1990: A LOOK BACK

The Ukrainian diaspora


During 1990, the World Congress of Free Ukrainians found itself in the midst of a revival of Ukrainian community life in Eastern Europe.

In March the organization received a letter from the Association of Ukrainians in Romania, founded on December 29, 1989, and encompassing more than 240,000 members. The letter was a cry for help from the country's impoverished and persecuted Ukrainian community.

Then, in August, the WCFU assisted the Association of Ukrainians in Poland in organizing the First World Forum of the Ukrainian Diaspora (see section titled "Meanwhile, in Poland...").

Early in the year, the WCFU and the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Rome opened a refugee assistance office in Rome to help the large number of refugees from Poland and the Soviet Union who were then in Italy en route to new lives in the West.

As well, the World Congress of Free Ukrainians, through its Human Rights Commission, was active at both the Copenhagen and Paris meetings of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (see "The Helsinki process").

The WCFU-initiated International Commission of Inquiry into the 1932-1933 Famine in Ukraine this year released its report and in May presented a copy to the Geneva office of the United Nations undersecretary general for human rights. The report confirmed that Ukraine had lost 6 million persons, or 20 percent of its population, in the Great Famine and that Soviet authorities used the famine to crown their policy of denationalization of Ukraine.

At year's end, WCFU President Yuri Shymko presented a strongly worded letter of protest regarding the case of Ukrainian People's Deputy Stepan Khmara to Ambassador Gennadiy Udovenko and other officials at the Permanent Mission of the Ukrainian SSR to the United Nations located in New York. The letter was addressed to Leonid Kravchuk, chairman of the Ukrainian SSR Supreme Soviet.

In Canada, the Ukrainian Canadian Committee focused much attention on the issue of internment during World War I of close to 5,000 Ukrainian Canadians. The UCC sought an acknowledgment and symbolic redress from the Canadian government for its mistreatment of the internees, held between 1914 and 1920, and for disfranchisement and discrimination against an additional 80,000 who were stigmatized as "enemy aliens." In December it was reported by the UCC's Ukrainian Information Bureau that Prime Minister Brian Mulroney is planning to acknowledge that the internment was unwarranted and unjust.

In addition, the UCC protested the Canadian immigration minister's decision to eliminate the self-exiled class for Eastern European immigration, thus effectively cutting off immigration from Ukraine. The self-exile program had been established to help persons who were not refugees in the strict legal sense, but were still living in refugee-like conditions.

The UCC protested that Immigration Minister Barbara McDougall had promised not to implement any changes before consultation with concerned organizations in Canada. UCC President Dr. Dmytro Cipywnyk stated that no such consultation had occurred and that cancellation of the self-exiled class was "totally premature in assuming that the prohibitions that existed in the USSR for the last 73 years have been amended."

During 1990 Ukrainian Canadians also began planning numerous events to mark the 1991 centennial of Ukrainian settlement in Canada.

However, Ukrainian Canadians also had a special reason to celebrate in 1990 when one of their own, Ramon Hnatyshyn, was installed as Canada's governor general during grand ceremonies on January 29. The new governor general's cast of arms reflects his Ukrainian roots by incorporating a tryzub, Ukraine's ancient national symbol, and the colors of the Ukrainian national flag, blue and yellow, into the design.

In both Canada and the United States, the opening of those countries' consulates in Kiev was a major issue for Ukrainian communities. Both the U.S. and Canada are to open consulates in early 1991.

In late February and early March, U.S. congressmen who were to travel to Ukraine for the March elections to the Ukrainian SSR Supreme Soviet were denied entry visas by Soviet authorities. Also barred from traveling to Ukraine at that time were Eugene Iwanciw, director of the Ukrainian National Association's Washington Office, who was to act as advance man for the congressional delegation, and an associate editor of The Ukrainian Weekly, Marta Kolomayets, who was to cover the historic elections.

A similar situation befell a Canadian delegation of Parliament members who had traveled to Lithuania to observe elections there and had planned to visit Ukraine as well. Soviet authorities did not permit the MPs to enter Ukraine.

On June 20, the U.S. Commission on the Ukrainian Famine held its final meeting, four years and two months after its inception. The commission had investigated the causes and consequences of the 1932-1933 Great Famine in Ukraine and had issued reports on its findings. In related news, the Congress passed a joint resolution designating November 3-10, 1990, as "National Week to Commemorate the Victims of the Famine in Ukraine."

