I was a high school senior in 1964 when my guidance counselor gave me a pile of college catalogues: Cleveland State, Ohio State, Ohio U., Kenyon, Notre Dame…
Notre Dame? I knew they had a great football team, but reading the catalogue I also discovered they had a sophomore studies program in Innsbruck, Austria. Innsbruck! That’s where I was born! That settled it.
At the end of February, Columbia University marked the centennial of the revolution that toppled the Russian Empire three years into the first world war with a conference, “Ukrainian Statehood 1917-1921: Institutions and Individuals.” (I was gratified to have been invited to participate.)
In popular perception, and indeed among many (if not most) historians, what happened in 1917 was the “Russian Revolution.” In actuality, the upheaval consisted of a dozen separate revolutions where Poles, Lithuanians, Georgians, Estonians, Ukrainians and other peoples – having endured centuries of misrule and then three years of horrific slaughter at the front and privation and hunger at home – rose up to cast off tsarist rule and claim their right to national self-determination. When the war began in August 1914, Ukrainians (as well as Poles and others) were partitioned between the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires, placing them into a tragic position with young compatriots killing each other for a cause they did not support let alone understand. Almost immediately upon the outbreak of what soon became “the Great War,” and subsequently World War I, Ukrainian leaders saw the conflict as their opportunity for independence and started working toward that end. A hundred years have passed since then and yet we hear echoes from that time, see the shadows, feel the ripples of war-torn Europe lapping at our feet. The two-day conference was organized by Mark Andryczyk, who teaches Ukrainian literature and serves as administrator of the Ukrainian Studies Program at Columbia’s Harriman Institute.
Early in November, Bishop Borys Gudziak spoke at the University of Notre Dame’s Nanovic Institute about Ukraine and its three democratic revolutions in the past quarter century. To explain why they were necessary, he outlined the country’s tragic 20th century history – wars, a genocidal famine, terror, mass emigration, enormous population losses, entrenched corruption. Based as he is in Paris, where he serves as spiritual leader to Ukrainian Catholics in France and surrounding countries, the bishop noted how he routinely takes visitors to the World War I Battlefield of Verdun 150 miles to the east to illustrate the folly of war. There 100 years ago, French and German armies clashed along a 25-mile front. I could relate: I was 19 and in Europe for my sophomore year abroad, when I visited the battlefield 50 years ago.
Our little girl was all of 3 years old when mixing English and Ukrainian she triumphantly announced, “Tato. Ya ye а woman! Mama i ya: my ye womans!” [Tato. I am a woman. Mama and I are womans.] I was astonished – she had just started pre-school and already she was a feminist.
In June, I wrote about the Trump campaign and its disturbing links to Russian President Vladimir Putin and disgraced Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Since then, lots of other articles have appeared on the same topic: “Putin’s Puppet,” Slate; “Hillary Clinton is Running Against Vladimir Putin,” The Atlantic; “Trump Campaign Guts GOP anti-Russia Stance on Ukraine,” The Washington Post; “Is Donald Trump Working for Russia,” New York Magazine; “Why Russia is Rejoicing Over Trump,” Politico; “Donald Trump is Selling Out and Sucking up to Putin,” Daily Beast; and so on. I also promised to write about Hillary Clinton and Ukraine. I first met Ms. Clinton in 1996 at a White House conference she organized for the 10th anniversary of the Chornobyl nuclear catastrophe. Environmental and ethnic leaders from both parties attended, but it was a decidedly Ukrainian-oriented event, and not just a one-time event for the first lady.
CLEVELAND – America is the world’s oldest existing democracy, having held presidential elections every four years without interruption for the past 224 years. This year the Republican Party is holding its national convention in Cleveland on July 18-21. In the spirit of welcome, the Ukrainian Museum-Archives prepared an exhibit “Politics and Ukrainian-Americans,” with photographs, campaign buttons, signs, fliers, etc. going back to the 1910s. The exhibit shows how many Ukrainian Americans, like other immigrant groups, reacted to harsh social and working conditions by bringing their socialist politics with them to the New World.
CLEVELAND – The Costume Society of America (CSA) – a national organization involved in the study, education, collection, preservation, presentation and interpretation of dress and appearance in past, present, and future societies – held its annual meeting this year in Cleveland on May 24-29. One of the features of the CSA National Symposium is the “CSA Angels Project,” a one-day event providing conservation, storage and curatorial assistance to a costume collection in the host city. For its 2016 project, CSA chose the Ukrainian Museum-Archives. Seven college professors, four professional textile conservators and more than a dozen volunteers came to the UMA to clean, catalogue and place more than 300 items into acid-free storage boxes. As part of the project, the CSA “angels” trained UMA volunteers on professional handling of precious textiles and other costume-related apparel.
Let me put it bluntly: If you care for Ukraine, you cannot vote for Donald Trump. If you care for America, you cannot vote for Trump. For Ukrainians and many others, Mr. Trump’s and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s mutual admiration is utterly alarming, starting with his proposal to pull the U.S. out of NATO. Doing so would undermine 75 years of a successful global security policy even as it would fulfill Russia’s strategic goal going back to Joseph Stalin. Ominously, Mr. Trump has the team to make that happen.
CLEVELAND – Michael (Mykhailo) Pap passed away on April 1 at the age of 95. He was a university professor and scholar at John Carroll University, a civic activist and political leader both in the Ukrainian diaspora and the city of Cleveland. Mykhailo Pap was born July 24, 1920, in the village of Sirma in the Vynohradivsky region of today’s Zakarpatia Oblast in western Ukraine. He received his early education in the village school and later at the commercial academy in nearby Mukachevo. In the wake of World War II, he left his native Ukraine for Bratislava in today’s Slovakia, where he attended university before moving on to Vienna, just ahead of the Red Army. There he worked at Siemen’s Corp. while attending university. He subsequently moved to Heidelberg, Germany, where he also attended the university, earning a doctorate in International Law and History. In 1949, he immigrated to the U.S. and, after briefly working at an auto plant in Detroit where he learned English, received an academic position at the University of Notre Dame, where he taught and published several articles.
Mama died 31 years ago. This past March 31 she would have been 100 years old. She was there when I was born and there for my brothers and me as we were growing up. Among my earliest memories of Mama is our bedtime ritual where she jokingly ordered in Polish: “Renze dogury!” I’d obediently raise my arms for her to slip off my shirt and put on a pajama top. Sometimes she’d say it in German, “Hande hoch,” or Russian.