Sabre-Svitlo Foundation promotes development of Ukrainian society

by Bozhena Olshaniwsky

The Sabre-Svitlo Foundation based in Lviv distributed more than 50,000 books throughout Ukraine in 1996. These educational, scientific and other materials have played an important role in the growth and development of democratic Ukraine and the enhancement of education and scholarship.

Even before Ukraine's independence, Sabre-Svitlo had been supplying Ukrainians with books sent by the U.S.-based Sabre Foundation, opening avenues for distribution to public libraries and various educational and scholarly institutions across Ukraine. Under communism, book distribution in Ukraine was controlled by Moscow, which served as an ideological filter that severely limited books reaching the public. Books had to conform with Marxist/Leninist doctrine, thus, much valuable literature never reached Ukraine's libraries or book outlets.

The Ukrainian community in the United States supplied financial, physical and moral support that was instrumental in creating a special bridge between the Sabre Foundation, established in 1969 in the U.S., and the Sable-Svitlo Foundation, which had its beginnings in Ukraine in 1990.

Other Eastern European countries had been recipients of the Sabre Foundation's largesse, including Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Tania Vitvitsky is the director of the Sabre Foundation at its headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.; Olha Isayevych is the executive director of Sabre-Svitlo in Ukraine; and Prof. Yaroslav Isayevych, a well-known academician, is chairman of Sabre-Svitlo's board of directors.

Substantial assistance was given to Sabre-Svitlo by the Ukrainian National Women's League of America (UNWLA) and its branches. For many years, executive board member Lida Bilous carried out the thankless task of collecting, coordinating, packing and sending numerous containers of books with the help of members of the Ukrainian American community in Bridgeport, Conn. She also recorded the title of every book on computer to facilitate processing in Ukraine.

In addition to the UNWLA, other organizations and institutions that provided funds to purchase and send books to Ukraine include: the Ukrainian National Association, Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, Americans for Human Rights in Ukraine, Soros Foundation, Eurasia Foundation and the National Endowment for Democracy.

The path from a book's donation to its delivery into the hands of a reader is sometimes thorny. Bureaucratic difficulties are often encountered, and import tax impositions have been fought. The distribution center is a warehouse in Lviv; other centers have been opened in Kharkiv and Ternopil, resulting in a more efficient operation.

Assistance in the legal field

An important thrust of Sabre-Svitlo's activities in 1996 was its efforts to build the collection at the library of the Ukrainian Legal Foundation (ULF). A world-class law library is critical to Ukraine's democratic development and essential if Ukraine is to assume its rightful place among other European states. With this plan in mind, the Sabre Foundation sent five containers of books and other printed material to Kyiv, constituting the first phase of a partnership project between the Sabre Foundation, Sable-Svitlo and the ULF.

Other aspects of this project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, were preparing and training Ukrainian specialists in the legal field, translating dictionaries, defending human rights, providing legal information via the Internet and introducing a Western system of catalogue classification.

Law-related materials supplied by Sabre include: codes of laws of various countries, monographs, journals, treatises and reference works covering virtually every major area of law: administration, management, banking, bankruptcy, constitution, contracts, insurance, social security, labor, media, taxation, torts, local self-government, international cooperation, and business, criminal and civil court procedures.

Sabre's assistance to the Ukrainian Legal Foundation offers many people - from college freshmen to national deputies in the Verkhovna Rada - the opportunity to study the legal framework of established democratic states. More than 160 people use the library each day.

According to library director Halyna Polozova, each month 20 to 30 groups from various ministries of Ukraine and Parliament committee utilize the library for research. For example, valuable information was received by the Ministry of Agriculture on land reforms, the Secretariat of the Verkhovna Rada on taxation law, and the Ministry of Defense on the rights of soldiers in other countries.

Help for libraries

Ms. Vitvitsky has visited many libraries in Ukraine where she personally verified that books from the U.S. are in great demand. Sabre also assisted in the selection and adaptation of a cataloguing system for law materials to replace the outdated Soviet one. Sabre consultant Andrew Gregorovich of Toronto worked with the Ukrainian Legal Foundation's librarians on adapting the Library of Congress cataloguing system.

In addition, the Sabre Foundation sent librarian and information specialist Rebecca Schneider to Ukraine in June 1996 to conduct a series of training sessions at the University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy on accessing law-related material on the Internet.

