SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. (WWLP) – Honoring heritage while working to preserve and protect one another, was one of the messages the Kosciuszko Foundation New England Chapter echoed as it gathered for its annual award ceremony at Mt. Holyoke College.

At the same time, there were calls for continued donations to support aid efforts in Ukraine and to the more than two million Ukrainians now living in Poland.

“I know that in some circles the approval for supporting Ukraine is suffering. Luckily not in this circle. These people are fighting very courageously, fighting for values we cherish. Americans also had to fight for their independence. So they should understand very well what the Ukrainian defenses are all about,” expressed Consul General of the Republic of Poland in New York, Adrian Kubicki.

The organization has already raised over $1.5 million for Ukrainians who have fled to Poland. Education has long been at the heart of the organization and is a huge part of their support efforts now.

“Usually we offer scholarships for Polish-American students or Polish scholars coming to America, but for the past 12 months we have been offering scholarships to Ukrainian scholars. They left sometimes not even in a couple of hours, but minutes,” said President and Executive Director of the Kosciuszko Foundation, Marek Skulimowki.

But, the luncheon also honored Polish Americans working to preserve culture close to home for decades with the distinguished Polish-American award. This year’s recipient is Carolyn Czaja Topor of South Hadley. She served as president of the New England Chapter of the Foundation for 25 years, retiring earlier this year.

“It means a great deal to me that the people who have enthusiastically supported me are honoring me today,” expressed Topor.

Finally, the event also recognized the accomplishments of local students that have received financial support through grants and scholarships from the foundation.