HARTFORD, Conn. – The XXII Congress of Ukrainians in America, held at the Ukrainian National Home in Hartford, Conn., over the weekend of September 23-25, elected Andriy Futey as president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), ratified over two dozen changes to the organization’s by-laws, received greetings from two presidential candidates, and charted a course forward over the next four years and beyond for the organized Ukrainian diaspora in the United States. Over 80 registered delegates followed in the footsteps of their predecessors who had gathered on 21 previous occasions over the past 76 years. Ukrainian community leaders traveled from across New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Massachusetts and Illinois. In addition to the leaders of individual local chapters of the UCCA, the body of delegates was also made up of representatives of notable organizations such as the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee (UUARC), the Ukrainian National Association, the Providence Association of Ukrainian Catholics in America, the Ukrainian American Youth Association, New Ukrainian Wave, the Organization for Defense of Lemkivshchyna, the Society of Veterans of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, the Federation of Ukrainian Student Organizations of America, the Ukrainian Free University Foundation, the Ukrainian Freedom Foundation, the Organization for the Defense of Four Freedoms for Ukraine, as well as the Women’s Association for the Defense of Four Freedoms for Ukraine.
KYIV – Last week Ukraine’s Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, voted not to recognize elections to Russia’s State Duma because Crimea was an election district. Urging the international community to follow suit, a strong majority of 264 lawmakers called the vote on the illegally annexed territory “illegitimate,” concluding that the entire election was thus invalid. It underscored rising feelings of national pride in the face of military aggression, an economic embargo and persistent informational warfare waged by Russia. Across the city, car owners have attached adhesive decals of Ukrainian embroidery on their vehicles, T-shirts adorned with Ukraine’s national symbol, the trident, are frequently worn, and the Ukrainian language is heard more often on Kyiv’s streets. Patriotism also transcends linguistic and ethnic lines.
WASHINGTON – “Russian propaganda made the mistake of using me as an example, and I just became too expensive for them. I am a person who never gives up,” said Nadiya Savchenko, a former prisoner of war, current member of Ukraine’s Parliament, and one of the country’s most popular politicians, on September 22. Three days earlier, the Atlantic Council gave Ms. Savchenko its Freedom Award in New York City. The award had been bestowed in 2015 and accepted by her sister Vera while Ms. Savchenko was being held in a Russian prison on trumped-up charges. She was released on May 25 and arrived in Kyiv to a hero’s welcome.
On May 2, Foreign Policy magazine published an article by Josh Cohen, a former employee of the U.S. State Department, titled “The Historian Whitewashing Ukraine’s Past” (http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/ 02/the-historian-whitewashing-ukraines-past-volodymyr-viatrovych/). Although Mr. Cohen’s criticism of Ukraine’s archives open access policies are a mixture of slander, speculation and unfounded fears, Foreign Policy magazine never responded to my letters and did not explain why they would not publish my response which is given below.
The historian alleged to have cleansed Ukraine’s past of undesirable episodes is Dr. Volodymyr Viatrovych, head of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance (UINM). The timing of the article coincided with a series of articles that were published arguing that, even if de-communization is to be expected, this is not the right place and the right time and is not being run by the best people. Mr. Cohen’s article is short on facts and evidence. Mr. Cohen claims the UINM has already received millions of documents from the former Soviet archives, when in reality this is not the case because the archive is just being launched.
NIEUWEGEIN, The Netherlands – An international criminal investigation into the MH17 tragedy in eastern Ukraine in 2014 has determined the Malaysian Airlines passenger jet was shot down by a Buk anti-aircraft missile fired from separatist-controlled territory in Ukraine. The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) further determined that the missile system was brought into Ukraine from Russia shortly before the tragedy and then smuggled back to Russia shortly afterward. Presenting the JIT’s interim findings on September 28, the team’s head, Fred Westerbeke, said the investigation had ruled out all other possible explanations for MH17’s crash, which killed all 298 people on board. Mr. Westerbeke, who is also the Netherlands’ chief prosecutor, added that the JIT could not currently reveal all of its findings for fear of hampering its criminal investigations. However, the investigation has identified about 100 people who are being looked at further.
