Ambassador speaks about U.S. support for Kyiv, importance of reform

…we believe that that reform path will lead to a Ukraine that is more prosperous, democratic and ultimately secure. And I think will also make for a more confident and reliable partner for the United States and for NATO. Following is the text, slightly abridged, of remarks by U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch on April 6 at the 2017 Kyiv Security Forum, where she spoke on a select panel with former Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer. The text was released by the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine. … over the last 25 years, Ukraine and the United States have been steadfast partners, and I think that relationship has been strong and deep across all spheres, including, of course, in the security sphere.

Olha Onyshko at the Fort Myers Films Festival, where her film “Women of Maidan” won the award for Best Documentary.

“Women of Maidan” sweeps through Florida’s Gulf Coast

LONGBOAT KEY, Fla. – Olha Onyshko’s documentary film “Women of Maidan” captivated the hearts and minds of Gulf Coast Floridians recently, as they embraced the compelling story of how Ukrainian women of all ages and backgrounds championed freedom and justice in Ukraine’s 2013-2014 Revolution of Dignity. Residents from a 150-mile swath of coastal cities, from Naples to St. Petersburg, came out to screenings of the film or meetings with the filmmaker as the film and its creator swept through the area between March 9 and 14. The Washington, D.C., filmmaker’s weeklong swing through Florida’s Gulf Coast was precipitated by the acceptance of her film at the seventh annual Fort Myers Film Festival, which took place in the balmy southwest Florida city on March 8-12.

SGA students show their support for Ukraine.

An East Village renaissance: St. George Academy

NEW YORK – “This is not the SGA that I remember” seems to be the popular phrase lately for alumni who periodically pop in to their alma mater at 215 E. Sixth St. to visit with former teachers and reconnect with fond memories of their bygone teenage years. In fact, the many visitors who, in the last 18 months, have stepped through the large glass doors of St. George Academy (SGA) in New York City’s East Village have been pleasantly surprised by the changes to the school, not only in its appearance, but in its atmosphere. “I’ve noticed the school is more vibrant,” said alumna Klara Kurti, “and there is more student involvement that wasn’t present in previous years.”

The vibe of the school has indeed changed, thanks to its spirited and energetic new principal, Andrij Stasiw, an active member of the Ukrainian American community and resident of the East Village.

Newsbriefs

Russia’s election on day of Crimea’s seizure

MOSCOW – Russia is preparing to move the date of the 2018 election that is expected to hand President Vladimir Putin a new term from March 11 to March 18 – the day Russia celebrates its seizure of Crimea from Ukraine. The State Duma approved a bill on the date change on April 12 in the first of three votes on the issue in the lower house of Parliament. It is certain to pass. Russian law says that presidential elections are held on the second Sunday in March unless that is a working day, in which case the voting must be held a week earlier. The authors of the bill said that March 11 was likely to be a working day after the March 8 International Women’s Day holiday.

Students and teachers of the Self-Reliance School of Ukrainian Studies in New York City.

New York Ukrainian studies school pays respects to the great bard

NEW YORK – On Saturday, March 11, Self-Reliance School of Ukrainian Studies in New York City paid its respects to the great Ukrainian bard, Taras Shevchenko. The annual celebration began with Principal Ivan Makar addressing the students and guests with these words: “Taras Shevchenko was a Ukrainian genius. He was the light that guided Ukrainians during a period of enslavement by Moscow, a time when Ukrainians were serfs on their own land. Taras Shevchenko was a symbol of freedom during the Revolution of Dignity in 2013-2014. The bard was a guiding star for the Maidanivtsi [the people on the Maidan] when they fought with their lives for freedom for Ukraine.

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Toms River children honor Shevchenko

TOMS RIVER, N.J. – Children of St. Stephen Ukrainian Catholic Church perform a concert on March 19 in honor of Taras Shevchenko. Organizers of the event included the Rev. Volodymyr Popyk, choreographer Nadiya Lemega and Maria Ivanys, as well as song and poem recitation instruction by Lilia Zayceva. The show was capped off by the church choir’s performance, under the direction of George Shevchuk. Stan Jakubowycz of Brick, N.J., and his wife Halyna, who had attended the concert six years prior, said they were surprised by the increase in youth at the parish this year.

