Home office took on a whole new meaning this year for the editorial and production staff of The Ukrainian Weekly. Whereas before COVID-19 we worked out of the UNA Home Office in Parsippany, N.J., during the pandemic we began working out of our own home offices. As this issue is prepared to go to press, we are in week No. 46 of working remotely.
Working from home also complicated the transition in December between editors-in-chief, as Roma Hadzewycz retired and Andrew Nynka took over. But more on that later in this article.
We began 2020 with an editorial in our January 5 issue titled “Our ‘koliada,’” thanking our publisher, the Ukrainian National Association, and the Ukrainian National Foundation (UNF), an affiliated company of the UNA that performs charitable activities on its behalf, for focusing attention with the 2019-2020 Christmas card project on the UNA Publications Endowment Fund. That recently established fund aims to ensure and safeguard the future of the UNA’s two newspapers, which as the UNF notes, “have a long history of promoting the interests of Ukraine and Ukrainians through the written word” and now do so not only in print, but also digitally via their websites.
We thank all our supporters who contributed to the UNA Publications Endowment Fund in 2020. We must also thank all who donated to The Ukrainian Weekly Press Fund, which assists our ongoing day-to-day operations. By the end of the year, we received a total of $30,140 in donations to the Press Fund, surpassing the 2019 total by nearly $6,000.
At the same time, we emphasized yet again that what we most appreciate is readers’ support in the form of subscriptions and gift subscriptions. Thus, we asked them to share with their family, friends and colleagues the importance of subscriptions, which make this newspaper possible. (It may be hard to believe, but we have found that many use our newspaper when they need it to promote an event or cause, yet they are not subscribers!) After all, without subscribers, there would be no paper. And, if you value our community, then you should also value its most important vehicles of communication and networking.
It was in mid-March that the novel coronavirus changed everything. That was when we were advised to work remotely for the safety of all. It was a new challenge for our staff to put out The Weekly without being in the office and interacting with each other, but we adapted and did not miss a single deadline.
One of our readers, a corporate lawyer who was tracking federal funding programs designed to help those suffering from the negative economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, tried to help our community by submitting an article spelling out how the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act) was meant to provide relief for small businesses and individuals through such vehicles as the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. We published the information provided by Kristina Rak Brown in April as a public service.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, “A Ukrainian Summer” – the special full-color section that we publish each year in the first issue of May – had to be scrapped. As more and more summer programs were being cancelled, we advised readers that, instead of publishing one issue devoted to all the Ukrainian summer happenings, we would gladly publicize any of our community institutions’ summertime events as they were announced. We wrote: “Dear Readers: Rest assured that our Ukrainian summer has not been cancelled. It’s just different this year. So let’s all try to make the best of this unusual situation. Remember: We truly are in this together. And we at The Weekly are with you!” As it turned out, many summertime events were held virtually, and readers learned about them on our pages.
The coronavirus also had an effect on our “Preview of Events” column. In fact, “Preview” disappeared as more and more events became online only and basic information was provided in our “Out & About” listings.
Pre-COVID, among the annual special features that we published in 2020 was the always popular section featuring Ukrainian Debutante Balls that appeared on April 19. Five balls that were held in January and February were highlighted. Our 2019 Year in Review appeared in four parts in our January-February issues.
The elections of 2020
The other major issue during 2020, besides the coronavirus, was the presidential and congressional elections. With a view toward the historic vote, Dr. Oleh Wolowyna in March prepared an article on “Ukrainians in the U.S. and the November 2020 elections,” in which he underscored the importance of the Ukrainian American community’s participation in the political process, and pointed out the potential power of Ukrainian American voters across the country by state and metropolitan area.
There were many letters to the editor on the topic of the presidential election, some pro-Biden, others pro-Trump. At times, the discussion became heated, as we tried our best to keep it civil. (We even altered our guidelines for letters by noting this: “The Weekly reserves the right to edit for clarity, civility and accuracy.”) There were also quite a few paid advertisements in support of either Donald Trump or Joe Biden. We were compelled to remind readers: “This paid advertisement does not necessarily reflect the views and position of this publication.”
In our editorial published in the October 25 issue, we referred to the responses of the two major party candidates’ campaigns to a series of questions on key topics – military assistance to Ukraine, Russian sanctions, combatting Russian disinformation, NATO enlargement and Ukraine reform efforts – that were posed by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America and its Washington office, the Ukrainian National Information Service. We advised readers that the questionnaire was sent at the end of September, but it took until October 21 for both campaigns to respond. The responses came from the Biden-Harris campaign and Ukrainians for Trump 2020. Neither provided direct answers to the questions posed; the Trump response also included information unrelated to the topics broached. We also directed readers to the Facebook pages of UNIS and the
UCCA to read the full texts of the position papers presented by both campaigns.
At the same time, wrote: “It is important to point out that our publisher, the Ukrainian National Association, a 501(c)(8) corporation, does not endorse political candidates, but its publications can certainly encourage readers to make their voices heard and their votes count. We all know this is a pivotal and consequential presidential election, so get out there and vote!”
