KERHONKSON, N.Y. – The Plast fraternity of Khmelnychenky gathered for its semiannual meeting and conference on the weekend of March 5-7 at Soyuzivka Heritage Center in Kerhonkson, N.Y.
The fraternity, named after the 17th century Ukrainian Hetman Bohdan Khmelny-tsky, was founded in 1945 in Landeck, Austria, by Jakiw Shegrin, Mikhaylo Zvonok, Ilia Shevchyk and Volodymyr Bakalec. There was a small hiatus after their 1949 emigration to North America, after which the organization was revived in 1952.
Biannual conferences have rotated among Soyuzivka and Plast campgrounds at either Bobriwka (Connecticut) or Vovcha Tropa (New York) since 1955. During these conferences, the brotherhood enjoys opportunities for camaraderie while promoting the traditions and spirit of its Kozak origins. Members greet each other with their customary call of “Puhu, puhu”. According to Kozak unwritten laws, members are encouraged to participate in respectful and honorable discussions before voting on proposals set forth by the “komanda” (executive branch).
In attendance at the 2019 meeting were approximately 70 members of the fraternity, representing a steady growth in attendance and overall membership. Seven states were represented, including Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Maryland Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Vermont. Representatives from Canada and Ukraine, where there appears to be a recent exponential growth in membership, were also in attendance.
Even though the Khmelnychenky are divided into an older and younger adult units, they traditionally work together and participate in joint events. Participants at the conference, therefore, comprise all ranks of the fraternity’s membership, from first-time pledges to full members.
Various topics were discussed, including membership recruitment, fund-raising efforts and the future of the fraternity in Canada and Ukraine. Planned events such as the Chervona Kalyna Debutante Ball at the Pearl River Hilton in N.Y., the Wildwood “zabava” and street hockey tournaments are regular topics of discussion. Organizers of these events were commended and recommendation for improvements were raised.
Proceeds from these fund raisers are used to support Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organization’s summer youth camps, the Wounded Soldiers Fund and the U.S. Holodomor Committee’s recent mini-documentary “When We Starve.” In addition, the organization provides support for the Ukraine-based Khmelnychenky fraternity in its efforts to organize and run the successful sports camp known as “Quest.”
The Khmelnychenky have a rich history, both in the U.S. and around the world. The fraternity has produced countless Plast counselors and leaders. They work tirelessly for the community and continue to maintain close ties within the brotherhood by supporting causes recommended by its members. For next year, a trip to Landeck is being planned to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the fraternity.
Any Plast member who wishes to know more about the fraternity and its mission may visit the website at www.xmel.org.