Cornell club shares Ukrainian events with university community

by Julia Tretiak

In light of recent concerns about the apparent lack of student interest in Ukrainian activities on college campuses, I'd like to describe the efforts of the Cornell University Ukrainian Club in sharing Ukrainian culture with university students and our community.

While taking the bus back to Cornell University after last year's Labor Day festivities at Soyuzivka, my friend Kristy Pocious and I became inspired to start a Ukrainian Club at our university. Earlier that summer, while working together on campus, Kristy and I were thrilled to discover that we are both of Ukrainian descent.

We went to the Labor Day weekend at Soyuzivka because I was performing there with the Ukrainian dance group, Syzokryli. Roma Pryma Bohachevsky generously welcomes former group members to return to dance at various performances. Many are eager to come back, rehearse and dance with old friends.

We had a great weekend, enjoying Ukrainian food and music, and meeting many new and old acquaintances. By the end of the weekend we decided that we wanted to do something to bring Ukrainian students together at Cornell. Kristy and I founded a Ukrainian Club. Our club started with two people: I became president and Kristy the treasurer. Our Ukrainian language professor, E. Wayles Browne, offered to be our advisor. We registered with the university, applied for funding, sent out e-mails, and made sidewalk chalkings announcing our club all over campus.

Within a few weeks, we had about 25 students on our mailing list. A diverse group of Ukrainians and non-Ukrainians joined the club. Some of the students had been involved in Ukrainian activities all of their lives. Others were simply interested in learning more about the culture. We began to hold biweekly meetings where we planned the logistics of our first event.

Our club wanted to sponsor an event of utmost importance. So we decided to invite Alex Kuzma and Joseph Sywenkyj of the Children of Chornobyl Relief Fund to come to Cornell in order to spread awareness about the Chornobyl disaster and its tragic aftermath. Mr. Sywenkyj displayed his photographs of Ukrainian children affected by the disaster. Throughout the day, Cornell students, professors and people from the Ithaca community were clearly moved as they viewed his photographs and asked him questions about his experiences in Ukraine. In the evening, Mr. Kuzma gave two informative, very interesting lectures about the causes of the Chornobyl disaster, its effects on children in Ukraine, long-term effects on the environment and about what we could do to help.

The event was a tremendous success. We were very fortunate to have Messrs. Kuzma and Sywenkyj come to share their experiences and knowledge with the Cornell and Ithaca community.

During the spring semester, the Cornell University Ukrainian Club invited Yaroslava Surmach Mills to teach us the art of making pysanky. She talked about the history of the pysanka, and what the different designs and colors represent, and she demonstrated the process step by step. Each person who attended the workshop was able to create his/her own pysanka, which proved to be very rewarding for everyone. It was exciting to see students, professors and townspeople diligently producing his/her works of art, each person proud and delighted with their treasured egg. Also on display was the extensive collection of Valentyna Tretiak's wooden carved Easter eggs from various regions of Ukraine. The all-day event attracted many people from the Cornell and Ithaca community.

Aside from our two larger events, our club got together every other week to plan events, watch Ukrainian movies and cartoons, and talk about our personal connections with Ukraine. The Ukrainian Club also worked with the Red Cross as translators for a Ukrainian family whose apartment burned down in Ithaca. Members of the club raised money and collected clothes for the family.

In my absence, while I'm studying abroad this semester, the Ukrainian Club is continuing to bring students together. I am grateful to Andrew Demidowich and Adrian Korduba for directing club activities. They are planning several social get-togethers.

I am currently studying Ukrainian language at Ivan Franko University in Lviv. Studying and living in Ukraine is making me realize how important it is for Ukrainian Americans to celebrate Ukrainian culture, pass it down to our youth and share it with our communities. Ukrainian Americans also need to be aware of the political, economic, social and environmental troubles facing Ukraine. I urge all university students to put their student activity fees to good use and to start Ukrainian clubs at their universities.

Julia Tretiak, a junior at Cornell University says she is thoroughly enjoying her semester in Lviv. Besides intensively studying Ukrainian, she travels most weekends to towns and villages, meeting scores of relatives and new acquaintances. Just recently she was informed by Cornell that she has been awarded the Frederic Conger Wood Fellowship for Research in Europe by the Institute for European Studies. She plans to do research/field work regarding children of Chornobyl in various locations in Ukraine this summer.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, January 13, 2002, No. 2, Vol. LXX

| Home Page |