During the panel on Soviet totalitarianism, (from left) are: Natan Sharansky, Israeli statesman and former Soviet political prisoner; Joshua Rubinstein, scholar of Soviet literature and politics; Martin Paoluš, former Czech ambassador to the U.S.; Dr. F. Flagg Taylor IV, Skidmore College (moderator); and Dr. Paula Dobriansky, Harvard Kennedy School.

Victims of Communism centennial commemoration: “Reflections on a Ravaged Century”

Organized by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation on November 8-9, the conference “Reflections on a Ravaged Century” at the Library of Congress featured an array of distinguished speakers and moderators. Below are some takeaways that struck me as relevant to the Ukrainian diaspora. However, with eight panels and about 35 prominent speakers, it’s difficult to be all-inclusive in the space of this article. For Ukrainians, this conference should have been a significant event. Ukraine was often mentioned, and the Holodomor and genocide against the Ukrainian people were presented as one of the most egregious examples of communism’s evil deeds.

Vox populi

Five years ago, a colleague and I conducted an informal and not very systematic survey of the Ukrainian Catholic community in the United States. Not surprisingly, the sample, which was weighted toward older individuals, revealed a religiously committed and active population. As we noted then, however, we still need a professional sociological survey of our diaspora – Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, adherents of other faiths, agnostics and non-believers, both those in the “community” and beyond it – regarding attitudes towards Church and religion. It is in the interest of the Churches, and of the community as a whole, to commission such a survey. Relying on parish statistics tells us nothing about why people leave our Churches.

2018 NDAA provision to aid Ukraine, wounded soldiers, clears final hurdle

On November 8, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) welcomed the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018, as announced by the House-Senate Conference Committee. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the conference committee, Sen. Blumenthal fought for provisions in the defense bill to bolster U.S. military capabilities and to assist Ukraine through the Ukrainian Security Assistance Initiative.

Update on Canadian-Ukrainian defense relations

As Canada’s minister of national defense, I am proud that the past year has seen increased coordination and cooperation between the Canadian and Ukrainian governments. Having just returned from my second trip to Ukraine, I am pleased to share with Canadians the way our governments are continuing to work together. In March, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and I announced the extension of Operation UNIFIER, ensuring Canadian soldiers will continue to train members of the Ukrainian armed forces. As of September 1, the Canadian Armed Forces’ Joint Task Force-Ukraine has trained more than 5,580 Ukrainian soldiers in over 140 courses. The opportunities for learning on both sides are paying off, as soldiers from each country benefit from the knowledge and experiences of the other.

To the aggressor, the laurels: Russia 2018 and Western complicity in Putin’s propaganda

The most egregious aspect of this whole sordid episode is that Russia 2018 will be the first time the World Cup finals will be hosted by a country that is under sanctions for invading a neighbor. As new crises arise with the frequency and intensity of early autumn’s Atlantic hurricanes, the international community must not be distracted from pre-existing problems. North Korea, in particular, may pose an existential threat in its neighborhood and beyond, while ethnic cleansing in Myanmar and the Kurdish and Catalan referenda could still ignite serious tensions. Yet, as U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence recently reiterated, Russia continues to undermine its neighbors’ sovereignty. The Kremlin shows no signs of a serious commitment to its obligations regarding Ukraine. In short, Russia remains a very real revisionist threat to the international order.

The Hromovytsia Ukrainian Dance Ensemble of Chicago in Barcelona.

Hromovytsia sweeps Spain with three-city tour

CHICAGO –  Its rumbles of thunder may have passed through Chicago’s stately Harris Theater last month, but the real storm that is the Hromovytsia Ukrainian Dance Ensemble blew over three of Spain’s most iconic and historically prolific meccas of art and culture in early June. Hromovytsia is one of the Ukrainian diaspora’s many gems in Chicago, but the tricks, the turns, and the vibrant red boots are only a granule of what the company brings to the table. What drives the young dancers to give up their Friday nights and Saturday mornings for hours of challenging rehearsals is a profound understanding that each and every dancer belongs to a rich, Ukrainian heritage, and this – in and of itself – is a connecting factor. This heritage defies geographical boundaries, and what better way to represent that than a 10-day trip to Spain? On Wednesday, June 7, the Hromovytsia family packed its bags and headed for Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona – ready to taste the paella.

