FACES AND PLACES
by Myron B. Kuropas
Many years ago, when I was young and beautiful, I visited Cleveland on a yearly basis. Cleveland was the home of Taras Szmagala, a close friend. Both of us were single, so the most natural destination for us every summer was Soyuzivka - a magnet for Ukrainian youth. As I drove east from Chicago, I stopped and spent the night at the Szmagala residence. The next morning Taras and I would be off to our Ukrainian Catskill mecca. My pilgrimage paid off: I met Lesia at Soyuzivka.
Some years later I was a frequent visitor to Cleveland as the regional director of ACTION, a federal agency that included programs such as VISTA, Foster Grandparents and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). I developed an ACTION program called Project Senior Ethnic Find (PSEF) which was introduced in Chicago, Gary, Detroit and Cleveland. Mayor Ralph Perk formally inaugurated the program at an official ceremony in Cleveland, which included Mr. Szmagala, then director of Sen. Robert Taft's Cleveland office, and Bohdan Futey, then one of Mayor Perk's assistants. Mayor Perk jokingly commented on the "scary portend" of so many Ukrainians.
Recently, Lesia and I coordinated a three-week U.S . tour for Ihor Pasichnyk and Natalia Lominska, rector and vice-rector, respectively, of the National University of Ostroh Academy. The first stop on our journey was Cleveland.
Thanks to Volodymyr and Lydia Bazarko who co-managed the March 23 event, and Wasyl Liscynesky, long-time UNA activist and president of the United Ukrainian Organizations of Greater Cleveland, some 75 local Ukrainians greeted the Ostroh professors at the Pokrova Ukrainian Catholic Church Hall in Parma a total of $4,030 in donations was raised for the academy. Following the meeting, the Bazarkos graciously hosted a reception at their lovely home. There could not have been a more auspicious beginning to our excursion, which later included successful appearances in Detroit (Warren), Chicago, Newark, N.J., and New York City.
Cleveland has a long history as a significant hub of Ukrainian life in the United States. Ukraine's first immigrants began to arrive from Transcarpathia and the Lemko region in the 1880s. According to the 40th Anniversary Jubilee Almanac of the Ukrainian National Association - the unsurpassed classic history of the Ukrainian American community from its genesis until 1934 - the first Cleveland Ukrainians from Galicia were Stefan Palivoda, Pavlo Volansky and Antin Horyn. The first Ukrainian organization, the Brotherhood of Ss. Peter and Paul (UNA Branch 102), was founded in 1902.
Eighty years later, Ss. Peter and Paul Church was built. As in many early Ukrainian communities throughout the U.S., organization of a local UNA branch usually heralded the establishment of a parish and the building of a church. The Ukrainian National Home was established in 1919. St. Vladimir's Ukrainian Orthodox Church was founded in 1924.
By the 1930s Cleveland's Ukrainians had a nationally renowned Ukrainian choir and some 40 organizations, including five youth groups, nationalist and Hetmanate societies, and numerous cultural organizations; most belonged to the United Ukrainian Organizations of America.
Cleveland was also the home of a cohort of Ukrainian socialists, and it was here that the Ukrainian Federation of Socialist Parties was established in 1915. In 1918 the federation changed its name to the Ukrainian Federation of Communist Parties and transformed Robitnyk, initially a Cleveland-based, Ukrainian-language socialist newspaper, into a pro-Soviet publication.
In 1940 the Ukrainian Cultural Garden was erected in Rockefeller Park. It contained busts of Taras Shevchenko, Volodymyr the Great and Ivan Franko, all sculpted by Alexander Archipenko. As the neighborhood around the park became more diverse, vandalism forced the removal and storage of some of the statues.
With the arrival of the third wave of Ukrainian immigrants following the second world war, Cleveland quickly became the home of some 70 Ukrainian organizations. By 1980 this number had dwindled to 44.
Presently, some 60,000 inhabitants of Cleveland can trace their ethnic roots to present-day Ukraine. The most active organizations include the youth groups Plast and SUM, both of which have summer camps in the area, the Dnipro Choir, the Cleveland Selfreliance Federal Credit Union, the Ukrainian National Women's League of America, the Ukrainian Gold Cross, the Lviv Sports Club, the Organization for the Defense of Four Freedoms for Ukraine, and professional associations of physicians, engineers and businesspersons. The UNA district committee, now headed by my godson, Taras Szmagala Jr., has 10 branches.
The Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of St. Josaphat, presently led by Bishop Robert Moskal, was created in 1984. A regular Ukrainian day school, whose current enrollment is 175, was opened in 1947. There are two Ukrainian Saturday schools, one of which is operated under the auspices of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Today Cleveland appears to be experiencing a renaissance of youthful exuberance. The Kashtan Dance School, for example, has 92 students and a board of rectors that includes activists of various religious and political persuasions - all in their 30s. The same can be said about the Ukrainian Museum Archive, founded by Leonid Bachynsky in 1952; its current director, The Ukrainian Weekly columnist Andrew Fedynsky, took over the museum following the death of his father, the former director.
This year, for the first time, Catholic and Orthodox clergy participated jointly in Good Friday services at their respective churches, another hopeful sign of growing ecumenism and declining factionalism in Cleveland.
Ukrainians in Cleveland avoided the 1980 split between the UCCA and UACC by remaining loyal to their local umbrella group, the United Ukrainian Organization, which continues to coordinate most activities in the area and publishes a bimonthly newsletter, Visti UZO.
Soon after the Ostroh visit, Mr. Liscynesky opened an account (No. 9324) at Selfreliance for future donations. An additional $1,700 has already been collected. Ukrainians in the Cleveland area who wish to contribute to this worthwhile, tax-deductible cause an make their checks out to the UN Foundation/Ostroh Fund and send them to the Cleveland Selfreliance Federal Credit Union, 6108 State Road, Parma, OH, 44134. Others can mail their checks to: Friends of Ostroh, 107 Ilehamwood Drive, DeKalb, IL 60115.
Myron Kuropas' e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, May 13, 2001, No. 19, Vol. LXIX
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