Two sixth-graders are helping make Christmas special for six Ukrainian students at Saint Bernard School, knowing that their families are so far away.
The school opened its doors to the Ukrainian students at no cost this school year so they could continue their education in the United States as their home country continues to fight off a Russian invasion.
“I just really feel for them. They are going through so much,” said Ellie Ryan.
With the help of her mother, Ellie and her twin sister, Abbie, partnered with the Portuguese Holy Ghost Society of Stonington’s Fall Fish and Chip nights. The girls set up a table outside the venue on two different occasions asking patrons for donations to support their friends.
The girls raised $700 and were delighted with the generous outpouring of support from the community.
“It makes me very happy,” Ellie said.
The girls’ mother turned the monetary donations over to school officials to distribute. The money was used to purchase gift cards for each of the six students.
On Dec. 13, Head of School Don Macrino called the Ukrainian students, as well as the Ryan sisters, to the school lobby and spoke about the girls’ fundraising effort.
“I just want you to know that the whole school admires you. I wish we could make your life a little easier,” Macrino said to the Ukrainian students. “It’s a little gift from the Saint Bernard family to you for Christmas. These two young ladies worked very hard to make it happen.”
Ellie and Abbie presented each student with a gift card.
The students, who typically would celebrate Christmas in Ukraine on January 7, smiled and expressed their gratitude for the Ryan sisters and the Saints community.
“This is unexpected. We really appreciate it,” said Nikita Shovkomud, a junior.
“We are very grateful for this and for everything the Saint Bernard community has done for us,” added sophomore Sophia Breslavets. “From the scholarships we got, to the way people treat us, for everything, we are just very grateful.”
Members of the Saints community have opened their hearts to the Ukrainian students.
Most recently, a woman donated coats, boots and other items to the students. And a number of people within the school community support the homestay funds for the Ukrainian students. Host families receive a monthly stipend of $500 funded by donations.
Saint Bernard’s has long engaged in the mission of helping the less fortunate, Macrino said. “It is fundamental to our mission of preparing young men and women for a life in which, in their personal way, they make the world a better place.”