Major anniversaries were marked this year by Ukrainians in the United States. The year began with celebrations of the centennial of the historic date, January 22, 1918, when Ukraine’s Central Rada, headed by historian Mykhailo Hrushevsky, declared independence and broke ties with Russia. The Central Rada evolved into the fundamental governing institution of the Ukrainian National Republic and established the precedent for Ukraine’s parliamentary democracy and national independence that formed the basis for national identity throughout the 20th century, as well as the declaration of independence after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Chicago’s Ukrainian community marked the centenary with a special event on January 28 that was attended by Ukrainians and honored guests. The main speakers were Bishop Benedict Aleksiychuk of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Chicago and attorney Alina Shpak, vice-president of the Institute of National Remembrance, who traveled from Ukraine for the occasion. Congressmen Mike Quigley and Danny Davis, both Democrats of Illinois, delivered eloquent speeches noting the commitment of the Ukrainian community in the United States and the perseverance of the Ukrainian people in the quest for freedom and democracy. Officials who attended included Consul General Larysa Gerasko of Ukraine; Consul General Mantvydas Bekesius of Lithuania; and Csaba Zongor and Romuald Poplawski, president and vice-president, respectively, of the Polish Hungarian World Federal Federation.
The centennial of modern Ukrainian statehood was commemorated also later in the year in New York at the prestigious Princeton Club. The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America and the Center for U.S.-Ukrainian Relations were the co-sponsors of a landmark conference on September 22 examining the scope and ultimate meaning of the Ukrainian National Republic and the legacy it engendered. The speakers included scholars from the United States, Canada and Ukraine.
On February 18, Ukrainian Americans gathered on the steps in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington to remember and pay tribute to the Heavenly Hundred (Nebesna Sotnia), who were killed in 2014 in Kyiv while protesting the pro-Russian government of President Viktor Yanukovych. The event was organized by the Embassy of Ukraine and four Ukrainian American organizations – United Help Ukraine, Razom for Ukraine, the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation and U.S.-Ukrainian Activists – whose representatives addressed the gathering and the thousands of tourists walking by that Sunday afternoon. Ukraine’s Ambassador Valeriy Chaly pointed out that, on the fourth anniversary of this historic event, the threats to Ukraine and its partners remain the same. “And that is why the struggle continues, and we bow our heads low before the Heavenly Hundred and all those who stood to defend freedom, democracy and human values.” As Adrian Karmazyn of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation noted in his remarks, the approximately 100 killed on the Maidan and the more than 10,000 killed in Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine, as well as the 7 million killed earlier in Stalin’s 1930s Famine-Genocide in Ukraine “are not just tragic statistics.” They are painful personal losses for their families, communities and the Ukrainian nation.
The year 2018 was, of course, the solemn 85th anniversary of the Holodomor, Joseph Stalin’s man-made famine that killed millions in Ukraine. Countless communities held events to mark the anniversary and to remember those lost to the Ukrainian nation. In April, The Ukrainian Weekly published news about the awareness effort initiated by the U.S. Committee for Ukrainian Holodomor Genocide Awareness (U.S. Holodomor Committee). A news release from the committee noted that it was working with national Ukrainian American organizations and local communities across the United States to raise public awareness about the Famine-Genocide of 1932-1933. “To succeed, this effort needs participation from every Ukrainian community, including small and recently established communities of Ukrainian immigrants and Ukrainian Americans,” the committee noted.
Its release went on to report: “Holodomor activities this year have taken a variety of forms, ranging from an academic symposium at California State University in Fresno and a trip to the Michigan state capital in Lansing by the Detroit community to petition for the inclusion of the Holodomor in the state Genocide Studies curriculum, to a meeting with the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania after unanimous passage of a Holodomor resolution in the state Senate and the Boston community’s endeavor to mandate a Holodomor curriculum via legislation. A special effort supported by both the U.S. Holodomor Committee and the Embassy of Ukraine aims to equip local Ukrainian communities to approach governors and state legislatures in all 50 states to issue proclamations and resolutions recognizing the Holodomor as genocide. The first proclamation has been signed by the governor of Wisconsin. To date, resolutions have been passed in Oregon, New Jersey, California, Michigan, Washington and Pennsylvania.”
