BOSTON – The local Ukrainian American community celebrated the 28th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence with a noontime flag raising on Boston City Hall Plaza followed by a reception in City Council Chambers; a three-hour sunset cruise of Boston Harbor; commemorative liturgies for Ukraine in all of the local parishes and a picnic on the campus of Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic Church in Jamaica Plain.
With the exception of the various Sunday liturgies, all the events were organized and coordinated under the auspices of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America Boston Branch, led by President Vsevolod Petriv and Secretary/Treasurer Maria Fedynyshyn Saxe.
On Friday, August 23, Ukrainian Flag Day, some 300 Ukrainian Americans gathered on Boston City Hall Plaza for the traditional noontime flag raising. Many of them were wearing Ukrainian embroidered shirts or blouses (“vyshyvanky”) and quite a few carried small Ukrainian flags. More than half of those gathered were young people in their 20s and early 30s who had taken time off from work to be present.
Assembled on the dais by the city’s main flagpoles were: retired U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican and former Mayor of Boston Raymond L. Flynn; Ukraine’s Consul from New York Denys Semenovych; and City Councilors Annissa Essaibi George, Michael Flaherty, Edward Flynn, Althea Garrison and Timothy O’Malley (a number of whom also wore vyshyvanky). Representing the state’s local clergy were the Very Rev. Dr. Archpriest Yaroslav Nalysnyk, pastor of Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic Church, Jamaica Plain; the Very Rev. Archpriest Roman Tarnavsky, pastor of St. Andrew the First-Called, Forest Hills; the Rev. James Morris, pastor of St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church, Salem; and Rev. Jerzy Zembrowski, pastor of Our Lady of Czestochowa Polish Catholic Church, South Boston. Nicholas Zozula, president of the Ukrainian American Youth Association’s Boston branch served as master of ceremonies.
Mr. Zozula began the annual commemoration by calling everyone to attention and asking for a few moments of silence dedicated to the heroes of the struggle for Ukrainian sovereignty. Father Nalysnyk followed with a short Invocation in Ukrainian.
Tenor Michael Hotz, a member of St. Andrew’s choir, then sang the American national anthem, while Olha Lisovska, coloratura soprano from Kyiv and founder of an opera company and theater in Newton, Mass., sang the Ukrainian national anthem.
Yusufi S. Vali, director of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Advancement, represented the mayor and began by welcoming everyone in Ukrainian with “Vitayemo!” He then acknowledged everyone on the dais and then said that practically everyone gathered on the Plaza, and including himself, whose family is from India, and the mayor, whose mother and father are from Ireland, came to America “for democracy, for freedom and opportunity, often fleeing difficult conditions in our countries of origin.”
“In this process of migration,” he continued, “both America and home country of origin eventually became enriched economically, culturally and civically.” He noted: “The Ukrainian community has certainly enriched Boston from its contributions to the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, to its churches and organizations and businesses. You have indeed made a significant contribution to the city’s educational, civic, business, and faith life.”
Mr. Vali then read a proclamation from the mayor outlining the role of Ukrainian Americans in Boston and proclaiming Friday, August 23, as Ukrainian Independence Day in the City. Finally, he presented Consul Denys Semenovych with a citation of thanks for all of the hard work the consul has done on behalf of Ukrainians living in the city.
Consul Semenovych spoke next in Ukrainian, saying that it was an unexpected surprise and a great honor to receive a citation from the Mayor of Boston for his work and then continued by saying it was always a personal pleasure to visit Boston to interact with the dynamic local Ukrainian American community.
He then went on to read a message from Oleksii Holubov, Ukraine’s consul general for the region, who is based in New York City. “The love of freedom, patriotism and the desire for independence have always been the have always been the defining principles of the Ukrainian character,” he wrote.
“Freedom and independence has never come easy for Ukraine,” the consul stressed, “and today in the face of ongoing Russian aggression our country is paying an extremely high price defending its own freedom and territorial integrity, as well as protecting fundamental Ukrainian ideals, values and principles that are also held by the entire democratic world.”
