Friday, April 22, 2022

Rotary aids Ukrainian refugees

John Hewko

     Ukraine is a democracy based on a constitution.
     The parts not brutally invaded and cruelly occupied by Russia, that is. The Ukrainian constitution was written in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union. And if John Hewko needs to refer to it, he can check his personal copy. Not many people keep the Ukrainian constitution at home — but then, Hewko helped get it written.
     “My parents came to the United States after the Second World War,” he said. “My father in 1949, my mother in 1947. I grew up in a Ukrainian-American community in Detroit, and then Ohio.”
     Hewko became a lawyer, went to work at Baker McKenzie, which sent him to open their office in Moscow in 1989. He grew up speaking Ukrainian, so it was a natural for him to head to Ukraine with the rush of Western expertise helping get that fledgling nation off on the right foot.
     “I took a leave of absence from the firm, moved to Ukraine in the spring of ’91, working as an adviser to parliament, overseeing this group of Western experts,” he said. “We put together the first working group drafting the Ukrainian constitution. We brought in Western constitutional experts, holed up in a hotel room for five days and hammered out the first draft.”
     Hewko is again in a position to help his parents’ homeland, as general secretary and CEO of Rotary International, the 1.4-million-member service organization based in Evanston.
     My experiences at Rotary meetings created the impression of an organization whose primary purpose is to attend luncheons, exchange business cards, and endure speeches. Hewko disabused me of this view right away.
     “The more I’ve worked at Rotary, the more I’m in awe of what Rotarians do all over the world,” he said, citing their work to eradicate polio.

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