Sen. Blumenthal, UAV and community push to aid Ukraine’s wounded soldiers

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – In a July 16th address to the Ukrainian-American community here at St. Michael’s Church, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) praised the extraordinary work of U.S. military hospitals and unveiled an initiative to help severely wounded Ukrainian soldiers. “Hospital staff have performed remarkable feats rebuilding bodies and human lives,” he said. “I have introduced a provision into the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act to bring [these] bravest soldiers to the United States to obtain the best treatment that our military hospitals can provide.”

Before a room full of television cameras and local journalists, Sen. Blumenthal expressed his steadfast support for Ukraine.

At Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s office in Washington on April 18 (from left) are: Col. Sergiy Panchenko, Michael Hrycak, Myron Melnyk and Ihor Rudko.

UAV in action: helping Ukraine’s soldiers get treatment in U.S. military medical facilities

We are currently urging all Ukrainian American Veterans, and Ukrainian Americans, to contact their respective members of Congress to support the following amendment (which was passed by the Senate on September 18 by a vote of 89-8) to the still pending National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018. “Section 1250(b) of National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (Public Law 114-92; 126 Stat. 1068), as amended by section 1237(b) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (Public Law 114-328; 130 Stat. 2495), is further amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:

“(12) Treatment of wounded Ukraine soldiers in the United States in medical treatment facilities through the Secretarial Designee Program, including transportation, lodging, meals and other appropriate non-medical support in connection with such treatment, as well as education and training for Ukrainian healthcare specialists such that they can provide continuing care and rehabilitation services for wounded Ukrainian soldiers.”

This provision is important because it will pay for treatment, per diems and other expenses associated with Ukrainian soldiers’ medical treatment. That this provision came to be merits sharing the actions of UAV members.

The logo for the “Made in Ukraine Tech Startup Edition” podcast.

Two new podcasts go beyond the headlines for Ukraine

There is always a steady stream of bad news about Ukraine in the media. Maybe it’s the darker side of human nature or the 24-hour news cycle, but news reports seem to focus on the most negative stories. The war in the East, Vladimir Putin’s insatiable longing for a new Soviet Union and the cynical corruption of Ukrainian bureaucrats and oligarchs scream at us from the headlines and offer little hope for a new, prosperous and globally accepted Ukraine. So I decided to leave the bad news behind and search for inspiring stories about Ukraine and Ukrainians that offer a window on the many positive things that are happening. My first focus is on developments in Ukrainian technology driven by young entrepreneurs and the second is on people who are helping to shape a more favorable image for the country and its people.

Jamestown Foundation supports U.S.-Ukraine naval exchange

WASHINGTON – This August, The Jamestown Foundation sponsored two Ukrainian midshipmen’s participation in a naval exchange with the U.S. Navy. Jamestown closely monitors issues related to Black Sea regional security, and this partnership opportunity was identified during a recent trip by Jamestown President Glen Howard to Ukraine. Working with the U.S. Department of State and the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, Jamestown provided the additional support necessary to make this exchange possible. Cadet Dmytro Gromov and Cadet Stanislav Voropai, from Ochakiv and Crimea, respectively, are entering their penultimate year at Ukraine’s National University of Odessa Maritime Academy, the country’s top naval college. Jamestown’s sponsorship supported their participation in the Foreign Exchange Training of Midshipmen (FOREXTRAMID) 2017, a program in which midshipmen from foreign navies are invited by the U.S. chief of naval operations to participate in summer cruises.