Consul Holubov also offered “sincere thanks to the Ukrainian community of the United States for its major contribution in strengthening the unity of the Ukrainian nation as well as for its ongoing support and efforts of strengthening the partnership solidarity with the United States in particular and with all other civilized countries of the world which is so important to our country right now.”
Ambassador Flynn began by saying, “It is a deep honor for me and my family to be here today.”
“When I was at the State Department I spent a considerable amount of time in Central and Eastern Europe and I was at our Embassy in Kyiv for an extended period of time. I got to meet with members of the Ukrainian government and I also got to go out into the countryside into the towns and villages and I saw how people lived and I talked with many of them.”
“Although Ukraine is a democracy,” Ambassador Flynn continued, “it was my impression that they were not well served by their elected officials. Many people told me of the corruption of their local politicians and that they had to pay bribes in order to get anything done. They spoke disparagingly of the central government as well and said that it wasn’t doing anything to help them or to improve living conditions or help develop the country economically or even help to end the war in the east.”
“What you do here today is so important,” Ambassador Flynn stressed. “First of all, it strengthens your resolve to see Ukraine as a proud free and democratic nation and, hopefully, you will transmit that message to the people of Ukraine. Secondly it energizes you to bring the message of Ukraine and the valiant battle that it is fighting for all of us to your neighbors and to your elected officials. Too often other news pushes what is happening in Ukraine into the background and people need to be continually reminded that there is an ongoing war with more than 13,000 dead and two and a half million refugees.”
The Rev. James Morris, an Irish American who became interested in the Ukrainian Catholic Church and was ordained in Ivano-Frankivsk in 1993, said he has been able to watch the evolution of the annual flag-raising from a small, sparsely attended event unmarked by local officialdom to one that draws considerable community interest and is noted by the city’s and state’s politicians.
Wearing a Ukrainian shirt, Councilor Matthew O’Malley noted that many Ukrainians live in his district and contribute greatly to its ongoing growth and development.
He was followed by Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, who extended congratulations on the occasion of the 28th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence and went on to explain that her own mother had spent several years in a displaced persons camp in Germany after World War II. Thus, she said, “I can relate to the contemporary Ukrainian experience on the ongoing struggle that Ukraine is facing with the Russian invasion, the ongoing depredations of the oligarchs, and the ever pressing need for reform.”
Councilor Althea Garrison came to the podium next and she read a resolution passed in the City Council honoring Friday, August 23, as Ukrainian Independence Day in Boston.
Councilor Michael Flaherty, who has been attending the flag -raising ceremony for the past 10 years, was the last to speak. He also read a separate proclamation that was passed in the City Council and honored the Ukrainian community of Boston.
Father Tarnavsky of St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church concluded the celebration by offering the benediction and leading the community in singing “Dostoyno Yest.”
A reception was held immediately following the ceremony in City Council chambers and afforded all the chance to meet with the participants on the dais and to enjoy some Ukrainian delicacies.
At 6:30 p.m. some 80 people embarked on the Provincetown II for a three -hour cruise of Boston Harbor to continue the celebration of Ukrainian Independence Day.
On Sunday, August 25, all of the local Ukrainian churches in Boston, Salem and Fall River, Mass., Manchester, N.H,. and Woonsocket, R.I., offered liturgies for the Ukrainian nation. Afterwards, some 1,000 people gathered on the eight-acre campus of Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic parish for the tradition Independence Day Picnic.
Following a brief opening ceremony with the presentation of the colors, a moment of silence, an invocation by Father Nalysnyk, the singing of the national anthems, and a number of brief presentations, all of which were in Ukrainian, the picnic got under way.
All of the traditional Ukrainian dishes, including “kulish,” were available. Music, both traditional and contemporary, was provided by DJ Ivan Kril, who worked in television in Lviv and now is in charge of IT at the Leahy Clinic, and many danced to the tunes. There were numerous booths scattered around the grounds offering Ukrainian paintings and fine arts, embroidery and wood carving. Members of the Ukrainian American Youth Association put together and manned an extensive dessert station in the kitchen of the Parish Center.