Twenty-five years ago, on October 23, 1995, Ukraine’s United Nations Mission officially opened its new home at 51st Street in Manhattan, with a host of Ukrainian dignitaries present, including President Leonid Kuchma. Since Ukraine regained independence in 1991, it had shared its U.N. facilities and accommodations at the former Soviet U.N. Mission building with the Russian and Belarusian missions for more than four years.
Former ambassador of Ukraine to the U.N., Viktor Batiuk, recounted the difficulties for Ukraine’s U.N. Mission to function in the same building as the Russians, who could not accept the idea, let alone the reality, of a free Ukraine. There could be no expectation of privacy for delicate or sensitive conversations.
For the official opening, President Kuchma cut a thin blue-and-yellow ribbon strung across the building’s entrance before nearly four dozen participants entered the facility. Following a presentation of gifts from President Kuchma to Ambassador Anatoliy Zlenko, a champagne toast capped off the ceremonies. The ceremonies were brief, but the celebration continued at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel for an official banquet in honor of Mr. Kuchma.
To simplify the official ceremonies, the new facility and the Ukrainian flag that was to fly over it were blessed on Friday, October 20, 1995, in a ceremony that was led by Bishop Basil Losten of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and Archbishop Antony of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A., who were joined by clergy from the respective Churches.
The new facility was renovated by UDC Corp., of Clifton, N.J., owned by Myron Kukuruza, with additional work by architect Bohdan Gerulak, electrical contractor Oleh Samilenko and interior designers Motria Sloniewska and Joseph Gural, among other specialists.
The new building, located near the U.N., was purchased for $3.5 million. The purchase was negotiated, contracted and closed by the law firm of Drobenko and Piddoubny.
In 1995, Ukraine’s Mission to the U.N. celebrated the 50th anniversary of the U.N.’s founding in 1945, with the signing of the U.N. Charter (signed on June 26, 1945, it went into effect on October 24, 1945). Ukraine has been a founding a member of the organization and the U.N. Office in Ukraine was opened in November 1992 to further cooperation between the U.N. and Ukraine.
U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, in the commemorative journal “The United Nations and Ukraine: 50 Years of Cooperation,” stated: “Ukraine is a founding member of the United Nations and has consistently supported the aims and purposes of the organization – international peace and security, development, justice and human rights. Ukraine has actively participated in United Nations peacekeeping missions, sometimes, as recently in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in difficult and dangerous conditions. …In a region recently troubled by numerous crises and conflicts, Ukraine has remained a source of regional stability and a genuine broker of peace.”
Stephen Browne, the United Nations representative in Ukraine, at a celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the U.N. held on October 18 in Kyiv, stated: “The United Nations is an arena in which every country finds its voice. Already in 1945, Ukraine’s voice was heard in that arena. Fifty years later, Ukraine’s voice is loud and strong. As foreseen by Ivan Franko at the beginning of this [20th] century ‘the time will come when you will shine in a circle of free nations.’ So this is the day when Ukraine salutes the United Nations. But I want to say to you, Mr. President [Kuchma], members of the government and all Ukrainians, that this is also the day in which the countries of the United Nations salute Ukraine: its patience and courage; its resistance to adversity; its example of peace; its promising and prosperous future.”
Source: “U.N. Mission moves to new quarters,” by Roman Woronowycz, The Ukrainian Weekly, October 29, 1995.