The 2016 sports year was an internationally competitive one with Ukraine an active participant on the world stage. After a dreadful performance at soccer’s 2016 Euro Cup and a disappointing result at the Rio Summer Olympic Games, Ukraine demonstrated it is a world leader in Paralympic sports. Three straight losses on the pitch in a somewhat challenging grouping with Poland, Germany and Northern Ireland cost national coach Mykhailo Fomenko his job. Ukraine continued its downward trend of medaling at the Summer Olympics, where Oleh Vernyayev was a rare celebrated podium presence. Expectations for Ukraine were still high heading into the third international contest and this time the nation exceeded them with an unbelievable third overall showing at the Rio Paralympic Games.
This section features the noteworthy events and people of 2016 that defy easy classification (or could fit under more than one of our Year in Review categories). • Representatives of Ukrainian American community organizations and institutions gathered on January 10 at the Ukrainian Restaurant in New York to bid farewell to Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev, Ukraine’s permanent representative to the United Nations from 2007 until the end of 2015, and his wife, Dr. Nataliya Sergeyev. Speaking on behalf of the community, President Tamara Olexy of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America thanked Ambassador Sergeyev for his many years of work for the benefit of Ukraine and his exemplary cooperation with Ukrainian Americans. • Volodymyr Yelchenko, Ukraine’s new ambassador to the United Nations, along with his wife, Iryna, hosted a luncheon reception for Ukrainian American community representatives on February 5 at Ukraine’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York. Thanking his guests for their support, Ambassador Yelchenko urged the community leaders to continue their work for Ukraine and its democratic evolution. • It was announced in February that Kyiv model-turned-designer Anna Karenina would be included in 2016 Fashion Week in New York, scheduled for September 7-15. Ms. Karenina was born in Kremenchuk in 1995 and graduated from Kyiv State University of Technology and Design. She began her modeling career at the age of 14 and designed her own line of clothing at the age of 16.
During 2016 our community mourned the passing of many of its prominent members: artists, church leaders, soldiers and community activists. Among them were the following, listed in order of their passing. Orest Kaczmarskyj, 74, Centerville, Va; pursued an Army career after college, serving for 21 years as an infantry, logistics and foreign area officer throughout the world; known for his fluency in six languages and his intrinsic ability to quickly adapt to native dialects; recipient of the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, and the Army Good Conduct Medal; with family, friends and soldiers in attendance, was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on May 27 – January 8. Sophia Lada, 74, Toronto, visual artist who explored several media – painting, iconography, textile art; commissioned by the Sisters of St. Basil the Great in Rome to decorate the chapel of their Motherhouse with icons in the Byzantine style; worked on many commissions and took part in various solo and curated group shows; her works are found in collections in Canada, the United States and Europe – February 14.
Nothing like starting the year off right! On January 30, Self Reliance New York Federal Credit Union made yet another generous donation to the Ukrainian National Association’s two newspapers, Svoboda and The Ukrainian Weekly, giving each $12,500. The $25,000 donation was noted in the Press Fund reports of both newspapers. (The credit union had made a donation for that same amount to Svoboda and The Weekly in late December 2014.)
Editor-in-Chief Roma Hadzewycz commented that Self Reliance’s donations “have gone a long way toward helping the newspapers continue their mission of informing the world about Ukraine and Ukrainians, and keeping Ukrainian communities in touch with each other.” Thanks to such donations, the complete archives of Svoboda and The Weekly were digitized, and the websites of the two newspapers were redesigned, giving them not only a new look but also a new functionality. (Take a look by visiting svoboda-news.com and ukrweekly.com.)
Self Reliance New York President Bohdan Kurczak wrote that the donation was meant to assist the further development of The Ukrainian Weekly and Svoboda.
Ukrainians in the U.S. were busy with the events, festivals and humanitarian projects of various Ukrainian organizations. With the election cycle coming to a close in November 2016, political advocacy was of the utmost concern for many Ukrainians in the U.S.
Ukraine’s wounded veterans – Vadim Sviridenko, Vadym Maznichenko, Col. Ihor Hordiychuk and Oleksandr Kosolapov – who were receiving care at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., were greeted by Christmas carolers on January 10. Singers included local members of Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organization and the Ukrainian American Youth Association. The United Ukrainian American Relief Committee (UUARC) continued its great work in delivering humanitarian aid and other medical supplies to Ukraine.
