August 31, 2015

Last year, on August 31, 2015, violence erupted outside of Ukraine’s Parliament that left three National Guardsmen killed (Ihor Debrin, 24; Oleksandr Kostyna, 20; and Dmytro Slastnikov, 21) and more than 130 people injured after a grenade was thrown by an ultranationalist protester from the Svoboda party. The violence marred a public protest against legislation that proposed granting more autonomy for the Russian-occupied territories in eastern Ukraine. Svoboda and the Right Sector parties put the blame on President Petro Poroshenko, with Svoboda issuing a statement that “the responsibility for the attack near the Parliament lies with the current government,” and that the explosion was “a preplanned provocation against Ukrainian patriots.”

Right Sector spokesman Artem Skoropadskyi told 112 Ukraine TV, “this is exactly the same thing that happened during the regime of [former President Viktor] Yanukovych – the use of force, the violent dispersal of peaceful protests, beating the opposition, and so on.”

Despite the role that ultranationalists played during the Euro-Maidan revolt that forced Mr. Yanukovych from power, voters soundly rejected the ultranationalists during the May 2014 presidential election and the November 2014 parliamentary elections. Mr. Poroshenko called the violence “a stab in the back” for the entire country. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk elaborated further, “The cynicism of this crime lies in the fact while the Russian Federation and its bandits are trying and failing to destroy the Ukrainian state on the eastern front, the so-called pro-Ukrainian political forces are trying to open another front in the heart of the country.”

Following an investigation, 18 people, including the alleged grenade thrower, were arrested, however, critics argued that this would not be an adequate response to the ultranationalist threat.

Americans finally beginning to recognize how odious Putin really is, says commentator

August, the month of vacations, is often referred to as the silly season in the media; but this year, something important is happening in the American media: its leading outlets are finally focusing on what most in Russia and its neighbors have long understood: Vladimir Putin has gone from strength to strength by odious means. In the last few weeks, Moscow commentator Aleksandr Nemets says, the leading media in the United States – Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Washington Post – and London’s Economist as well, have focused on Mr. Putin’s odious methods because of his backing of Donald Trump in the American election ( After all the scandalous things Mr. Putin has done in the past and largely gotten away with, opposition to the Republican candidate is so strong that it is causing these outlets to focus on Mr. Putin’s involvement with the U.S. elections, an involvement that not only doesn’t appear to be helping Mr. Trump – his numbers are down – but is clearly hurting Mr. Putin as well. In short, after all his crimes – including the invasion of Georgia, the invasion of Ukraine, the murder of dissenters at home and abroad, and his destruction of Russian democracy – Mr. Putin may now be held accountable in the U.S. for what he is more generally because he is trying to affect the election there. If that is the case, it would certainly represent, although Mr. Nemets himself doesn’t use the term, a real and most unwelcome August surprise for the Kremlin leader.

The Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933: Another attempt at counting the victims

Volodymyr Serhiychuk is a professor of history at the Kyiv State University and one of the more eminent researchers in Soviet archives. In terms of publishing his findings, he is perhaps the most prolific of the researchers. One of the topics of his expertise is the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933, known as the Holodomor. For a long time he simply accepted the number of victims estimated by historians in the West. When the 7 million number was challenged in recent publications both in Ukraine and the West, Prof. Serhiychuk decided to conduct his own research to establish, as well as reasonably possible – given the Soviet’s propensity for distortion, the number of Ukrainian Famine victims. In the course of researching archives and familiarizing himself with the research and findings of others, he has determined that there are serious flaws in some of the recent conclusions, particularly those diminishing the number of victims.

The city of Kharkiv was the initial capital of the Ukrainian SSR. It was the capital during the Famine years of 1932-1933.

