Hundreds gather at St. Patrick’s to pray for Holodomor victims

NEW YORK – Hundreds of Ukrainians, friends and supporters gathered on Saturday, November 21, at Manhattan’s iconic St. Patrick Cathedral for an ecumenical requiem service and commemorative program dedicated to the memory of Ukraine’s Holodomor, Stalin’s genocide of millions of Ukrainians in 1932-1933. As co-organized by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), the largest representation of Ukrainians in America, this annual commemoration regularly attracts hundreds of attendees from across the tri-state metropolitan area, and this year was no exception. Even following the massive gathering in Washington, on November 7, when the national Genocide Memorial was dedicated in the presence of over 5,000 people, this year’s annual program at St. Patrick’s drew buses from communities in Hartford, Conn., and Whippany, N.J., as well as hundreds of other solemn faithful.

Kyiv-Mohyla Academy celebrates 400th anniversary

KYIV – The National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy celebrated its 400th anniversary in Kyiv with exhibits, concerts and conferences throughout the year, a fund-raising event on October 1 and a spectacular outdoor event on October 15. A benefit reception and banquet under the theme “Freedom, Leadership and Innovation” was held on October 1 at the Kyiv International Art and Conference Center known as the Ukrainian Home. It was supported and attended by Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, ambassadors, diplomats, business and cultural leaders, alumni and friends. Among the guests were Dr. Serhiy Kvit, minister of education and former president of the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (NaUKMA, as it is know by its Ukrainian acronym); many alumni who are now part of Ukraine’s government, including Gennady Zubko, vice prime minister, Rostyslav Pavlenko, deputy head of the presidential administration, and Oleksii Pavlenko, minister of agriculture; and others. Volodymyr Lavrenchuk, deputy head of Raiffeisen Bank Aval, and many distinguished business executives, alumni, partners and friends of the university were in attendance.  Dr. Bohdan Hawrylyshyn, honorary professor of NaUKMA and renowned scholar, civic activist and philanthropist was featured as honorary speaker.

Tatar activists disrupt electricity to Crimea

KYIV – Crimean Tatars last weekend launched their biggest countermeasure since the beginning of the Russian occupation of their homeland by ruining four electricity lines, situated in the neighboring Kherson Oblast, that account for 70 percent of the peninsula’s electricity. Authorities declared a state of emergency on the morning of November 22. By the time they woke up, the majority of Crimean residents were lacking access to not only electricity, but also water, heat, gasoline and cash, the website reported. Half of the peninsula’s supermarkets were closed, while schools and nurseries were closed on Monday. “Putin was caught with his pants down,” said Petro Oleshchuk, a political science lecturer at Taras Shevchenko National University in Kyiv.

Klitschko in again as mayor of Kyiv, but it’s no knockout

KYIV – In a one-sided affair days ahead of their runoff vote, challenger Boryslav Bereza was reduced to debating a life-sized cardboard cutout of Kyiv’s incumbent mayor on television. Opponent Vitali Klitschko, the former world boxing champion who had stormed into office 16 months earlier on calls for anti-corruption and other reforms, had dismissed the event as “a waste of time.”

As it turns out, he was right. The debate snub produced hardly a blip in the campaign. And in one of dozens of second-round contests across the country on November 15, voters in the Ukrainian capital re-elected Mr. Klitschko by a 2:1 majority over Mr. Bereza. But the elections didn’t provide the first-round knockout that Mr. Klitschko craved and offered a glimpse into what even some supporters suggest is a break with the hard-slugging idealism that got him elected in the first place and a failure to keep his promise to clean up Kyiv.


Euro-Maidan’s second anniversary

KYIV – People across Ukraine marked the Day of Dignity and Freedom, a holiday commemorating the 2013 beginning of the Euro-Maidan protests that ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych. Government officials, Maidan protest participants and ordinary citizens on November 21 held ceremonies and placed flowers at a Kyiv monument to the Heavenly Brigade – protesters who were killed in clashes with security forces during the protest. Commemorations were held in other cities as well. The Euro-Maidan protest movement began when protesters gathered in central Kyiv after Mr. Yanukovych announced he was postponing plans to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union and would seek closer economic ties with Russia. In February 2014, Mr. Yanukovych fled to Russia and was removed from office.