Mourning our former colleagues
This year we had to bid a final farewell to two dear former colleagues. In addition to the news obituaries we prepared, we paid tribute to each of them in an editorial. (It was a most difficult and emotional process, but also an appropriate way for us to mourn.)
Helen Perozak Smindak, a longtime columnist and feature writer for The Ukrainian Weekly, passed away on May 16 in New York City at the age of 91. Tragically, she was one of this country’s nearly 350,000 fatalities in 2020 due to the novel coronavirus. This exemplary journalist was well-known and greatly loved by several generations of Ukrainian community members throughout North America. Her wonderful writing graced the pages of this newspaper for decades, from the 1950s through 2013, when she retired. In 1957-1958, she was an editor of the newspaper; she also filled in as an editor of The Weekly on two occasions and came to help out as co-editor during a crisis in the spring of 1980, when the paper was left with one editorial staffer. Ms. Smindak’s byline appeared on The Weekly’s pages for decades, through 2013, when she retired. Our editorial reported: “Arts and culture were her beat, and Ms. Smindak must have worn out countless pairs of shoes covering all sorts of events in New York City and then, in the early days, delivering her typed-up copy in person to the offices of our newspaper, then located in Jersey City, N.J. Her fans were many, and we have some of the fan mail sent in reaction to her columns as evidence.” Ms. Smindak will always be remembered by us and by the faithful readers of The Weekly.
Marta Kolomayets, a former member of the editorial staff of The Ukrainian Weekly, died on August 16 in Kyiv at the age of 61. Ms. Kolomayets was on The Weekly’s staff in January 1982-November 1984 and then again from February 1988 through December 1996. In January 1991, the UNA’s Kyiv Press Bureau became the first foreign news bureau to receive official accreditation. Ms. Kolomayets became the first staffer of that bureau, arriving in the Ukrainian capital on January 13, 1991, to set up the office. She was the first U.S. journalist and the second foreign journalist to be accredited as a correspondent in Ukraine. From Ukraine, she filed stories for The Weekly and provided information for Svoboda, then a daily newspaper. Ms. Kolomayets ultimately served four more tours of duty as Kyiv correspondent, in February-August 1992, February-December 1993, June 1994-July 1995 and October 1995-September 1996. As noted in The Weekly’s editorial, “Marta’s life and good works, both here in the United States – where she was born and studied, and volunteered, and worked – and in Ukraine – where she lived for more than half of her life, worked in a variety of professional roles and was involved in many volunteer endeavors – touched countless people. That’s why her death has left so many in tears.”
A changing of the guard
Roma Hadzewycz, editor-in-chief of both The Ukrainian Weekly and Svoboda, officially notified UNA Executive Committee members on July 31, in writing, that she would be retiring and that her last day would be November 30. A job announcement was first published in The Weekly’s October 4 issue (as well as in Svoboda); it sought to fill two editors’ positions, one at each newspaper.
In the November 29 issue of The Weekly, UNA President/CEO Stefan Kaczaraj extended thanks and best wishes to Ms. Hadzewycz on her retirement and announced that the new editor-in-chief of Svoboda and The Ukrainian Weekly would be Andrew Nynka. It was noted that Ms. Hadzewycz had joined the UNA in 1977 as an editor with The Ukrainian Weekly, and in 1980 became editor-in-chief. In 2007, she was appointed editor-in-chief of both Svoboda and The Ukrainian Weekly. “Ms. Hadzewycz has been an indefatigable and respected member of the UNA fraternal family. Her contribution to our association has been invaluable and her commitment to excellence unequaled, Mr. Kaczaraj wrote.
That issue also carried a signed editorial titled “A farewell” by Ms. Hadzewycz. “As I write this farewell, I am filled with sadness, but also with appreciation and pride for the work the UNA’s newspapers have done and, I have no doubt, will continue to do,” she wrote. “Forty-three years is a serious chunk of time to fit into 70-plus lines in an editorial… It’s an impossible task. Let me just say that during those more than four decades at The Weekly, and the last 13 at Svoboda as well, our editorial staffs produced issues every week without fail in a most professional manner. We met our deadlines no matter what – whether it be the nuclear accident at Chornobyl in 1986 or the proclamation of Ukraine’s independence in 1991, the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on 9/11 in 2001, the Orange Revolution of 2004-2005 or the Euro-Maidan/Revolution of Dignity of 2013-2014.”
Ms. Hadzewycz thanked all those with whom she had worked during those 43 years and underscored: “Ours was always a small but dedicated staff, composed of editors who took pride in their work, were true professionals and were dedicated to the Ukrainian community and nation. And there were also production staff members, our newspapers’ administration, part-timers, summer interns, correspondents in the U.S., Canada and Ukraine, columnists and community activists – too numerous to list, but no less appreciated.” She concluded by wishing her colleagues and the new editor-in-chief, Mr. Nynka “much success, enthusiasm, fortitude and patience as they begin yet another new chapter in the history of Svoboda and The Ukrainian Weekly.”