The U.S. Holodomor Committee also suggested that communities display a Holodomor exhibit, attract local media coverage to their commemorative events, place opinion pieces in local newspapers, push to make the Holodomor part of the school curriculum, and support the 20-minute documentary “While We Starve,” which depicts the physiological and mental stages of hunger, that was produced by the committee in conjunction with the Ukrainian Medical Association of North America.
Many communities heeded the call and numerous local events were held throughout the year to commemorate the Holodomor and educate the public about Ukraine’s genocide. Among others, there were these: an exhibit and presentation in Dallas, a multi-faceted program focusing on oral history in Minneapolis, a commemorative concert in Venice, Fla., religious services in Bloomingdale, Ill., Overland Park, Kansas, and Albuquerque, N.M., a performance of Kyrylo Stetsenko’s “Panakhyda” in Fresno, Calif., a series of events in Miami, a lecture in Whippany, N.J., and a moving program at the Ukrainian Famine-Genocide Memorial in Los Angeles.
Throughout the country during the fall, from north to south and east to west – including in our neck of the woods, Whippany, N.J., where a beautiful and meaningful program was presented – Candles of Remembrance were lit to remember the millions of victims of the Holodomor, and the names of 85 children who were victims of the forced starvation were read during solemn ceremonies. Recollections of Holodomor survivors were also featured at many of these local events, as were readings of resolutions and proclamations issued by all levels of government: municipal, county and state. Many of these proclamations designated Holodomor remembrance days, or even declared November as a month of remembrance.
Also noteworthy was the annual ecumenical service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on November 17. The service was led by Metropolitan Antony, prime hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A. and Diaspora; Bishop Andriy Rabiy, apostolic administrator of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia; and Bishop Paul Chomnycky, OSBM, of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Stamford, Conn. Responses were sung by the Ukrainian Dumka Chorus, under the direction of Vasyl Hrechynsky. The service was livestreamed by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America via its Facebook page.
By year’s end, 22 states had issued proclamations or resolutions recognizing the Holodomor. For the record, the Embassy of Ukraine noted that the list includes: Oregon, Illinois, Michigan, Massachusetts., Ohio, Missouri, Kansas, Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina, Washington, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Utah, Texas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Virginia, Alabama, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Such recognition was due to the work of numerous Ukrainian activists who not only organized events to solemnly commemorate the Holodomor (many of them reported in this newspaper), but took it upon themselves to share knowledge about this genocide among their fellow Americans.
Another centennial celebrated in 2018 was that of the historic raising of the Ukrainian flag on April 29, 1918, on ships of the Black Sea Fleet – an act that marked a victory of the Ukrainian movement towards independence as the fleet came under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian National Republic. The raising of the flag in 1918 is considered the birthdate of the Ukrainian Navy. To mark that anniversary, Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organization’s Chornomortsi fraternity and its sister counterpart, the Chornomorski Khvyli, embarked on a yearlong program to bring Ukrainian maritime history to the forefront. The year 2018 was officially known in Plast as the “Year of Sea Scouting,” which was complemented by a tagline loosely translated as, “On the waves of the sea, toward a common goal!” Across the United States, from Seattle in the West to Boston in the East, local Plast branches had a member of the Chornomortsi fraternity serving as a “skipper” to help coordinate and execute periodic learning sessions focused on sea scouting for scouts between the ages of 7 and 18. Topics included navigation, knots, types of boats, the history of the Black Sea Fleet and sea scouting. In their respective branches, Plast scouts had an opportunity to earn a special sea scouting merit badge. The centennial was also the theme of the annual spring camporee (“Sviato Vesny”) held over Memorial Day weekend that was organized by the Chornomortsi and the Chornomorski Khvyli. The camporee was held at the Boy Scouts of America Heritage Reservation Campground in Farmington, Pa., were the Ukrainian scouts had an opportunity to test their sea scouting skills on a 400-acre lake.
In other community news, the president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, Andriy Futey, traveled to Ukraine on January 22-29 for a working visit to Kyiv that included a series of meetings with the country’s leaders, among them Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, Foreign Affairs Minister Pavlo Klimkin, Acting Minister of Health Dr. Ulana Suprun, Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov, Minister of Culture Yevhen Nyshchuk, Minister of Education Liliya Hrynevych, as well as the head of the Security Service of Ukraine, Vasyl Hrytsak; senior officials in the Presidential Administration of Ukraine; and national deputies of the Verkhovna Rada. His priority was to coordinate a united message aimed at strengthening the U.S.-Ukraine strategic partnership. Mr. Futey also discussed the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus of North America with Culture Minister Nyshchuk, including the UBC’s proposed tour in the fall. (More on that in the Culture and Arts section of “The Year in Review.”)
