Our post-World War II wave of immigration set itself the goal of preserving the Ukrainian language, culture and churches until Ukraine should be free. It succeeded. For our churches, it is now time to concentrate on their primary mission.
Statistics for the Ukrainian Catholic Church, however, are not encouraging. In 1980 there were some 700,000 people in the United States who considered themselves of Ukrainian or partly Ukrainian origin. In 1981, the Ukrainian Catholic Church counted about 245,000 members. Today, Ukrainian Americans number over 930,000. According to the eparchial websites, however, the number of Ukrainian Catholics has fallen to about 52,000. In 1981, the Church had 27 elementary and three secondary schools; today, it has a half-dozen. In 1981, the Archeparchy of Philadelphia had 98 active eparchial and mission priests; today, it has 37.
By just about any measure, 2020 has been a difficult year. The COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump’s unfounded allegations of elections fraud and stubborn refusal to concede the election, and Russia’s recent massive cyberattack, are just a few of the bad news stories of the year.
But there is hope for 2021. The rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines suggests that, as the year progresses, life will return to some semblance of normality. And Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20 will also usher in a degree of sanity in our politics. Our country, indeed, the world, needs it.
The election is over and I have a few thoughts, but I’ll wait until Joe Biden’s inauguration to share those. For now, I’d like to reflect on a favorite topic: Ukrainian literature and the beauty and complexity of the Ukrainian word, as well as the horrific associated politics, with the language frequently banned, writers arrested, indeed killed. And revel in how the culture, the literature has nonetheless survived and is blossoming today.
So, for respite from the most horrible American election (and post-election) I’ve ever experienced, allow me to share a Sunday relaxation: The New York Times Book Review, where authors relate their reading history, the interview ending: “You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three authors, dead or alive, would you invite?” Invariably, the list includes those whose works I’ve read with pleasure: Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Virgil, Emily Dickenson, James Baldwin and others.
In the opening scene of Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s 1958 novel “The Leopard,” beautifully rendered by Luchino Visconti’s 1963 film of the same name, it is May 1860, and the Sicilian Prince of Salina’s family has gathered to recite the rosary. When I first saw that film, I was impressed by this archaic Old-World custom. Growing up among nominal Protestants and secular Jews in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1950s and 1960s, I had never witnessed anything like it. I had only a couple of Roman Catholic classmates, one of whom lived in a large family that seemed to be in a state of perpetual pandemonium. It appeared to confirm the stereotype of Catholics as poor and ignorant – ignorant because they were poor, poor because they were ignorant. Large families were considered a sign of ignorance.
Dear Readers! Welcome to The Washington Notebook, a column compiled by the Ukrainian National Information Service (UNIS) to provide perspective and insight on activities in Washington that concern the Ukrainian community.
What did the November 3 elections prove in the United States? Firstly, an unprecedented number of citizens went to the polls to cast their vote for our elected officials. But more importantly for the Ukrainian community, many of our “Friends of Ukraine” in Congress have been re-elected, while those newly-elected to Congress have had opportunities to interact with community representatives during the campaign period.
Sadly, the dictatorial regime of illegitimate President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has again stepped up its repression of the people of Belarus struggling for their democratic rights and freedoms. This includes the violent death of protester Roman Bondarenka in police custody. After the shocking brutality against peaceful protesters that the world witnessed in the immediate aftermath of the August 9 fraudulent elections, the degree of abuse by the Lukashenka regime’s security apparatus had diminished somewhat – although it never completely went away.
The recent comprehensive and authoritative OSCE Moscow Mechanism Report on post-election human rights violations notes the numerous instances of police brutality and torture on the part of security forces that operate with impunity.
After basically stagnating for 26 years under the iron-fisted rule of Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the people of Belarus suddenly erupted following the August 9 elections, which have been condemned as fraudulent by the opposition and Western democracies. Since then, massive protests have been held across the country on a daily basis. The United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union have all initiated sanctions against top Belarusian officials, including Mr. Lukashenka himself.
Although there had been opposition to Mr. Lukashenka’s rule for a long time, people were afraid and expressed their thoughts only in closed circles. Until these elections, that is.
One day some time before 1914, an elderly gentleman from the Austrian crownland of Galicia was strolling through Vienna. Seeing some soldiers drilling on a parade ground, he asked a nearby officer what regiment that might be. The officer told him. “That is my regiment!” the gentleman responded. As it turned out, he was the oldest surviving member of the unit. He was invited to headquarters and suitably feted.
That, at least, is the story he told his son. Half a century and half a world away, the latter related it to his own grandson.
I did not see it coming. Few people did. As someone who has followed developments in Belarus since shortly after Alyaksandr Lukashenka became president in 1994, I am surprised and incredibly heartened by the size and persistence of massive peaceful protests following the rigged August 9 presidential elections in which Mr. Lukashenka claims to have won his sixth term. The vote fraud was so flagrant and shameless that most Belarusians believe that it was the opposition candidate, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who won. The weekly mass protests – often exceeding 100,000 participants – are now well into their third month. This would be remarkable anywhere. It is especially amazing for Belarus.
If there is one statistic related to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada that stands out like a sore thumb, it is the fact that 81 percent of the deaths have occurred in long-term care centers (nursing homes).
This is particularly true in long-term homes run privately on a for-profit basis. So bad is the situation in these particular centers that, last Spring, the military had to be called in to deal with the crisis in five Toronto homes and on May 26 issued a scathing report that detailed “horrific” allegations of insect infestations, aggressive resident feeding that caused choking, bleeding infections and residents crying for help for hours. Ontario Premier Doug Ford called it “the most heart-wrenching report” he’s ever read in his life.