During the year there were many visitors from Ukraine who came to Washington to address not only the Ukrainian community but also decision makers in government and influential leaders in the private sector. Among them were: Peoples Deputies Rostyslav Bratun, Yuriy Sorochyk, Orest Vlokh and Mykhailo Horyn; Minister of Health Dr. Yuriy Spizhenko; Volodymyr Yavorivsky, chairman of the Parliament's Chornobyl Committee; Volodymyr Pylypchuk, head of the Parliament's Economic Committee; Prime Minister Vitold Fokin; and Yuriy Mishchenko and Anatoliy Panov, activists of the Green World ecological association.

In the United States, the two central organizations, the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council and the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, each pursued their own activities.

The presidency of the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council changed hands on June 30 when John O. Flis officially resigned that position and the newly elected supreme president of the Ukrainian National Association, Ulana Diachuk, assumed the chief executive's spot. Later in the year, Mrs. Diachuk represented the UACC at the second congress of the Popular Movement of Ukraine (Rukh).

The National Fund to Aid Ukraine began the year by issuing an appeal to the Ukrainian American community for contributions to support its work through both the Rukh Fund and the Children of Chornobyl Relief Fund.

During the year, there were numerous discussions on how best to reorganize the national fund, and The Weekly's pages carried some of those opinions on its pages. There were allegations that financial reports regarding the fund's activities were incomplete at best and charges that the leadership of the fund was not responsive to needs in Ukraine and the wishes of Rukh support committees created throughout the country.

As a result of the squabbling, two separate groups of NFUA activists planned to hold conferences to reorganize the community fund. Ultimately, responding to a special request from Mykhailo Horyn, chairman of the Rukh Secretariat who was then visiting the United States, a meeting of leaders of various Rukh support groups was held in New York on September 29. Meeting participants decided that one nationwide conference should be held in order to establish a coordinating body of committees that exist to assist Ukraine through Rukh and other democratic groups. Such conference has now been slated for January of 1991.

Meanwhile, the Children of Chornobyl Relief Fund continued its work in sending shipments of relief supplies and medical equipment to Ukraine (see "Chornobyl aid"). As well, the group sent three shipments of computers for Ukrainian-language schools in Ukraine. In all, 200 computer systems were shipped to Ukraine thanks to the efforts of CCRF, spearheaded by vice-president Dr. Roman Voronka, and funding from Pastor John Shep's "Thoughts of Faith" ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as well as philanthropist Marian Kots, a CCRF board member.

During 1990, the Ukrainian Fraternal Association marked the 80th anniversary of its founding. The UFA also held its 22nd quadrennial convention this year in June at its own resort, Verkhovyna, in Glen Spey, N.Y. John Oleksyn was re-elected president of the fraternal organization. Also elected to the UFA executive board were: Jerry Pronko, first vice-president (who later passed away; see "Deaths in the community"); Ihor Gawdiak, second vice-president for Canadian affairs; Peter Salak, supreme secretary; Roman Danyluk, assistant financial secretary-treasurer; and Theodora Turula, assistant supreme secretary.

Another fraternal organization, the Providence Association of Ukrainian Catholics of America, had to conduct a recount of the ballots in the 1989 elections of its General Assembly. After a complaint brought by presidential candidate Msgr. Ronald Popivchak which alleged election irregularities, the organization's Election Committee conducted a review on January 10. As a result, ballots from 21 branches were voided, and the commission announced amended election results. Thus, the new executive board of the Providence Association will be headed by Msgr. Popivchak (not Msgr. Thomas Sayuk) through March 1994.

The Ukrainian Nationality Room at the University of Pittsburgh was dedicated this year on June 17. The culmination of community efforts spearheaded since 1975 by the Pittsburgh Ukrainian Nationality Classroom Committee, the Ukrainian room became the 23rd nationality room created for the university by area ethnic communities. Ukrainians had raised $250,000 to complete the room, designed by Lubomyr Kalynych employing the Ukrainian Baroque style of the 17th and 18th centuries. The classroom is Room 341 in the university's Cathedral of Learning.


Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, December 30, 1990, No. 52, Vol. LVIII


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