BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – On August 24, with a flag-raising ceremony at Binghamton City Hall, the Ukrainian community of Binghamton, N.Y., celebrated the 31th anniversary of Ukraine’s renewed independence and commemorated the fallen heroes defending Ukraine against Russia’s war in the country.
Since the 1950s, the local branch of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA) in Binghamton N.Y., has organized an annual celebration of Ukrainian Independence Day at the City Hall in Binghamton, N.Y., that includes a flag raising program.
Victor Czumak emceed this year’s celebration and commemoration with opening remarks expressing pride in Ukrainian’s resolve to courageously defend Ukraine.
“The Ukrainian American community is so grateful to the United States of America and European countries for supplying weapons to Ukraine. We are grateful to all organizations for Humanitarian Aid to Ukraine,” Mr. Czumak said as he stood at a podium near a painting that illustrated some of the horrific destruction caused by Russia’s war on Ukraine. Nickolas Timko made the painting in April based on news stories and images of the destruction.
Mr. Czumak then introduced the Rev. Teodor Czabala, pastor of Sacred Heart Ukrainian Catholic Church, the Rev. Ivan Synevsky of St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Pastor Yaroslav Karnauch of the First Ukrainian Pentecos-tal Church.
The three pastors reminded attendees of the power of prayer, and they urged people to support the wounded and the families of those killed in Ukraine defending the country against the Russian military. The pastors expressed gratitude for the medical packages that parishes previously sent to Ukraine.
This year also marks Binghamton Mayor Jared Kraham’s first term. Lubomyr Zobniw, the head of the Binghamton Branch of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), introduced Mr. Kraham and presented him with a Ukrainian Easter egg as symbol of Ukraine’s more than 1,000-year history; during this period, Ukraine had several independence days and in various occasions the nation needed to fight to defend its freedom.
Mr. Kraham voiced his support for a free, sovereign Ukraine and he presented a signed Ukrainian Independence Day proclamation to Mr. Zobniw, who then thanked the mayor for welcoming and hosting the Ukrainian community. Mr. Kraham has for many years as both deputy mayor and now mayor welcomed the Ukrainian community to celebrate Ukrainian independence at City Hall.
Taras Stets then spoke about Ukraine’s struggle for survival across centuries of foreign occupation and efforts to conquer and rule over the country.
Mr. Czumak then introduced Eugene Czebiniak to sing “Bozhe Velykyj,” a prayer which asks God to protect Ukraine, to keep Ukraine safe, to give its people freedom, good fortune, good light and happiness for many years. Mr. Czebiniak, the choir director at Sacred Heart Ukrainian Catholic Church, beautifully sang the “Prayer for Ukraine” in Ukrainian.
Mr. Czumak introduced in English the Song “Oy, U Luzi Chevona Kalyna” (in English, “Oh, the Red Viburnum in the Meadow”), which for many years has symbolized Ukrainian national resistance and aspirations for freedom. Since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, it has become an incredibly popular song in Ukraine and worldwide. The song’s lyrics speak of the Red Viburnum, which has been a symbol in Ukraine of life and death. The plant’s red color is associated with blood and war, but the song is also a metaphor of revival and love for Ukraine.
The Independence Day celebration also included a greeting from Anatoliy Pradun, president of the Together for Ukraine Foundation, who spoke of visiting Ukraine over the past few years.
“I was impressed by the young peoples’ drive,” Mr. Pradun said. “Ukrainians choose freedom, showing the whole world by example that liberty and independence are worth fighting for.”
The event also included greetings from Michael Dobransky, commander of Ukrainian American Veterans (UAV) Post 43, and other UAV members who highlighted the UAV’s activities to help the wounded in Ukraine. Mr. Dobransky led everyone in reciting the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance.
Children then assisted the mayor in raising the Ukrainian flag with everyone singing the Ukrainian national anthem.
Representatives from four local television stations also attended the event.