Following is the text of the speech, titled as given above, that was delivered by Bishop Borys Gudziak on September 27 at the Verkhovna Rada. The speaker is bishop of the Eparchy in Paris for Ukrainian Catholics in France, Benelux and Switzerland, as well as president of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. “There are matters, there are tragedies, whose enormity renders words powerless, about which silence is in fact more eloquent.” Half a century ago, in 1966, on the 25th anniversary of the massacres in Babyn Yar, these were the intuitions of the dissident Ivan Dzyuba, one of the most prominent Ukrainian intellectuals of our time. As he later admitted, this address, relevant still today, was impromptu, a spontaneous response to the pain, fear and perplexity which Dzyuba saw in the eyes of those who had gathered for this anniversary. For many of them, the war, its terror, the preceding Holodomor and the unspeakable Catastrophe – the Shoah that befell the Jews in Ukraine were lived memories.
The Ukrainian Weekly congratulates Ukraine’s 2016 Paralympic Team on its third-place finish at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games! This year, Ukraine was represented by 172 athletes in 15 sports and collected 117 medals (41 gold, 37 silver and 39 bronze). First place was won by China (239 medals), followed by Great Britain in second place (147 medals), and the United States (115 medals) in fourth place. To better understand the Ukrainian team’s accomplishment, one must examine the 20-year journey that Ukraine’s Paralympic program has undergone since it began competing under the Ukrainian banner at the Summer Paralympic Games in 1996 in Atlanta, Ga. (Previously, Ukrainian Paralympic athletes competed under the Soviet Union in 1988 and under the Unified Team in 1992.)
In 1996, the team was represented by 30 athletes and finished in 44th place with seven medals.
Twenty-six years ago, on October 3, 1990, the Ukrainian Parliament (known as the Supreme Soviet at the time) voted by an overwhelming majority to greet the reunification of Germany after 45 years of separation and one year after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. In its letter of greeting, Ukraine’s Parliament raised the issue of Ukraine’s suffering during World War II and subtly included the possibility of addressing associated reparations. However, some deputies said that the question of compensation was entirely premature. “I don’t understand why they brought it up,” said Serhiy Selenets. “The 14 billion DM [Germany offered the Soviet Union] was economic aid, not reparations for the war; the two issues are entirely unrelated.”
The annual commemoration of the reunification, known as “Day of German Unity” marks the unification of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany, which was aided by France, the United States and Great Britain) and the Democratic Republic of Germany (East Germany, dominated by the Soviet Union).
Moscow continues to insist that it recognizes the Donbas as part of Ukraine and will seek its return to Kyiv’s control, but its agents in the unrecognized Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics” (DPR and LPR) are setting up special camps expanding patriotic instruction in the schools to prepare the young there for the annexation of the region by Russia, according to Vyachesav Gusarov. Mr. Gusarov, a reserve officer of Ukraine’s intelligence service and an expert in the Information Resistance Group, describes this system in a September 28 interview with Kyiv’s Apostrophe news agency (apostrophe.ua/article/politics/2016-09-28/voyna-na-donbasse-v-dnr-i-lnr-detey-svozyat-v-voennyie-lagerya/7438). Both the DPR and the LPR, he says, organized youth camps this past summer and also sent young people from there to other camps in Russia. In addition, the two “republics” have introduced “patriotic education” courses in the schools and organized Soviet-style Pioneer organizations. And they have organized military training schools in the two oblasts, places which did not have such institutions in the past.
In what many are calling “the Putin effect,” countries across Eastern Europe, including even Belarus, nominally Russia’s closest ally, are now arming themselves even when they have to cut social welfare spending because, in the words of one commentator, “no one wants to be the next Ukraine.”