Visiting Ukrainian Canadian history

If it hadn’t been for Henry Kostiuk, we would have still been roving the tree-lined gravel roads around Olha, Manitoba. For a day trip, my husband, Myroslaw, and I decided to visit Olha, where there is a mass grave and monument to over 40 Ukrainian children and three adults who succumbed to scarlet fever just after arriving on the Canadian prairies. This is a Manitoba Municipal Heritage Site (No. 45). We knew we were going in the correct direction when the road sign at one intersection read “Olha Road/Shevchenko Street.” Again, perfectly normal for the Canadian Prairies.

Community leaders share their thoughts on Ukraine at 25

As 2016 is a particularly significant year for Ukraine, marking the 25th anniversary of the re-establishment of the country’s independence, The Ukrainian Weekly approached several community leaders in the United States, Canada and Australia, as well as the Ukrainian World Congress and asked them to share their thoughts on Ukraine. Following are their responses. Paul Grod, national president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress:
Canada is at the forefront of international support for Ukraine. Ukraine’s 25 years of independence has been continuously challenged by both foreign and domestic foes. On its path to building a democratic, secure and prosperous Ukraine, a critical role has been played by the Ukrainian diaspora led by the Ukrainian World Congress and its constituent organizations.

Ukraine at 25: Missed opportunities, new geopolitical challenges

The Ukrainian Weekly’s editor, Matthew Dubas, collected a scholarly analysis of the 25th anniversary of Ukraine’s renewed independence on August 24, 1991. Scholars were asked to provide their thoughts on the significance of the anniversary, the course Ukraine has taken during 25 years and what the current situation points to for the future. The Verkhovna Rada’s declaration of Ukrainian independence on August 24, 1991, and the overwhelming support for this decision during the subsequent December referendum marked the end of the USSR and the creation of a new political landscape in East Central Europe, long dominated by the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union. In place of the USSR, 15 new countries emerged, miraculously without mass violence. But this “miracle” represented a historical accident, which Vladimir Putin and the Russian political elite now seek to rectify.

Ukrainian Sports Hall of Fame and Museum to host induction banquet

WHIPPANY, N.J. – The Ukrainian Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Whippany, N.J., (USMHOF) on September 17 is holding the Inaugural Ukrainian Sports Hall of Fame Induction Banquet and Ceremony and Grand Opening of the Ukrainian Sports Museum. In conjunction with this event, a commemorative book will be printed in honor of this momentous occasion. This book will list all the professional and amateur inductees with a short biography of their achievements. The mission of the USMHOF is: a not-for-profit association dedicated to honoring those individuals, teams, events, organizations and venues prominent in the history of Ukrainian athletics; the Hall/Museum recognizes the timeless intertwining of sport into the fabric of everyday life; with this as a credo the Ukrainian Sports Museum and Hall of Fame is devoted to honoring those persons, places, organizations and events that have made outstanding contributions through inspiring achievement in both professional and amateur sports while forever enriching the memories of fans; we also will organize, nurture, and educate youth in the spirit of sports with pride in the Ukrainian national heritage. We depend on your sponsorship for the continuation of our programming and your purchase of advertisement space in our Gala Souvenir Book is one way to showcase that support.  Enclosed please find information and a form for your use regarding ad space in our book.  We hope that you will consider supporting us.

Over 250 campers enjoy adventures at Plast camp in East Chatham, N.Y.

