MORRIS COUNTY — The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office and the Morris County Sheriff’s Office were joined by the Morris County Board of County Commissioners today in delivering 100 bullet-proof vests to the Ukrainian American Cultural Center of New Jersey in Whippany, where front-line Ukrainian fighters thanked Morris County via pre-taped video.
The delivery was made this morning on the occasion of Ukraine’s Independence Day, which commemorates the August 24, 1991 Declaration of Independence by Ukraine from the United Socialist Soviet Republic (Russia). Today also marks six months since Russian forces invaded the European nation, triggering a war that continues to kill innocent civilians and wreak havoc across the Ukraine.
“We would like to say thanks to Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, Morris County Sheriff’s Office … and the people of Morris County for your constant support of Ukraine and your generous donation. Your donations not only provide us with the necessary protection (from) injury, but also assures us we are not alone in this fight for democracy of the entire world,” said an unidentified Ukrainian commander in a video statement shared today by the UACCNJ.
Roksolana Leshchuk, Chairwoman of the UACCNJ, shared the video during an emotional ceremony at the center, where she and others expressed heart-felt gratitude to the people of Morris County as they also described the day-to-day struggles of the Ukrainian people.
“It was all possible because of you, because people of Morris County – regular Americans – feel our pain. They feel what we are going through. They understand democracy,” Leshchuk said. “It’s unimaginable. I don’t know how to express my gratitude and the gratitude of our center, and the people of Ukraine. It’s not enough. I don’t have words to tell you how much appreciation we have. This is helping us to live through another day.”
Prosecutor Robert J. Carroll and his staff delivered the bulk of the vests (85), while Sheriff James M. Gannon’s office donated the rest (15). They also donated 2,000 millennium gas masks during a 10 a.m. visit to the UACCNJ center in Whippany that included Morris County Commissioner Director Tayfun Selen, senior staff from the county, prosecutor’s office and sheriff’s office.
“We have all been touched by the valiant efforts made by the citizens and military of Ukraine in fighting for democratic freedom, not only for their country, but indeed for the free world,” Prosecutor Carroll said. “Having received appropriate licensing from federal authorities, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, with the support of our County Commissioners and leadership, Sheriff James Gannon and our Police Chief’s Association, is pleased to announce that we are donating 100 protective bullet proof vests that we hope will help protect the lives of brave Ukrainians from the vicious genocide of the Russian invaders. We all pray for the children, women, men and especially the courageous soldiers defending their homeland and families,” during the delivery.”
During the morning delivery, dozens of Ukrainian American community members greeted county officials and law enforcement, reading poems and playing Ukrainian songs. The community also joined a 4:30 meeting of the Morris County Board of County Commissioners in Morristown, where the donation was made public and some of the vests were displayed.
“Prosecutor Carroll and I each share in the fervent hope that our joint donation of these potentially lifesaving bullet-resistant vests quickly reach our friends in Ukraine, but also that they all go untested by their eventual recipients. I am thankful that was the case when our officers and detectives donned them in their service to this county. May peace return to all in Ukraine very soon,” said Sheriff Gannon.
Commissioner Director Tayfun Selen expressed solidarity with the Ukrainian people and their struggle against Russia.
“You are going to win this war because you are not relying on your weapons. You are relying on your hearts and souls,” Director Selen said.
At the public meeting, Deputy Director Krickus noted that the county discovered a great deal while organizing the donation, particularly about navigating the intricacies of federal reviews when sending support for the people of Ukraine. He and others involved in the effort worked with U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill to secure federal permissions to provide the “non-military” assistance.
“From the day this unprovoked war started, Morris County stood with — and stands now — with Ukraine. We are proud of the team effort by the county prosecutor, county sheriff, county administration, and Congresswoman Sherrill’s office in making this donation happen, and we will share our ‘how-to-knowledge’ with other counties, so hopefully more donations can take place,”Krickus said.
“When I visited Ukraine last month, I was proud to tell President Zelensky about the incredible support he and the Ukrainian people have from our community in NJ-11. This donation is a wonderful example of this support, and I thank the Morris County Commissioners and the Prosecutor’s and Sheriff’s Offices for making it possible. I am grateful my team was able to help navigate the federal agencies involved and I would love to see this effort replicated across the state and country,” said U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill.
Securing federal export permissions, as well as gathering the body armor, took weeks.
Lt. Mark Castellano of the Prosecutor’s office was singled out for his tireless efforts in connecting with the Ukrainian community and gathering the bulk of the body armor, as was Lt. Walter Rawa from the Sheriff’s Office. Prosecutor Carroll and Sheriff Gannon also thankedMorris County Administrator John Bonanni, Assistant Administrator Deena Leary and the Commissioners for their work on the project.
Commissioner Krickus had discussed the donation weeks ago with Natalya Pipa, a Ukraine Member of Parliament, when she visited the Whippany cultural center. Gathering vests and other equipment was still ongoing, and the Ukraine representative was very receptive to the proposal, he said.
“She told me that the dividing line between democracy and dictatorships used to be the Iron Curtain. Today, it’s between the Ukraine and Russia,” Commissioner Krickus said.