On January 29, Mr. Futey attended a solemn commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Kruty with President Petro Poroshenko and other Ukrainian government officials at the Kruty Memorial at Askold’s Mound. Along with Mr. Poroshenko, he laid flowers on behalf of the Ukrainian American community to the fallen heroes, and paid his respects at the nearby grave of Markian Paslawsky, the Ukrainian American soldier killed in 2014 in the battle of Ilovaysk.
Speaking of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), its Washington office, the Ukrainian National Information Service, continued to hold advocacy events on the nation’s capital. Nearly 50 community activists from throughout the United States participated in the Ukrainian Days event on Capitol Hill on March 6-7, which began with a prayer service at the Holodomor Memorial in commemoration of the 85th anniversary of the Famine-Genocide. The main program included briefings regarding the Russia sanctions regime, an upcoming congressional resolution on the Holodomor and a cybersecurity bill in the U.S. Senate, followed by meetings with nearly 30 members from the House of Representatives, the Senate and their staffs. Joining the Ukrainian American constituents were community leaders from the Central and East European Coalition, as well as activists for a democratic Russia.
In all of their meetings on Capitol Hill, the participants of Ukrainian Days presented members of Congress with various policy papers on issues of importance to the implementation of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Acts (CAATSA); the resolution in commemoration of the 85th anniversary of the Holodomor; and a cybersecurity cooperation bill between Ukraine and the United States, as well as informational brochures about the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America and the Ukrainian National Information Service. Also on the agenda were a discussion at the Atlantic Council and a reception at the Embassy of Ukraine. (A subsequent advocacy event that had been scheduled for July 18 was postponed.)
Soon thereafter, on March 19, UCCA President Futey chaired Sen. Rob Portman’s meeting with representatives of Ohio’s nationalities communities. Organized by the American Nationalities Movement of Ohio, the meeting was attended by over 35 representatives of the Ukrainian, Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, Jewish, Czech, Slovenian, German, Slovak, Bulgarian, Greek, Italian, Macedonian, Hungarian and Lebanese communities and was held at the Lithuanian Community Center in Cleveland. Sen. Portman (R-Ohio) reaffirmed the necessity of a strong U.S. foreign policy and a united NATO alliance in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine, as well as the global threat posed by Russian actions around the world. The Ukrainian community of Ohio was represented at the meeting by Anna Barrett of the United Ukrainian Organizations of Ohio and Andrew Fedynsky of the Ukrainian Museum-Archives.
On September 25, the UCCA hosted Ukraine’s President Poroshenko and First Lady Maryna Poroshenko when the president traveled to New York City on the occasion of the 73rd General Assembly of the United Nations. The reception took place at the Ukrainian Institute of America, and was co-organized by the UIA and the Embassy of Ukraine in the United States. In attendance were representatives from over 20 national Ukrainian American organizations, representatives of Ukrainian Churches in the United States, as well as Mr. Poroshenko’s honored guests.
On October 3, Ukrainian American leaders met with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie L. Yovanovitch in New York City for an informal lunchtime conversation. Gathering at the Ukrainian East Village Restaurant located in the Ukrainian National Home, the UCCA thanked Ambassador Yovanovitch for agreeing to meet with representatives of organizations such as the Center for U.S.-Ukrainian Relations, New Ukraine Wave, the Self Reliance New York Federal Credit Union, the Ukrainian American Youth Association, The Ukrainian Museum, the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee, the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America, the Women’s Association for the Defense of Four Freedoms for Ukraine and the World Board of the Ukrainian Youth Association, to discuss the ambassador’s views on the status of U.S.-Ukraine relations and to inform the U.S. diplomat of the Ukrainian community’s efforts to support their ancestral homeland.
On November 27 in Kyiv, Ambassador Yovanovitch hosted the U.S. delegates to the XI Congress of the Ukrainian World Congress. The reception, held at the ambassador’s residence, gave the UCCA and other U.S. delegates an opportunity to discuss a variety of issues, including the current Russian attacks on Ukraine’s naval vessels, and ways to explore opportunities to support anti-corruption and humanitarian efforts.
