(La Porte, IN) - A LaPorte County Police officer and his wife are involved in a church fundraising effort to help Ukrainian refugees where they grew up in Poland. Bethany Lutheran Church in LaPorte is raising the money and matching every dollar contributed to the cause.
Slawek Czupryna, a 19-year veteran of the sheriff's office, said his wife, Agnieszka, is making the connections in their homeland for getting the money into the right hands.
The funds will go to a refugee shelter being created in a vacant building that used to be the elementary school Mrs. Czupryna attended in Podlipie. Podlipie, which has about 1,100 residents, is about three hours from the border with Ukraine.
"They want to open up the school so those kids can attend school, and some of those families can live nearby or even live in the school for the time being," he said.
Growing up in a village about a 10-minute drive away, Mr. Czupryna didn't attend the school but went there for activities like sporting events.
Pastor Dennis Meyer said the goal is to raise $5,000 from donations and church matching funds. The idea sprung from discussions about Russia's military invasion of Ukraine between Meyer and Mr. Czupryna, who know each other well from their work in the community.
"Not only are we praying, but we're acting," Meyer said.
Poland has taken in more than an estimated two million fleeing Ukrainian residents. And the number is expected to increase as the humanitarian crisis continues.
Czupryna, 39, said he and his wife knew each other while growing up from attending the same church but later went separate ways. He and his siblings came to America with their mother in 1996.
Czupryna's father came looking for more opportunities in America and worked at the Kingsbury Industrial Park. Agnieszka came with her family to attend college and settled in Chicago. They had a friend who invited them to a family-related gathering in Chicago as fate would have it.
Czupryna said he didn't know Agnieszka would be there, but she knew he was coming.
"One thing led to another, and here we are," he said.
Czupryna said his wife is staying on top of the situation during regular phone conversations with her sister, who's planning to help at the refugee center. He also has family members still living in Poland.
"I feel for these people. I wish I could help more, but, unfortunately, I'm here, and they're over there," he said.
Meyer said donations are being accepted at the church at 102 G Street and on the church website.