Chicago marks Ukrainian Independence Day with a variety of events

by Marta Farion

CHICAGO - This city marked Ukraine's 15th independence anniversary with a variety of events, including the Ukrainian Days Festival attended by the governor of Illinois, the official celebration at Chicago's centrally located Daley Plaza, a reception for the Ukrainian community hosted by Chicago's Mayor Richard M. Daley and a reception hosted by Ukraine's Consulate General of Chicago, as well as countless celebrations at local organizations and homes.

This year's Ukrainian Days Festival was held on August 19-20 at Smith Park. Over 15,000 people attended the festival and enjoyed the continuous entertainment on two stages, which presented a line-up of song, dance, poetry, humor, music and enthusiastic greetings from participants and guests.

The opening of the festival became a solemn occasion with the participation of clergy, government and community representatives. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Lt.-Gov. Patrick Quinn, Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, Alderman Manny Flores and Consul General of Ukraine Vasyl Korzachenko addressed the audience.

The local community orchestra Berkut played the national anthems and various marches, the local Ukrainian American veterans presented the color guard, Bishop Richard Seminack delivered the opening prayer, and, as the host of the festival, Pavlo Bandriwsky, the president of the Illinois Division of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, delivered the opening comments to mark this occasion.

Government representatives greeted the large crowd on a sunny warm day with remarks addressed at community concerns. Gov. Blagojevich delighted the audience with an unexpectedly thorough and personal account of his own Serbian background, his identification with the immigrant experience, as well as the needs of the community.

Chicago native Myron Kuropas, former advisor on ethnic affairs to President Gerald R. Ford and a regular columnist of The Ukrainian Weekly, delivered the keynote address. His remarks addressed the current problems in Ukraine as well as in the diaspora candidly, eloquently, with humor and optimism. He reflected on the many challenges faced in a new Ukraine and in a new diaspora with a philosophical outlook based on his many years of observation and experience in the community.

Bohdan Melnyk, UCCA vice-president, gave a patriotic and insightful speech on the progress Ukraine has made in its short tenure of independence.

The two-day festival in the park was filled with activities. There were many booths and displays representing local organizations, artists and businesses, as well as numerous food stands with choices of delicious traditional and non-traditional delicacies. A two-day non-stop program of entertainment by Ukrainian singers, dancers, humorists and actors was coordinated by Bohdan Buchwak, who chaired the program committee.

A significant component of this year's festival included sports. The continuous tournaments of soccer and volleyball teams attracted hundreds of spectators and fans. It was exciting to see these athletes, who played at a high level of proficiency and enthusiasm, with the winning teams taking awards of recognition. Also attracting many spectators were the chess, checkers, children's art, embroidered shirt and many other contests.

Every year the festival grows in numbers and participants, but this year the interest and attendance topped all expectations. This demonstrated the desire of the community to gather and celebrate together, to unite in the name of their mother country, and to simply have a good time on this joyous occasion. As Ukraine has changed in 15 years, so has the diaspora with its large numbers of new immigrants, known as the Fourth Wave, most of whom stayed and intend to make America their new home. The Ukrainian Days Festival brought together the people of all "waves" whose roots are Ukrainian, and also attracted their friends and neighbors.

The Independence Day celebrations were not confined to the park. On August 22 Mayor Daley held an official reception to honor Ukraine's independence at the historic Chicago Cultural Center, the building where the "Ukrainian Modernism 1910-1930 Exhibit" is currently on display until October 15 to media and public acclaim. The huge banners and posters on each side of the building with the words "Ukrainian Modernism" emblazoned on them are viewed by the continuous flow of hundreds of thousands of drivers and pedestrians.

Mayor Daley delivered a speech that astounded the audience in its thorough understanding and dimension of the current situation in Ukraine. Marking the 15th anniversary of the Chicago-Kyiv sister cities relationship, Mayor and Mrs. Daley recently visited Kyiv with a delegation on a fact-finding mission. The mayor spoke about his observations in Kyiv and the educational, cultural and business ties between the two sister cities.

He did not shy away from the current controversial political issues. The mayor drew from his own experience as he stated that one of the most difficult dilemmas for a leader is the necessity to make unpopular decisions when they will ultimately result in a benefit for all. He emphasized that a leader's first priority is not popularity, but responsibility. The mayor shared his belief that the current situation in Ukraine will stabilize and will result in a better life for the country's people.

Chicago's mayor presented awards to Vera Troshchuk, Dr. Daniel Hryhorchuk, Mykola Mischenko, Dr. Vasyl and Dr. Roksolana Lonchyna for their respective contributions to the city and the community.

On August 24 the Ukrainian flag was raised at Daley Plaza, the central square of the city, at an official ceremony attended by several hundred participants and many more spectators. Pavlo Bandriwsky, president of the Illinois UCCA, and Consul General Korzachenko delivered keynote speeches.

Chicago's round of independence celebrations was completed with the reception hosted by the Consulate General of Ukraine at the Ukrainian Cultural Center on August 29. Representatives of the consular corps, city government and civic organizations, as well as guests from the community came together to mark this year's commemorations at this event.

The success and vitality of Ukraine's independence celebration in Chicago was due in no small measure to the enormous work of the organizing committee of the local Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, the Ukrainian American umbrella entity that represents the community's organizations and speaks on behalf of its interests and concerns.

This year's independence celebrations underscored more than ever before that, by coming together, the community participates in Ukraine's nation-building process in its unique Chicago way.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, September 10, 2006, No. 37, Vol. LXXIV

| Home Page |