EAST CHATHAM, N.Y. – On a damp and overcast July morning, parents and their young campers were busy unpacking their supplies and making the Vovcha Tropa campground in East Chatham, N.Y., their home for the next few weeks.  They traveled from different parts of the United States, as well as Ukraine, Canada, Austria and Sweden.  Some were eager to reconnect with old friends and make new ones, others a little anxious to leave their loved ones, but all appeared excited to begin yet another camping adventure in a most picturesque setting at this beloved campground of Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organization. The rain held off, and the opening ceremonies were held on the large sports field, overlooked from above by a breathtaking wooden Carpathian-style chapel.  Five separate camps were represented with a total of 252 campers and 58 counselors.  Parents busily snapped photos, taking in the last moments they could see their precious children for two weeks.  And just like that, after prayer, the raising of the flags and a welcome from the camp administration, the Vovcha Tropa camping experience was under way and the good times commenced. Two weeks were spent preparing each camp’s theme, song and christening ceremonies; campers built intricate wooden gates and fences, played sports, sang, did crafts, swam, hiked, explored the vast forest terrain and enjoyed campfires.  This was a time to leave hectic schedules and tech-heavy lifestyles behind and appreciate the simplicity and tranquility of nature and the importance of friendship and camaraderie. After countless adventures and friendships forged, “Den Plastuna” – the traditional weekend celebration following two weeks of Plast camp life – arrived.  The steady hum at Vovcha Tropa began to increase in volume as parents and loved ones checked in to visit their campers.  On Saturday, July 23, the weekend kicked off with prayer, flag-raising ceremonies and performances of all the camps’ song.  Afterwards, the campers were free to spend the bulk of the day with their families and recount the many stories of their camp escapades.  All campers returned to their camps in the evening to share a most awe-inspiring experience with their loved ones at the traditional Den Plastuna bonfire. Den Plastuna was officially closed on Sunday, July 24, with divine liturgy led by Bishop Paul Chomnycky, followed by the lowering of the flags and a formal marching exit of all camps.  The “U2” campers (as the camp for Plast scouts age 15-16 is popularly known) had their closing ceremonies and bid farewell to each other, while the rest of the campers enjoyed a few more leisurely hours with their families.  In the late afternoon, all campers were reunited back at camp, having said their good-byes and anxiously awaiting what all consider to be “the best week of camp.”  Meanwhile, the one-week camp for first-time campers (age 7), run by the Plast sorority Spartanky  was off to a great start.

Irene Kulbida crowned Miss Soyuzivka 2017

KERHONKSON, N.Y. – The annual Miss Soyuzivka Contest, marking its 50th anniversary, was held at Soyuzivka Ukrainian Heritage Center on August 13. Irene Kulbida of Niskayuna, N.Y., was crowned Miss Soyuzivka 2017 with Teya Lucyshyn of East Aurora, N.Y., as the runner-up.  Ms. Kulbida danced with Michael Koziupa, first vice-president of Ukrainian National Association, her first dance as Miss Soyuzivka 2017, while Ms. Lucyshyn danced with Stefko Drabyk, assistant manager of Soyuzivka as music by Tempo entertained the guests. Ms. Kulbida is the daughter of Lydia and Nicholas Kulbida and attends New York University.  Irene is also active in the Ukrainian community by being a teacher’s assistant in the Ukrainian school and a member of both the Zorepad and Syzokryli Dance Groups.  The recipient of both the Marriott Marquis and the Tisch Center Patron Scholarships, Ms. Kulbida enjoys photography, cooking, baking and jogging. Ms. Lucyshyn is the daughter of Tamara and Nicholas Lucyshyn.  She attends Hobart and William Smith College and Ms. Lucyshyn enjoys Ukrainian dance, is also very active in student government at her school and in Fight Against Cancer. This year’s judges were Kathy Nalywajko, first vice-president of the Ukrainian Institute of America in New York, Anna Zaiachkivska, Miss World Ukraine, and Consul General of Ukraine in New York Ihor Sybiga.


Putin taps minister as envoy to Ukraine

MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin has appointed Dmitry Livanov as the president’s envoy on trade and economic ties with Ukraine. Mr. Putin accepted Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s proposal to appoint Mr. Livanov at a working meeting at Belbek Airport in Sevastopol, on the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula, on August 19. Mr. Livanov had served since 2012 as education minister. Mr. Putin also agreed with Mr. Medvedev to appoint Olga Vasilyeva as Russia’s new education minister. Ms. Vasilyeva was deputy chief of the presidential directorate for public projects.