HAMTRAMCK, Mich. – Following numerous delays as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a long-awaited donor appreciation event, “Because of You, a Nation’s Voice is Heard,” was held on May 15 at the Ukrainian American Archives and Museum in Hamtramck, Mich. The event was held to honor and express appreciation for numerous individuals who have supported the museum throughout the years.
As guests arrived for the event, they were greeted by Ukrainian music played by accordionist Steven Zajac. The program opened with a greeting from the museum’s president, Zwenyslava Hayda. She welcomed guests and thanked them for their many years of volunteer work and financial support of the archives and museum.
The Very Rev. Father Daniel Schaicoski of Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Church in Hamtramck, Mich., blessed guests as well as the donor wall which acknowledges the names of past and present supporters of the Museum.
This was followed by an introduction of artists Nicholas Nehaniv, creator of the sculpture “Stargate,” and Colleen Kelley, who fabricated and installed the plaques as well as offered technical support for the project.
“Stargate” is based on a pair of ecclesiastic bronze arches with openwork ornaments of intertwined plaits and images of magical birds which were one of the main archeological finds in 1840 in Vshchizh, Ukraine, near the city of Bryansk. An altar canopy there dates to the end of the 12th Century. In 2020, Mr. Nehaniv used its design as an inspirational springboard for the creation of “Stargate,” which frames the donor wall at the Museum.
A Ukrainian fine artist, Mr. Nehaniv is best known for his monumental metal kinetic sculptures and public art projects. His unique works of art, both large and small, are distinctively and precisely crafted using metal, glass and clay materials. Mr. Nehaniv’s dynamic portrayals are inspired by mythology, speed forms and physics in the natural world. He is based in Detroit and Miami, and his public artworks can be seen on the walls of high-rise buildings, gardens and public spaces throughout Florida and Michigan. His smaller works are exhibited and sold internationally.
The donor wall sculpture could not have been possible without the encouragement, sponsorship and generosity of the Sutar-Sutaruk-Meyer Foundation, to which the Museum is eternally grateful.
The Echoes of Ukraine Dance Ensemble, dressed in costumes from the Bukovyna region of Ukraine, presented the guests with the traditional greeting of bread and salt. This was followed by a musical performance by soprano Olha Yalovenko, who recently arrived from Ukraine. She was accompanied by the renowned pianist Yaroslav Hnezdilov. Ms. Yalovenko’s rendition of a song about life’s embroidered journey brought tears to many.
The museum’s executive director, Olga Liskiwskyi, gave an overview of the museum’s history.
“The history of this museum reflects the significance of Ukrainian museums and archives outside Ukraine – we have been the keepers of the flame,” Ms. Liskiwskyi said. “Given our current situation in the grips of the invasion of Russia into Ukraine and the systematic destruction of its people and culture, we should understand more than ever how important our mission is to preserve and showcase our Ukrainian heritage. We honor all those who worked to support and grow the Ukrainian American Archives and Museum since 1958, for over 64 years. We may not be on the front lines defending Ukraine, but let us do all we can wherever we are to continue being one of the voices of the Ukrainian nation.”
The guests were enchanted with a delightful vignette and poem recitation by Yulia Telebzda and Maksym Hladchuk. They were accompanied by accordionist Stepan Telebzda.
The recognition of major donors ensued. Gratitude and plaques were presented to donors and representatives. Dr. Boris and Svitlana Leheta were presented with a hand-painted sunflower tile based on the artwork of William DeMorgan, an English artist who lived from 1839-1917. The tile was crafted at Motawi Tileworks in Ann Arbor, Mich. The proceeds of the purchase of the tiles were donated to a French branch of Doctors Without Borders, which was serving in Poland and treating wounded Ukrainian soldiers. Plaques of gratitude were presented to the Selfreliance Federal Credit Union and the Ukrainian Selfreliance Michigan Federal Credit Union.
A declaration in honor of Olga Meyer was then presented to recognize her outstanding generosity, support and devotion to preserve Ukraine’s cultural treasures. Museum officials announced they were dedicating and naming its library the Olga Meyer/Sutar-Sutaruk Foundation Library. Ms. Meyer graciously accepted the dedication. She was joined by her son, Jon Meyer, as well as her daughter-in-law and grandchildren, Sofia and Izabella. Ms. Meyer is a long-time member of the Board of Directors of the Ukrainian American Archives and Museum.
Performers then returned to the stage and led the guests in singing “Chervona Ruta” and “Mnohaya Lita.”
A booklet that included a history of the museum, a list of donors, the museum’s accomplishments and a membership list, as well as a customized bookmark, were created and distributed to the attendees as gifts of gratitude.
Members of Branch 142 of the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America (UNWLA) prepared a delicious Ukrainian buffet for the event.