Suzanne Johnson and her family saw the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine unfolding. They felt that they had no choice but to take action.
Suzanne’s father Stefan, a 21-year old refugee from Ukraine, moved to the United States in World War Two. Her mother is a first generation immigrant.
Suzanne was raised in Manhattan’s Little Ukraine district. Their daughter is now married Woody Johnson, owner of the NFL’s New York Jets.
The Jets have pledged $1m (PS893,000), to assist those who were affected by the Russian invasion in Ukraine. In July, the Johnson family traveled to Poland to aid the victims.
Suzanne, her husband, and their teenage sons visited the Dom Wczasowy Orphanage and Bursa Miedzyszkolna college dormitory. This is serving as refugee centre.
Suzanne said that it was an eye-opening event. “The refugee center was used to house the children and women of families living near the nuclear power station.
They were educated people with full lives who had to flee. With 30 minutes notice, they had to pack everything into a bag.
“These women were crying to my face. They are so proud of their accomplishments and hate that they are forced to rely on others.
“I cannot imagine anyone telling me that I have 30 minutes to leave the United States. It was truly heartbreaking. ”
It’s our duty to help Ukraine
Suzanne’s father arrived to New York with $5 and a bag of clothes. He didn’t speak English but was allowed to start a new life.
He was able to become a builder with the support of the Ukrainian church. He also started a family and built a successful business building family homes.
Suzanne had a successful career in equities management before she met her husband. He was the US ambassador for the UK between 2017-2021.
My father used to tell me how it was like growing up in Communist countries, going through wars and then coming to the USA with almost nothing.
“He died three years ago. He would have been sick to his stomach if he saw his country invaded. As his daughter and as his grandsons, it is my duty to support him.
“We don’t have any other choice. It is our duty to do so. ”
“Seeing it firsthand, you want to make an immediate impact.”
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 2, and the humanitarian crisis that engulfs it will not end until the fighting ceases.
Around 7.5 million people fled Ukraine.
With almost 1.4 Million people heading to Poland.
The Johnsons distributed their $1m donation over ten months. Each month, $100,000 was donated to a different organization which can direct the funds where it is most needed.
United24 is one of the organizations they have assisted.
Suzanne’s oldest son, Brick, was watching Wimbledon when she saw Iga Swiatek, world number one, announce that a charity tennis tournament would be held in Poland, where the Johnsons were present.
Elina Svitolina from Ukraine was the ambassador at United24.
Brick selected this organization for the July donation. Brick presented the cheque to Jack, his 13-year-old brother, along with the funds for children’s hospitals in Ukraine.
Brick said that he spoke with children his age about the hardships of living in an orphanage and the separation from their families.
“All children have so many things in common, it doesn’t matter where they live. I had the opportunity to talk with many of them about soccer and even played soccer together.
“Seeing the world first-hand makes it easy to want to make a positive difference, even if it’s only by putting smiles on children’s faces. ”
Jets play Bengals to’make certain message isn’t forgotten’
The Johnsons also used their platform during the NFL season to spread the word about the Johnsons.
The Jets hosted a home game against the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday. They organized for Ukrainian flags at each endzone to be placed on the players’ helmets.
To remind people of the crisis and to raise awareness about the family’s efforts in helping those affected, they showed a video at the MetLife Stadium.
The proceeds from the gameday raffle and the Jets’ August gift went to CityServe to help a Krakow housing project.
Brick said that he wanted this message to not be forgotten and might act as a steppingstone for other teams to get involved in the Ukrainian crisis. His nickname is D’Brickashaw Ferguson, a former Jets player.
The Johnsons will travel to Ukraine once the conflict is over, and in particular, to meet with more orphaned children from the war.
Brick said, “Being in a position to connect with them and make a difference in their lives made my heart feel warm.”
There are signs of hope almost. You want them to recover, get on their feet again and begin a new life. ”