NEWS ANALYSIS: Ukraine’s Naftohaz to sue Russia over Crimean assets

The Ukrainian national oil and gas company, Naftohaz Ukrainy, plans to sue Russia over the assets lost in Crimea following the peninsula’s annexation by Russia last year, Naftohaz CEO Andry Kobolev said on November 4 (Interfax, November 4). The seizure by Russia of Chornomor-naftohaz, Naftohaz’s subsidiary for oil and gas deposits in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, dashed Ukraine’s plans to increase domestic gas production with the help of foreign investment into offshore deposits. This would have allowed Ukraine to further diminish the country’s dependence on Russian gas. Naftohaz will be filing its lawsuit separately from the Ukrainian government, which mulls suing Russia over Crimea at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Naftohaz is seeking approval from the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers to hire a U.S.-based law firm to represent the energy company in court, said Mr. Kobolev.

Ukraine working group calls for immediate and comprehensive aid package for Ukraine

A coalition of advocates and stakeholders on October 29 sent a letter to Congress calling for an increase in U.S. economic, military and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine. This informal coalition brings together a diverse group of organizations seeking to help protect and support Ukraine’s emerging democracy in the face of Russian-backed insurgents, an economy under pressure and millions in need of humanitarian assistance. The letter was addressed to Thad Cochran, chairman, and Barbara Mikulski, ranking member, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senate; Hal Rogers, chairman, and Nita Lowey, ranking member, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. House of Representatives. The full text of the letter follows. 

The ongoing crisis in Ukraine – its courageous efforts to reform while resisting Russian aggression and its attempts to secure a transformation to an independent, democratic, economically vibrant nation – demands immediate expansion of U.S. support. We, the undersigned, include representatives of more than 22 million Americans of Central and East European descent who firmly believe bolstering Ukraine’s security and independence is vital to ensuring Central and Eastern Europe’s security, prosperity and freedom.

“Even as we focus on ISIL, we must not forget that barely two years ago, almost 1 million Ukrainians stood for days and weeks in the snow on the Maidan to demand that their government give them what we have: human dignity, democracy, clean government, justice. When [Viktor] Yanukovych turned his back on Europe, Ukrainians would not be denied their choice. But that was unacceptable to both Yanukovych and to the Kremlin, which met the Ukrainian people’s demand with occupation, tanks, Buk missiles, support for the separatists, sabotage, and propaganda. “Today, 93 percent of Ukraine survives as a democratic state in association with Europe because Ukrainians fought and died for their rights, and our nations stood with the people of Ukraine. We have given political, economic and security support; we imposed successively harsh rounds of sanctions to bring Russia to the negotiating table; and we supported a diplomatic resolution to the conflict via the Minsk agreements and the Normandy talks led by Germany and France.

UNA organizes second annual Fall Weekend Getaway at Soyuzivka

KERHONKSON, N.Y. – On the weekend of October 23-25, the Ukrainian National Association (UNA) held its second annual Fall Weekend Getaway here at the Soyuzivka Heritage Center. Guests were treated to a roaring fire and hot mulled cider upon their arrival on Friday, and to the peak of the “leaf-peeping” season in the Shawangunk Mountain ridge throughout the weekend. On Saturday, after a made-to-order breakfast by Soyuzivka Chef Andrey Sonevytsky, a private shuttle bus sponsored by the UNA took guests to Jenkins & Leuken Orchard. There and along the way, apples and pumpkins and fall scenery abounded. Many will remember Jenkins & Leuken as a friend to Soyuzivka, with the Soyuzivka sign on its landmark barn.

Members of UNA Branch 13 enjoy annual dinner in Saratoga

SARATOGA, N.Y. – St. Nicholas Brotherhood Society (known as Bratstvo) – Branch 13 of the Ukrainian National Association, held its annual dinner at Saratoga Casino and Raceway’s Fortune Restaurant, on Sunday, September 27. The annual dinner is a longstanding member tradition and kicks-off another year of fraternal activities in this venerable organization that will mark its 120th anniversary on December 5, 2015. At the event, special recognition is given to those members celebrating recent wedding anniversaries. The UNA donated two door prizes to this annual event to make it more enjoyable for all in attendance.