This sacrifice makes them producers of security and not just consumers who rely on others, including NATO and the United States, whatever some Western politicians may say. And, it is an indication of just how frightened they are that the Kremlin leader, however bogged down he may be in Ukraine, appears to them as a continuing existential threat. Some of the increases these countries are making in their defense structures are usefully surveyed today by the Belsat news agency (belsat.eu/ru/news/effekt-putina-strany-vostochnoy-evropy-rashiryayut-armii-i-pokupayut-oruzhiye/). Poland has done perhaps more than anyone else, beefing up its territorial defense and increasing the size of its military, including the development of a system of reserves modeled on the U.S. National Guard, and plans to purchase new weapons systems in the coming years (poland.pl/politics/home/new-territorial-defence-force-poland/). The Czech Republic, Belsat says, has moved in “the very same direction,” approving a security and foreign policy strategy based on the proposition that Russia is now a major threat.
Traditional remembrance events on the anniversary of journalist Heorhii Gongadze’s abduction and subsequent murder are especially poignant this year as they come just two months after the killing in Kyiv of Pavel Sheremet, the renowned Belarusian journalist and former prisoner of conscience. Ukraine’s media unions and other organizations have called on their colleagues to join in honoring their memory and that of all journalists who were killed while carrying out their work. There is hopefully no reason to suspect any officials or higher in Ukraine of involvement in Sheremet’s killing, or of unwillingness to carry out a proper investigation. There does not, however, seem to be any major progress in finding his killer. Sheremet, who was just 44, had resigned from Russian ORT two years earlier in protest at the virulent warmongering propaganda against Ukraine.
Wow! Someone is doing something right in Ukraine – one Ukrainian program is definitely succeeding. It is fantastic and astounding what Ukrainian Paralympians accomplished in Rio. Out of the 76 countries winning medals, Ukrainian Paralympians won 117, coming in third place, while beating such powerhouses as Germany, France, Italy and the U.S.A. Back in 2012, Paralympians from Ukraine won 84 medals, attaining sixth place among 76 countries. It takes trainers, facilities, dedicated participants, funds and especially determination to achieve such outstanding results on the international stage.
Challenges are something Ukrainians settling in Canada, and around the world, know well. Some 125 years ago it was the challenge of being among the first non-traditional (Anglo Celtic or French) groups to settle in Canada. Landing here was as foreign then as landing on the moon would be today; then, it was without the NASA support. The settlers were assigned plots at the end of the railway track and dumped to fend for themselves. There was no housing, no schools or hospitals, not even roads.
LVIV – In Lviv on September 11, the primate of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, Patriarch Sviatoslav, consecrated the unique, three-section University Church of the Holy Wisdom of God, which is located on the territory of the Ukrainian Catholic University’s new campus. The University Church of the Holy Wisdom of God is a special shrine for Ukraine. It is three churches at once: The Crypt of the Lord’s Tomb, the Lower Church of St. Clement I, Pope of Rome, and the main University Church of the Holy Wisdom of God with the pastoral center. The architecture of the church presents the main moments of salvation history and calls visitors to a pilgrimage through the sacraments to a joyful mission in the world.
UNION TOWNSHIP, N.J. – On August 21, the Ukrainian community of Union Township, N.J., and surrounding areas commemorated the 25th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence with the reading of a proclamation and flag-raising ceremony outside the Municipal Building. Unlike any other city or town in the United States, Union Township raises 30 Ukrainian flags in its town center and a banner reminding all passers-by that August 24 is Ukrainian Independence Day. The main speaker of this year’s event was Dr. Walter Zaryckyj, executive director of the Center for U.S.-Ukrainian Relations. Remarks were also made by Union Township Mayor Manuel Figueiredo, Committeewoman Michele Delisfort and the Consul General of Ukraine in New York, Igor Sybiga, who attended with his family and delivered words of inspiration while welcoming the many Ukrainian Americans in Town Hall. A luncheon and celebratory program featuring the Iskra Ukrainian Dance Ensemble and the ensemble Udech followed at the Ukrainian Community Center in nearby Irvington, N.J. The Union Township Ukrainian Independence Day Committee thanked all of its sponsors and specifically its main sponsor, Selfreliance Ukrainian American Federal Credit Union.