Volunteers clear wilderness trails at Soyuzivka

KERHONKSON, N.Y. - Two score plus volunteers arrived at Soyuzivka on Saturday, April 12, for the first Trailblazing Weekend at the resort of the Ukrainian National Association. They came not to vacation or relax, but to work here in the Shawangunk Mountains.

Some came armed - with rakes, machetes, weed-whackers, chainsaws, pickaxes and shovels - while others were allowed to "pick their weapon," related Nestor Paslawsky, Soyuzivka's new director of hospitality services, a.k.a the resort's manager. Their task was to clear wilderness trails on the resort's property, with a view toward making them accessible for hikers, mountain bikers and others to enjoy Soyuzivka's natural beauty - and especially the mountaintop view from the resort's waterfall.

At the end of the day, the volunteers had succeeded in clearing a 4-foot-wide trail to Soyuzivka's waterfall, and, as Mr. Paslawsky observed, it was a glorious success as the trailblazers took "a victory photo" at the top of the mountain. He added: "It was great to see the enthusiasm. For me, who's never been up to the falls, it was also nice to see that there's an easy way to get up there."

Lest readers think this trail was blazed in a day, it must be noted that two Soyuzivka stalwarts, Serge Nalywaiko and Andrew Olynec, had spent weeks prior to the day mapping out the trail using GPS. And they worked in the snow, to boot.

Both men, according to Sonia Semanyshyn, a veteran employee of Soyuzivka who today is the resort's manager of accounting and back-office operations, had been employed at the resort for well over a decade each, holding such positions as grunt laborer, waiter, bartender and office worker. Mr. Nalywaiko also was the resort's EMT and last year ran the sports camp. Both also live in the area - Mr. Nalywaiko in Ellenville and Mr. Olynec in Accord - and are well-acquainted with Soyuzivka's woods and "the Gunks," as the Shawangunk Mountains are known locally.

The work crew of 40 to 45 people who arrived for the Trailblazing Weekend included locals, as well as folks from farther afield - New Jersey, Connecticut, the New York City area, and Rochester and Syracuse, N.Y. All age groups were represented, from Soyuzivka old-timers who had been there half a century ago when the resort first opened, to kids whose grandparents were among its first guests.

Indeed, there was a job for everyone. While the older and more physically adept took to the trails, the youngest were assigned the fun task of planting sunflower seeds. Other children helped clean up the Soyuzivka grounds. Ten-year-old Anna Prusinowski, who arrived with her parents, William and Patricia, and her brother, Billy, from Syracuse, N.Y., helped an executive officer of the Ukrainian National Association, Treasurer Roma Lisovich, paint the Hutsul figure that stands at the entrance to Soyuzivka on Foordmore Road.

The Cymbal family from the Kerhonkson area also was there in full force, helping in various capacities, with Victor Cymbal assisting in trailblazing, plus photographing the crew at work.

The Czernyks came from New York City, with Ihor clearing the trail, while his wife, Natalie, and daughter, Julianna, planted flowers.

The Kushnirs of Connecticut, owners of the New York City-based New England Meat Co., donated the burgers, chicken and kovbasa for a barbecue.

And, there were many more families and individuals, former employees and Soyuzivka regulars, too numerous to mention here by name - all of whom came because of their obvious love for the resort.

Some of the volunteers came only for the day, while others stayed the weekend. On Saturday evening all were hosted at a barbecue held on the patio and in the lobby of the Main House. The kids, too, had a special treat: an early Easter egg hunt as a reward for their hard work.

Ms. Lisovich commented: "A big thank-you is due to everyone who joined us. The weather welcomed everyone with warm, sunny skies, and fun was had by all. Not only was a trail blazed, but the Hutsul at the resort's gatehouse was renovated and painted, and the youngsters helped out by planting flowers all around Soyuzivka."

"The weekend really seemed to instill in people a feeling of ownership and pride - this is, after all, their 'oselia' (resort)," Ms. Lisovich said.

Her words were seconded by Mr. Paslawsky, who noted: "It was great to see the enthusiasm of the volunteers, and I was surprised by the great turnout, especially with the uncertain weather. I just want to offer thanks to everyone who came."

He added that more trails are to be cleared in the future, with the next one - the trail from the waterfall over the ridge and down toward the Lviv villa - being scheduled for completion during Soyuzivka's Cinco de Mayo weekend, May 2-4. (Volunteers are encouraged to phone the resort: 845-626-5641.)

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, April 27, 2003, No. 17, Vol. LXXI

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