JEWETT, N.Y. – The Ukrainian community centered around Hunter, N.Y., gathered on August 21 at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church’s Grazhda community hall to commemorate the 31st anniversary of Ukraine’s renewed independence.
Dr. Irena Sawchyn Doll, who moderated the program, invited Fr. Roman Lytvyniv to open the program with a prayer for the people for Ukraine.
Ms. Sawchyn Doll noted that a year ago the Ukrainian community approached the 30th anniversary of the country’s renewed independence with joy and anticipation that perhaps Ukraine would realize its long-awaited aspiration of becoming a strong, democratic country.
Ukraine’s response to the ensuing war has demonstrated to the world a level of courage and unity among the people of Ukraine that might not have been possible after 20 or even 25 years of independence, Ms. Sawchyn Doll said, adding that it may have taken a whole generation of young Ukrainians who have never lived under Soviet domination to reject with such ferocity the possibility of another Russian subjugation.
Marta Zielyk, who had been the senior diplomatic interpreter for Ukrainian for the U.S. State Department, was the keynote speaker for the program. She recently retired after a career spanning 25 years, during which time she interpreted for four U.S. presidents, multiple secretaries of state and defense, as well as many other political and military dignitaries. Before joining the State Department, Ms. Zielyk worked as a journalist for Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Ms. Zielyk’s presentation addressed her life-long passion of furthering the cause of Ukraine in the world through personal and professional commitments. As a young teen, Ms. Zielyk said, she was profoundly moved by the poetry of the dissidents of the 1960s. She spoke of the joy of receiving letters from young Ukrainian listeners who covertly tuned in to her broadcasts on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and hazarded recriminations by requesting information about life in the West when such actions were considered mutinous by Soviet authorities.
Ms. Zielyk described one thought-provoking incident with a Ukrainian military general who felt compelled to share his anguish in transferring his allegiance to the new Ukrainian government after so many years of being loyal to the Soviet Union.
Thinking back to the dozens of trips she made to Ukraine with U.S. military delegations, Ms. Zielyk gave credit to former Secretary of Defense William Perry for being one of the few American officials who, as early as the mid 1990s, recognized Ukraine’s potential as a strategic partner and laid the groundwork for a relationship that bears fruit during the current war.
Ms. Zielyk’s talk was enthusiastically received by the standing-room-only audience, and a lively question and answer period followed.
Viktoria Bezkorovajna charmed the audience with a recitation of the poem, “Stand Firm, My Ukraina.”
The program concluded with everyone in attendance singing the majestic prayer for Ukraine, “Bozhe Valekyj.”