Participants after listening to a lecture on Akcja Wisła.

OOL and UAYA coordinate educational project on 70th anniversary of Akcja Wisla

PASSAIC, N.J. – The Organization for the Defense of Lemkivshchyna (OOL) and the Ukrainian American Youth Association (UAYA) have partnered to help educate people about the 1947 forced resettlement of the Ukrainian minority in Poland, codenamed Akcja Wisła. Mark Howansky, president of OOL, and Dianna Howansky Reilly, OOL national board member, led an informative presentation about Akcja Wisła at the Ukrainian Center in Passaic, N.J., on April 12 as part of the UAYA weekly meetings. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the forced relocation program. One of the goals of OOL is to obtain recognition and reparation from the current Polish government for this crime against Ukrainians. Another is to educate people about this tragic chapter in Ukrainian history.

Volunteers load a shipping container with humanitarian aid items destined for various regions of Ukraine.

UUARC sends first shipment of 2017 of humanitarian aid to Ukraine

PHILADELPHIA – The first container of humanitarian aid sent out this year by the United Ukrainian American relief Committee (UUARC) was loaded by volunteers in the Philadelphia area on March 24 and shipped to Kyiv. The container of aid included new physical therapy equipment – including a specialized treadmill, a recumbent stepper and continuous passive motion units, as well as electrotherapy units – valued at just over $100,000, which was made possible thanks to the generosity of the estate of Harry Malynowsky. This equipment is destined for three facilities in Kharkiv, Dnipro and Poltava in Mr. Malynowsky’s memory. Many Ukrainian soldiers and civilians have received very serious injuries and the hope is that this equipment will provide the aid necessary for their recovery. Also in the container are two new juggernaut electric bikes, which will allow for quicker and quieter medical aid to those in need; two new four-seater strollers with covers for regional specialized orphanages in Tulchyn and Khmelnytsky for special needs children from birth to age 7; 40 boxes of medical supplies, wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, portable toilets, baby diapers, adult disposable briefs, clothing, shoes and linens for those in need.

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UCC announces hiring of national fund manager

OTTAWA – The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) announced the appointment of Janine (Asya) Kuzma as the new national fund development manager. “I am very pleased to welcome Janine to the UCC team,” stated Paul Grod, national president of the UCC. “It is important for us to strengthen our capacity to deliver programs and projects, and I am confident that Janine will play a key role in this regard.”

Ms. Kuzma received her post-graduate diploma in fund-raising management from Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning. She also has a B.A. degree in Russian and Eastern European studies and Russian language and literature from the University of Toronto. She speaks English, Ukrainian, Polish and Russian.

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A house we know and love

“Kazka pro Malenku Khatu bilia Maloho Lisu” (Tale of the Little House by the Little Woods), by Luba Gawur. Kyiv: Smoloskyp, 2016. 46 pp, $15. As many published memoirs about the Ukrainian Displaced Persons appear on the scene, this small 46-page book (in Ukrainian), “Tale of the Little House by the Little Woods,” by Luba Gawur is a unique gem. It is not a summary of historical events, but rather an introspective reflection on universal experiences and emotional upheavals of many post-World War II Ukrainian refugees.

A poster for the Ukrainian Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale features a work from the series “Parliament” (2014-2016) by Boris Mikhailov.

Ukrainian Pavilion to be presented at international art exhibit in Venice

DALLAS – The Ministry of Culture of Ukraine has appointed Dallas Contemporary to organize the Ukrainian Pavilion at the 57th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, in 2017. Dallas Contemporary Executive Director Peter Doroshenko and Assistant Curator Lilia Kudelia will present a solo exhibition of work by Boris Mikhailov. The exhibition will be on view from May 13 to November 26 in Venice, Italy. In response to the title theme of “Viva Arte Viva!” as announced by Biennale Arte 2017 director Christine Macel, Ukrainian Pavilion curators will focus on the privileged moments of leisure in artistic practice which allow the possibility for aesthetic play and honest reflection. Mr. Mikhailov will exhibit a new series titled “Parliament” (2014-2016), which focuses on photography’s interaction with media interfaces, and the interplay between analogue and digital representation.