During the year, the UCCA spoke out on a variety of issues affecting Ukraine and Ukrainians. For example, the June 24 issue of The Weekly reported that the UCCA had sent an urgent letter to President Trump and leaders in the U.S. Congress, urging them to demand the immediate release of Ukrainian activist Oleh Sentsov and the more than 60 other political prisoners imprisoned by Russia. On July 25, the UCCA released a statement lauding the Crimea Declaration, which affirmed U.S. non-recognition of “the Kremlin’s claims of sovereignty over territory seized by force in contravention of international law.” UCCA President Futey commented: “Today the U.S. government sent a strong message of support to those living under direct threat from Russia’s unrelenting aggressive behavior. The United States and Ukraine stand united, as demonstrated by the recently increased U.S. security assistance to the government of Ukraine, which will help deter the government of the Russian Federation from further destabilizing and invading Ukraine and other independent countries.”
At the beginning of December, the UCCA sent urgent letters of appeal to the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, the Senate Ukraine Caucus, the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, requesting them to “hold congressional hearings about Russia’s blatant use of force against Ukraine.” In explaining the urgency of the letter, UCCA President Futey highlighted the plight of the 24 Ukrainian sailors being held in Russian captivity – a move that violates international maritime conventions. “We must take every available measure to secure their immediate release,” stated Mr. Futey. At the same time, the UCCA on December 3 forwarded an open letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting him to propose, at the upcoming semi-annual meeting of NATO foreign affairs ministers, a collective call by NATO member states for the immediate return to Ukraine of the captured Ukrainian warships and military personnel.
Two organizations in the U.S. were welcomed into the ranks of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America during 2018. The UCCA Executive Board announced in June that the Organization for the Rebirth of Ukraine (known by its Ukrainian-based acronym as ODWU) and the Center for U.S.-Ukrainian Relations (CUSUR) were now member organizations of the UCCA National Council. The highest ruling body between UCCA’s quadrennial conventions, the UCCA National Council comprises over 20 national Ukrainian American organizations. Assembling in New York City on June 9 for their first meeting of 2018, UCCA National Council delegates representing Ukrainian Churches and religious associations, Ukrainian educational institutions, national and central member organizations, and local UCCA chapters reviewed a year’s worth of UCCA activities at a meeting presided over by National Council Chair and Ukrainian National Association President, Stefan Kaczaraj. UCCA President Futey enthusiastically welcomed the two new member organizations, stating, “We welcome ODWU and CUSUR as UCCA member organizations and look forward to their active involvement within our organized community. We continue to reach out to all of our Ukrainian American organizations and call upon unity within our community. It is extremely important to speak with one unified voice.”
The Center for U.S.-Ukrainian Relations held substantive conferences on issues of the day during 2018. On March 8 the National Press Club in Washington was the venue for the ninth U.S.-Ukraine Security Dialogue – the latest collaborative effort by the CUSUR, the American Foreign Policy Council and the UCCA. Titled “Identifying Ukraine’s Security Priorities,” this full-day conference on March 8 was presented as part of a continuing effort by the organizers to bring the best and latest information about Ukraine’s National Security Strategy into the mainstream conversation about international affairs in the United States. Two dozen senior U.S. and Ukrainian strategists, as well as defense and security experts, spoke in a series of panel discussions and focus sessions dedicated to determining Ukraine’s security priorities in four critical areas of concern: maritime security, cybersecurity, national security strategy and information warfare. Foremost among the themes touched upon by the conference presenters was the war that Russia has waged on Ukraine since 2014. The CUSUR also held two other conferences, both in Washington: “US-UA Working Group Yearly Summit VI” on June 14 and “UA Quest Roundtable XIX: Taking Measure of Ukraine’s Military and Military Industrial Resources” on October 12.
Also in the top news regarding Ukrainian organizations in the United States, was a report at the beginning of the year that on January 29 the Organization for the Defense of Lemkivshchyna (known by its Ukrainian acronym OOL) formally ratified the establishment of the Yurij Kowalczyk Memorial Fund, which was made possible by a contribution of $30,000 from Mr. Kowalczyk’s daughters, Irene Kowalczyk Hryhorowych and Marta Kowalczyk Reuter. Yurij (George) Kowalczyk, who was born in Krakow, Poland, and passed away on August 31, 2017, in Falls Church, Va., was very active in OOL and held various positions, including national director for welfare projects, collecting tens of thousands of dollars for charitable projects. Later in the year, in April, OOL reinvigorated its Philadelphia branch with new membership, as it held an information session to promote OOL’s mission of organizing Lemkos in their communities and conducting educational, cultural and humanitarian work among them. Similarly, in Syracuse, N.Y., the OOL branch was reactivated at a July 1 meeting during which the national president of OOL, Mark Howansky, came equipped with a PowerPoint presentation on the organization. A new leadership, led by John I. Hvozda, son of the late Dr. John Hvozda, who once headed the OOL’s national board, was elected.
