As they watched Ukraine’s humanitarian disaster unfold, Suzanne Johnson and her household felt that they had “no alternative” however to behave.
Suzanne’s father Stefan moved to the USA after World Struggle Two as a 21-year-old refugee from Ukraine; her mom is a first-generation immigrant.
They raised Suzanne in Manhattan’s ‘Little Ukraine’ district, and their daughter is now married to Woody Johnson – group proprietor of NFL franchise the New York Jets.
Not solely have the Jets pledged to donate $1m (£893,000) to assist these affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Johnson household made a humanitarian journey to neighbouring Poland in July.
Suzanne, her husband and their two teenage sons visited the Dom Wczasowy orphanage and Bursa Miedzyszkolna school dormitory, which is serving as a refugee centre.
“It was an eye-opening expertise,” Suzanne informed BBC Sport. “The refugee centre was housing the ladies and kids of households from close to the nuclear energy plant.
“They’re educated individuals who had full lives and needed to flee, with half-hour’ discover to throw something they may right into a sack.
“These ladies had been crying to me. They’re so proud and hate the actual fact they had been put on this place the place they must depend on folks.
“I am unable to even think about somebody telling me proper now you could have half-hour to flee the USA. It was completely heart-wrenching.”
‘It is our responsibility’ to assist Ukraine
Suzanne’s father arrived in New York with $5, a bag of garments and never a phrase of English, however was given the chance to make a life for himself.
With the assistance of the Ukrainian church, he grew to become a builder, began a household and developed a profitable enterprise constructing household properties.
Suzanne solid a profitable profession as an equities supervisor earlier than assembly her husband, who served because the US ambassador to the UK from 2017-2021.
“My father at all times informed me what life was like rising up in a Communist nation, residing via the conflict and coming to the US with just about nothing,” she stated.
“I am now in a privileged place so I assumed that if I could possibly be instrumental in lending any assist, each monetary and bodily, it was my responsibility as a result of folks did that for my father.
“He handed away three years in the past and can be sick to his abdomen seeing his nation being invaded. It is my responsibility as his daughter, and my sons’ responsibility as his grandsons, to supply this help.
“We now have no alternative. We now have to do it.”
‘Seeing it first hand, you wish to make a distinction straight away’
Russia invaded Ukraine in February, and the humanitarian disaster will proceed when the combating stops. About 7.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine, with virtually 1.4 million heading to Poland.
The Johnsons have unfold their $1m donation over 10 months, with $100,000 donated every month to a distinct organisation which might direct the funds the place they’re wanted most, as quickly as potential.
Among the many organisations they’ve helped is United24.
Whereas watching Wimbledon, Suzanne’s eldest son Brick, 16, noticed world primary Iga Swiatek announce a charity tennis occasion to be performed in her native Poland when the Johnsons can be there.
The occasion, in Krakow, featured Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, who’s an envoy for United24.
Brick selected that organisation for July’s donation. He and his brother Jack, 13, introduced the cheque, with the funds to be directed to youngsters’s hospitals in Ukraine.
“I spoke to children my age who informed me about how totally different life resides in an orphanage, the ache they went via crossing the border and being separated from their households,” stated Brick.
“It would not actually matter the place you reside, all children have a lot in widespread. I spoke to a whole lot of them about sports activities and performed soccer with them.
“If you see what is going on on first hand, you wish to make a distinction straight away, even when it is simply placing smiles on children’ faces.”
Jets use Bengals recreation to ‘be sure that message is not forgotten’
The Johnsons have additionally used their platform to unfold the world throughout the NFL season.
On the Jets’ residence recreation in opposition to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, they organised for Ukrainian flags to be displayed at every endzone and on the gamers’ helmets.
They screened a video to a crowd of 73,708 on the MetLife Stadium to remind followers of the continuing disaster, and lift consciousness of the household’s efforts to assist these affected.
Proceeds from the gameday raffle – and the Jets’ August donation – went to CityServe, to help a housing venture in Krakow.
“I would like this message to not be forgotten, and perhaps it’s going to act as a stepping stone for different groups to take some initiative on the Ukrainian disaster,” added Brick, who takes his nickname from former Jets participant D’Brickashaw Ferguson.
As soon as the battle ends, the Johnsons plan to go to Ukraine, specifically to fulfill extra of the kids who’ve been orphaned due to the conflict.
“Having the ability to join with them, to make a little bit of distinction to their lives, made my coronary heart heat,” stated Brick.
“There are indicators of hope virtually. You wish to see them get better, get again on their toes and begin their lives once more.”