The chief of the National Bank of Ukraine, Valeria Gontareva, on April 10, when she announced her resignation.

Gontareva, fearless head of NBU, resigns after tackling ‘zombie’ banks, oligarchs

KYIV – As the outgoing central bank governor, Valeria Gontareva will be a hard act to follow. Her resignation on April 10 expectedly came after the International Monetary Fund released an additional $1 billion as part of its $17.5 billion country support program, and after three years as head of the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU). Under her watch, 87 out of some 180 banks lost their licenses because they couldn’t meet the stricter regulations she put in place in one of Europe’s most corrupt and shaky banking systems. As a result, total banking sector assets shrank to $53.8 billion by year-end 2016 from more than $120 billion three years earlier. Put another way, if the ratio of corporate loans to gross domestic product was around 50 percent before Ms. Gontareva’s tenure, and the household loans to GDP ratio was 13 percent, then today they are 35 and 7 percent, respectively. “I came here to implement reforms.  My mission is fulfilled – the reforms are implemented,”  Ms. Gontareva told journalists on the day of her resignation.

The design team (from left): Larysa Kurylas, Wiktor Moskaliuk and Claire Bedat.

Ukrainian-led design team awaits decision on Ottawa’s Victims of Communism memorial

OTTAWA – An architectural team led by a Ukrainian Canadian is expecting a decision by month’s end as to whether its design has been selected to bring life to a long-awaited Victims of Communism memorial in the Canadian capital in the spring of 2019. The design by Ontario architect Wiktor Moskaliuk, Ukrainian American architect Larysa Kurylas and Washington, D.C.-based landscape architect Claire Bedat is one of five in competition and has emerged as the public favorite in an online poll run by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC). Team Moskaliuk’s concept focuses on the four principles of democracy – equality, freedom, justice and representation – depicted in four spire-like pillars made of white granite that comprise the focus of the memorial to be situated on a 5,382-square-foot area in what is known in Ottawa as the Garden of the Provinces and Territories, located west of Parliament Hill. White granite was selected as the material for the pillars at the core of the monument to convey “the idea of democracy as a pure ideal” that drew more than 8 million people from communist countries to come to Canada over the past century, explained Ms. Kurylas, who designed the Holodomor Memorial to Victims of the Ukrainian Famine-Genocide of 1932-1933 in Washington.

At the Charitable Ukraine competition’s awards ceremony in Kyiv,  representing the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America were Dr. Maria Furtak, UNWLA representative for social welfare in Ukraine, and Olena Vlasenko, president of the Zhytomyr branch of the Ukrainian Women’s League of Ukraine.

Charitable Ukraine honors UNWLA as best provider of ‘Aid from Abroad’

NEW YORK – The Ukrainian National Women’s League of America (UNWLA) was honored on March 29 by the Association of Charities of Ukraine with its top award in the category Aid from Abroad. The annual awards recognizing groups and individuals active in charitable endeavors have been held since 2012, although the Charitable Ukraine competition was founded in 2007. This year’s Charitable Ukraine competition had a record number of applicants – 744. It was divided into 15 main, three individual and four special categories, one of which was Aid from Abroad. The statuette presented to honorees is an angel decorated with folk designs and amber called the Angel of Goodness.

Russian agitprop pervades Central and Eastern Europe

The outbreak of the mass Euro-Maidan street protests in Kyiv (2013) and Russia’s subsequent aggression against Ukraine convinced the Kremlin of the need to project Russian “soft power” to blunt any response from Europe. However, Western countries ostracized Russia, particularly after it illegally and forcibly annexed Crimea. Consequently, Russia could no longer easily rely on large Russian corporations to influence mainstream European politicians and members of civil society “to see things from Moscow’s point of view,” as used to be the case. Instead, European extremists and radicals became the Kremlin’s main allies on the continent (Svoboda.org, July 28, 2016; see Eurasia Daily Monitor, September 5, 2014). A recent case in point has been the March 28-29 grenade-launcher attack on the Polish Consulate in Lutsk, western Ukraine, by unknown individuals but made to appear like an effort by home-grown Ukrainian nationalists to politically divide Kyiv from Warsaw.