In the next issue of The Weekly, dated December 6, the UNA president/CEO introduced Mr. Nynka. “He has a doctorate in journalism from the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, a master’s degree in journalism from New York University, and a bachelor’s degree from Muhlenberg College. He was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to Ukraine, where he conducted dissertation research and taught journalism at both the Ukrainian Catholic University and the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy.” His professional experience includes work as a reporter for the Daily Record and The Daily Journal (both in New Jersey), and as executive director of the Society for Features Journalism. Most significantly, it was noted that Mr. Nynka “first began as a journalist with The Ukrainian Weekly in 2001.” During his years at The Weekly (2001-2006), he covered the Orange Revolution in 2004 and the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Thus, 2020 brought The Weekly both a changing of the guard and a homecoming.
Writing his first editorial in his new position, Mr. Nynka spoke of the legacy of the UNA’s newspapers and his predecessor’s service as editor-in-chief. “We believe that the best way to honor Ms. Hadzewycz’s achievement and express our gratitude for her service to Ukraine and the Ukrainian diaspora is to soldier on with the job – to ensure that the journalistic standards set do not fall or faulter, to ensure that The Weekly continues to be a voice for Ukrainians around the globe, and to ensure that a light continues to shine brightly on our community and Ukraine and that it never dim,” the new editor-in-chief wrote. He added: “…there is much work left to be done, and there remain untold stories both great and small about Ukraine, about Ukrainians around the globe, and about our UNA members that deserve to be told. We will aspire to tell those stories and continue to build on this newspaper’s great legacy. The job continues.”
Complications with mail delivery
COVID and the holiday season also complicated mail delivery of our newspaper to subscribers. There continues to be a serious backlog of delivery by the U.S. Postal Service even as we write these words at the beginning of February. In fact, one of our staffers received three issues of The Weekly on one day: January 27, 2021. The dates of issue were December 13 and December 20, 2020, and January 10, 2021. How’s that for USPS delivery? Pretty abysmal…
As reported by The New York Times: “In December, amid a crush of packages and record numbers of coronavirus cases, service performance across the U.S. Postal Service network plummeted to the lowest levels in years, with only about 64 percent of first-class mail delivered on time around Christmas.” The Times also noted this: “Other types of mail, like periodicals and marketing mail, had a one in 10 chance of arriving on time in some parts of the country.”
The Washington Post carried a story about how USPS delays have adversely affected small newspapers that depend on the mail for delivery. “The U.S. Postal Service has been under siege for months as record volumes of holiday packages and election mail ran up against a spike in coronavirus cases within its workforce, leaving the agency severely short-staffed. Nearly 19,000 workers were in quarantine at the end of 2020 after becoming infected or exposed to the virus, according to the American Postal Workers Union. That has left hundreds of small publishers struggling to deliver their products, according to the National Newspaper Association, undercutting their advertising revenues and subscriber bases, and depriving the largely rural communities they serve of crucial news coverage. …” The Post reported.
Our sincere hope is that this postal mess gets cleaned up in 2021. In the meantime, all we can do is encourage readers to subscribe to our online edition, which does not suffer any delays related to mail delivery.
Continuing our mission
The year 2020 marked the 87th anniversary of the founding of The Ukrainian Weekly. Our editorial for the occasion recalled some of the history behind the beginnings of The Weekly in 1933 and some of its achievements through more than eight decades. “The Weekly has now published approximately 4,500 issues since 1933. (You can read all of them at www.ukrweekly.com in the digital archives section of our website.) What’s particularly notable as we mark yet another anniversary – our 87th – is that The Ukrainian Weekly has not skipped a beat since its founding in 1933. Not even this year, while we’re in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” we wrote.
Words from that editorial are also appropriate now, at the end of 2020: “It’s been a tough year for all of us, and we thank you, dear subscribers, for your continuing support. We also thank our benefactors, whose generous donations go a long way toward helping our newspapers continue their mission, and our advertisers whose advertising dollars are key to the bottom line. But there is yet another group of partners who deserve special recognition: all the community activists who submit stories and photos to The Weekly and have continued doing so despite the pandemic. As we celebrate our 87th anniversary, we thank you all!”
Rolling the credits
“2020: The Year in Review” was prepared by Editor Matthew Dubas and Editorial Assistant Christine Syzonenko of The Weekly staff; Editor-in-Chief Emeritus Roma Hadzewycz; and our colleagues Mark Raczkiewycz (Kyiv), Chris Guly (Ottawa), Ihor Stelmach (South Windsor, Conn.) and Adrian Bryttan (New York). Credit for the layout goes to Stefan Slutsky.
As the articles in this yearender were prepared based on stories that were published in The Weekly, the sections are not credited to a particular author. The materials used were articles written by our staffers and regular correspondents, news sources like RFE/RL and the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, and submissions by community activists and organizations.