May 25, 2018

Looking back and looking ahead


The following is a guest editorial by Stefan Kaczaraj, newly re-elected president and CEO of the Ukrainian National Association. It is adapted from his Ukrainian-language remarks at the opening of the 39th Regular Convention of the UNA on Friday, May 18.

Welcome to all of you, convention delegates of the Ukrainian National Association, as we once again gather here at our dear Soyuzivka as we did four years ago. These years have flowed by so quickly, like the water in a rushing mountain stream. We once again have the opportunity, indeed the need, to exchange ideas and feelings about our community and organizational life, to weigh its plusses and minuses, to carefully and responsibly look toward the future.

To be sure, the Executive Committee did not function in isolation behind office walls. We had countless contacts with you, constantly interacting in the best interests of our common cause. Nonetheless, the UNA convention is the highest level of our interaction, the most significant of our exchanges of ideas because we are reporting about the work accomplished during the past four years and planning for the next term.

I think I will not be mistaken if I say that during the past four years all of us were concerned not only about our internal UNA matters but also about events and developments in the United States, including our presidential election. This is our county, our government, and together with the entire U.S.A. we celebrate its every achievement and wish it success in meeting every new challenge. 

But let us take a look back – to decades past, to the upheavals of the 20th century, when painful challenges came one after another: the Great Depression of the 1930s, World War II, the post-war displacement of nations. There was threatening turbulence all around us, like a storm at sea. And only the strong ships with mighty sails and talented, courageous captains survived.

The Ukrainian National Association was just such a ship. The complete history of Ukrainians in America has yet to be written, and perhaps it will never be written, because it is a truly enormous and truly unique history that could perhaps be tackled by an entire institute created specifically for that purpose. However, if such a history were ever to be written, then I have no doubt its essence would come down to one word: self-organization. 

One hundred twenty-four years ago our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers in America united, and they did so without any external pressure, without the slightest coercion, without any government decrees or directives. They did so on the basis on good will, mutual support, and national and social solidarity. This is the invaluable experience that is essential for every succeeding generation.

This is also the invaluable experience that can help the Ukrainian state that today, with great effort, but always more assuredly and more quickly, is emerging from the vicious circle of old conflicts – ethnic, religious, partisan – and is moving forward on a straight and clear path. Ukrainians are led out onto this straight path thanks to the nation’s reborn ability to self-organize.

With these words, I express my fervent hope that this 39th Regular Convention of the Ukrainian National Association will once again become a shining example of successful and fruitful self-organization at a time of new political realities by demonstrating the strength and authority of the oldest and largest Ukrainian organization on the North American continent. So help us God!