dangerous and heroic things.”

Each button will be sold for $5. The schedule for the button sale is as follows:

April 4-6, 2p.m. to 6p.m.

April 7, 12p.m. to 4p.m.

April 8, 8:30a.m. to 10:30a.m.

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