Sabre-Svitlo's sphere of activity expanded in 1996 to Crimea and all 24 oblasts in Ukraine through its computer base. Most of the books were sent to Lviv, Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa, reaching 70 university libraries, 36 scientific-research institutes, 25 medical colleges, 42 public schools, 36 business colleges and 87 libraries of various types. About 25 percent of the books dealt with learning/teaching the English language, 22 percent were on economics and the rest on law, medicine, ecology, sociology, technical-scientific progress, the arts, etc.

Four special courses based on the textbooks supplied by Sabre-Svitlo were instituted in the law department of Lviv University: "The History of Ukrainian Legal and Political Thought," "The History of Foreign States and Their Legislation," "The Constitutional Law of Foreign States" and "The History of Political and Legislative Doctrines." A new course in financial management was established at Kharkiv State University. Additional courses have been introduced at other Ukrainian universities in a similar manner.

Texts on small business

The introduction of classic texts on small business translated into Ukrainian was another important project undertaken by Sabre-Svitlo. The five-book series is titled "The Library of Small Business." The official introduction and presentation of this project was held at the Lviv Municipal Council and also in the main library of the Ukrainian National Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In addition to "The Library of Small Business," the New York Public Library Catalogues donated by Edward Kasinec (head of that library's Slavic Department) were presented. Among the guests present at the ceremony were: U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Green Miller and Bronislav Ometsynsky of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. A total of 1,000 sets of "The Library of Small Business" have been sent to all regions of Ukraine (four schools in Burshtyn received a set of these books, donated by Joseph and Jane Senyk from Hallieford, Va.).

Awareness of Sabre-Svitlo's programs in Ukraine has increased through articles published in such periodicals as Halytski Kontrakty, Dilo, Ukrainskyi Shliakh and Za Vilnu Ukrainu. In addition, Anatolii Zavhorodnyi, a professor at the Lviv Politechnical Institute, published "Economika Ukrainy," a digest based on materials available at Sabre-Svitlo.

As a result of its cooperation with the East European Donation Project, Sabre-Svitlo subscribes to 150 periodicals. They are available to the public in the reading room of English-language periodicals established in 1994 by Sabre-Svitlo at the library of Lviv State University. Of particular interest to readers are materials on sociology, ecology and biology.

Sabre-Svitlo has been a regional representative of the Euroclub in Lviv since 1995 and distributes numerous leaflets and brochures released by the NATO Office of Information and Press in Brussels. Some 665 volumes on political science, modern economic thought and global security were distributed among 28 national and regional scientific libraries, six universities and other institutions.

Letters of appreciation

The value of Sabre-Svitlo's activities may be ascertained by the many letters written by appreciative recipients.

Emmanuel Mysko, director of the Lviv Academy of Arts, noted: "Our collection of books suffered great losses during the period of the Bolshevik totalitarian regime, during which 'ideologically harmful' literature was destroyed." Prof. Mysko expressed thanks for the donation of books and expressed his hope that the academy's library will continue to be supported by Sabre-Svitlo.

O. Muromtseva, doctor of philology and professor of the Hryhorii Skovoroda Ukrainian Studies Chair at Kharkiv Pedagogical University, wrote: "The books we received carry with them a potential of love for Ukraine, in the name of which Sabre-Svitlo distributes books on a variety of subjects and branches of sciences with the intention and hope of stimulating the intellectual and spiritual elite of the nation."

Mykola Yablychanskyi, dean of the College of Medicine at Kharkiv State University, thanked Sabre-Svitlo and sent a journal published by the College of Medicine. He stated: "Our college was founded in 1805 and re-established in 1992. This is our country's first attempt to return to the classic medical education on a university level that prevails in the West. It was destroyed by the USSR, resulting in a fundamental backwardness in medical science, thus diminishing the prestige of our medical practice and fostering a lack of confidence among the recipients of medical service. The goals of our college of medicine cannot be attained without the aid and support of Sabre-Svitlo."

Additional letters of appreciation have come from the Stefanyk Library of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, the National Committee to Combat AIDS, the Business Management College of Cherkasy, the State Scientific Libraries of Donetsk, the Centralized Library System of Kherson, the Medical Libraries of Lutsk, America House in Kyiv, the First Ukrainian Gymnasium in Kharkiv and many others.

The Sabre-Svitlo Foundation manages its charitable and educational activities on a grand scale with a modest budget and deserves our continuing support.

Please send inquiries and donations to: Sabre-Svitlo Foundation, Ukraine, 290026 Lviv, vul. Kozelnytska 4; or Sabre Foundation Inc., Tania Vitvitsky, Program Director, 872 Massachusetts Ave., Suite 2-1, Cambridge, MA 02139.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, August 10, 1997, No. 32, Vol. LXV

| Home Page |