Jersey City Vigil for Refugees highlights need to help Ukrainians fleeing war


The Jersey City Vigil for Refugees highlighted the need to help Ukrainians fleeing their war-torn-country during an action by the Grove Street PATH Station yesterday.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

On a windy day, volunteers held a banner saying “refugees welcome” and handed out pamphlets to those passing by out of the PATH station and the farmer’s market.

Cantigas Choir, a women’s chorus from Hoboken and Jersey City, sang Ukrainian, Afghan, and Syrian songs to those who were passing by to raise awareness.

“The chorus has been singing with the refugee group since before the pandemic,” Cantigas Choir Treasurer Chris Rennie explained.

She noted people in the choir heard of the group and wanted to help.

Alan Kantz-Durand, who has volunteered with the Jersey City Vigil for Refugees since 2017, explained they want to raise money for medical supplies, food, and other necessary goods.

“We’ve compiled a list of folks who we’ve gone through to donate for humanitarian aid. Very few people have come from Ukraine as refugees so far because the process to gain refugee status and come here is a long process,” he said.

“It’s complicated because refugee is a technical term.”

He noted while anyone who is fleeing a crisis or a war is essentially a refugee,
there is a lot of paperwork involved in gaining official refugee status in the United States. Thus, many have arrived through other means.

For example, the Ukrainian community in Jersey City and elsewhere have been helping their relatives come to the United States as a way to flee the violence. People with American relatives are having an easier time coming to the United States.

Angered at Russian President Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine in February, the Ukrainian community in Hudson County has mobilized to protest his actions and gather support for those caught impacted by the war.

The Jersey City Vigil for Refugees has been working with them to raise money for a bus to get people out of danger zones in Ukraine. They also want to support an ambulance.

The group works with different refugee resettlement agencies active in Jersey City supporting refugees as they arrive and settle into a new life in the United States.

“A lot of people are concerned about the safety and livelihoods of people in Ukraine. We’re committed to promoting peace and the safety of people who are under attack,” said a volunteer.

An Afghan American named Zia Akbary, who has been involved with the refugee group, explained he has been in the United States since 1989.

“We are just supporting other refugees who come from all over the world. We came as refugees, and we’re very happy in America,” Akbary said.

“I believe there was other people supporting us when we were away and supported us getting here.”

He maintains strong connections there and runs nonprofits to teach increase education, and access to computers, noting education for women has become difficult again in Afghanistan under the Taliban’s regime.

“The economy is getting weaker there. People are desperate to leave the country. It’s getting worse day by day. People are trying to survive,” he added.

He explained it is especially hard for people who were connected to the pro-Western government that fell to the Taliban.

“There’s a lot of people who want to come here, but there’s no way for them to come here because there’s no American embassy,” he added.

The group regularly holds vigils on Thursday at the Grove Street PATH station to raise awareness to the cause.

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