The Ukrainian community saw a productive year in the academic realm with myriad symposia, roundtables and initiatives aimed at furthering understanding of Ukrainians’ history and national identity, as well as current developments in Ukraine. Especially noteworthy throughout 2016 were the 40th anniversary commemorations of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS). Founded at the University of Alberta in 1976, CIUS has expanded over the decades to comprise programs in Canada and, after 1991, in Ukraine. To celebrate this milestone, the CIUS organized a series of events throughout Canada. On October 1, representatives from the CIUS offered a presentation at a session of the XXV Congress of Ukrainian Canadians being held in Regina, Saskatchewan.
The year 2016 witnessed several anniversary celebrations of important Ukrainian artists and seasoned Ukrainian ensembles and organizations, as well as the birth of new groups. Even when not directly related to the ongoing specter of war in their homeland, the activities of Ukrainian artists and performers found a resonance far beyond their local communities. Music
The operatic world mourned the tragic death of baritone Vasyl Slipak, a soloist for 20 years with the Paris National Opera, who was killed by sniper fire in eastern Ukraine on July 29. Born in Lviv, Mr. Slipak, a former member of the Dudaryk boys’ choir, returned home to participate in the 2014 Maidan Revolution and joined the Right Sector 7th Battalion to fight Russia-backed militants near Luhansk. Adopting the nom de guerre “Meph” (a reference to the aria of Mephistopheles from “Faust”), Mr. Slipak told his colleague at the Paris Opera, Guillaume Dussau, that it “was about culture and the freedom of his country… he insisted Ukraine needed him more than French opera.” In Paris he was well-known for his powerful portrayals from “Carmen,” “Aida” and “Faust” to rarities like Ulmann’s “Emperor of Atlantis.” Major media outlets throughout the world covered the story about the opera singer-turned warrior.
Traditionally, the UNA marks the beginning of a new year with the release of its new Almanac. The Almanac of the Ukrainian National Association for 2016 (Petro Chasto, editor) marked several notable anniversaries, including the 70th anniversaries of both the so-called Lviv Sobor of 1946 that liquidated the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church by proclaiming a “reunion” with the Russian Orthodox Church and of the famine of 1946 in Ukraine. Also at the beginning of the year, on January 19, the UNA coordinated a meeting between U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and several leaders from the Ukrainian American community at the congressman’s New Brunswick office. Included in the group were: Andrij Dobriansky from the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, Walter Zaryckyj of the Center for U.S.-Ukrainian Relations, as well as Roma Lisovich, UNA treasurer, and Yuriy Symczyk, UNA fraternal coordinator. The congressman had reached out to Mr. Symczyk, expressing his desire to meet with leaders of the Ukrainian American community to share details from his trip to Ukraine and reaffirm his efforts in continuing to help Ukraine, including providing military and humanitarian assistance, and supporting a Crimean annexation non-recognition bill.
The year 2016 for Ukrainian Churches was a busy one, and complicated by the ongoing war being waged by Russia. But there were notable accomplishments and attempts at healing spiritual disunity – not only between the Catholics and the Orthodox – but also between the meddling of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) via the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) and the divisions that have fractured the other Orthodox Churches in Ukraine: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP) and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC). The ROC and its affiliated UOC-MP announced in January the establishment of a new staff in the synod department of external church affairs to blacken the reputation of the UOC-KP, to block the Ecumenical Patriarchate from recognizing the Kyiv Church as canonical and to destabilize religious conditions across Ukraine. This move was seen by many experts as part of the hybrid war that Russia is waging against Ukraine and the West. This was the latest attempt using religious groups in Ukraine in filing complaints with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe of religious intolerance in Ukraine and giving Moscow a degree of deniability. Many of these “religious groups” are fronts for Russian Security Services (FSB) operations.
Unity was the key word for 2016 in our Ukrainian diaspora. On February 20, Ukraine’s Day of Commemoration of the Heroes of the Heavenly Brigade, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress spoke for Ukrainians worldwide when it said:
“Today, the Ukrainian Canadian community joins our brothers and sisters in Ukraine and around the world in commemorating the memory and heroism of all those who paid the ultimate price in the battle for a free and democratic Ukraine. From November 2013 to February 2014 the citizens of Ukraine took to the streets to protest against the corrupt, authoritarian regime of former President Viktor Yanukovych. On the Maidan in Kyiv (Independence Square), and on city squares throughout the country, the people of Ukraine claimed their unalienable right to liberty and justice. Their demand of their government was simple – to be treated with Dignity.