Among the organizations holding major meetings during 2018 were the Ukrainian American Veterans, who held their 71st convention at the Ukrainian American Cultural Center of New Jersey in Whippany on October 5-6. Elected to head the UAV as national commander for the next two years was Ihor Rudko, the organization’s Connecticut state commander. The keynote speaker at the convention banquet was Andre Sochaniwsky, president of the Ukrainian War Veterans Association of Canada.
The Ukrainian American Bar Association met for its 41st annual meeting in Washington on November 9-11; its sessions focused on “U.S.-Ukraine: New Policies, Strategies and Lessons from the Past.” Also noteworthy was the UABA’s December 2 statement condemning the Russian Federation’s acts of aggression against Ukrainian naval vessels near the Kerch Strait and the FSB’s capture of 24 Ukrainian servicemen as prisoners. The UABA focused on Russia’s continuing violations of international law and its treaty obligations (spelling out all the applicable charters, conventions, accords, treaties, etc.) and urged the U.S. and its allies to take the necessary actions for Russia to comply with its treaty obligations.
There was news also in the realm of Ukrainian credit unions in the United States. The Ukrainian National Credit Union Association (UNCUA) held its 37th annual meeting and spring conference on June 7-9 in Washington. Thirty participants representing 12 Ukrainian American credit unions in the U.S. gathered to lobby their legislators on Capitol Hill, meet with Ambassador Chaly at the Embassy of Ukraine, hear presentations on current topics of interest to credit union leaders and elect a new leadership. Elected as UNCUA officers were: Chairman Andrij Horbachevsky (SUMA Yonkers, N.Y.); Vice-Chair Stephen Kerda (Selfreliance Baltimore); Secretary George Stachiw, (Selfreliance New England); and Executive Committee members Bohdan Kurczak (Self Reliance New York) and Bohdan Watral (Selfreliance Chicago).
As of August 17, Ukrainian Future Credit Union in Michigan was merged with Selfreliance Ukrainian American Federal Credit Union, which has branches in Illinois and New Jersey. In addition to its home office in Chicago, Selfreliance now has three branches in Illinois, three in New Jersey and three in Michigan.
Nova UA Federal Credit Union held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on October 20 to celebrate the completed construction of its main facility at 851 Allwood Road in Clifton, N.J. That event was followed on November 3 with a blessing of the building – a community celebration to mark the grand opening.
Finally, we would be remiss if we did not report the latest demographic information about Ukrainians in the United States. Dr. Oleh Wolowyna, writing in our May 13 issue, noted that recently released data from the American Community Survey (ACS) show that there were 996,505 persons of Ukrainian ancestry in 2016, that is, there are now about 1 million persons of Ukrainian ancestry in the United States. He also provided data and a map which showed that Ukrainians in the U.S. are still mainly concentrated on the East and West Coasts and in states surrounding the Great Lakes in 2016. With the exception of Arizona, Colorado and Texas, very few Ukrainians live in the middle of the country. Three states – New York, Pennsylvania and California – have more than 100,000 Ukrainians. There is also a concentration of Ukrainians in six eastern north-central states – Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana and Wisconsin – ranging between 10,100 in Wisconsin and 48,200 in Illinois. Two western states – Washington and Oregon – and three southern midwestern states – Texas, Arizona and Colorado – also have large numbers of Ukrainians, with the largest number, 60,200, in Washington. States with the least number of Ukrainians, under 1,000, are Nebraska, Wyoming and Mississippi.
In another analysis published on September 16, Dr. Wolowyna wrote that the outcome of the upcoming U.S. mid-term elections has extraordinary implications for Ukraine and underscored that the Ukrainian community has, in quite a few instances, the potential of influencing the outcome of an election. His article presented data about the voting power of Ukrainians in communities across the country, and pointed to the possibility of creating effective voting blocs when Ukrainians and other Eastern Europeans join forces.