PASSAIC, N.J. – Before the summer begins, branches of Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organization look back at the accomplishments that they made over the past year. Plast Troop 31, based in Passaic, N.J., was lucky to have one of its members, Matej Handzy, lead by example this year when he received one of the highest specialized ranks in Plast: maritime eagle scout.
At his first Morskyi Tabir (Plast Sea Scouting Camp) in 2013, Matej did not quite know what to expect when he began working on the first of the 39 tasks and projects that are required in order to receive this rank. The required tasks varied from simple ones, such as learning various sailing knots and the history of sea scouting, to more difficult projects, like building a mast and a fully functioning dock.
After three summers of hard work, Matej became the 27th recorded recipient in the world of the Plast rank of maritime eagle scout.
One could say that becoming a maritime eagle scout runs in the family. Matej’s father, Damian Handzy became the seventh recorded recipient of this distinguished title 30 years earlier.
But this not the first time that a father-son duo have both achieved this rank. In fact, George Kuzmowycz and his son, Markian, as well as his two daughters, Tatiana and Katria, all earned the maritime eagle scout rank. Markian Kuzmowycz is Plast’s current national director for maritime and aviation scouting in the United States, and also the one who worked with Matej to achieve this rank.
Mr. Handzy was able to offer Matej positive encouragement throughout the process, but was sure to express the amount of work that is involved in this journey. “My father said it was very difficult to complete, and while many start [work this rank], most do not finish. And while he may have hyped up how special it was to receive such a distinction, I can’t say it has disappointed,” Matej commented.
Over the course of the three summers spent at Morskyi Tabir, during which Matej worked on various requirements, he did encounter a few roadblocks. He said that although there was a sense of excitement for the end result, it was hard to constantly stay motivated with such a daunting list of projects. “I would say that it is self-driven, but you do get some encouragement on the way,” he noted. “It is different from the eagle scout process, where you have leaders working with you; for [maritime eagle scout] you have to be very self-sufficient and self-motivated.”
After all of his hard work, this past January Matej recited the “Oath of the Sea Scout,” and Markian Kuzmowycz, U.S. national director for maritime and aviation scouting, awarded him the rank and presented the patch that Matej now wears proudly on the sleeve of his Plast uniform.
For me personally, it was a very special moment to see Matej being congratulated by his father, who wears the same patch. His huge accomplishment truly brought honor to Passaic’s Plast branch, of which I am a proud member. I can say with confidence that Matej has inspired and will continue to inspire young members of Plast to take pride and work towards going above and beyond within Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organization.