By-laws were the big news at the Ukrainian National Association in 2020. The amended UNA Charter and By-Laws were designed to modernize the UNA in terms of corporate structure, yet retain the organization’s traditional representative form of government through its quadrennial conventions.
The UNA Home Office mailed a voting package – containing proposed changes to the UNA By-Laws and a ballot – to all delegates to the last UNA Convention, held in May 2018, and to current members of the UNA General Assembly. The ballot was to be returned via mail by January 21. Delegates and General Assembly members were asked to vote yea or nay on proposed changes to the By-Laws, a draft of which had been presented to delegates at the UNA’s 2018 Convention.
As noted in a letter from UNA President/CEO Stefan Kaczaraj that was sent with the ballots, “The passage of these By-Laws is an important and crucial step to ensure the UNA’s viability for the next 125 years.” Also included in the packet sent by certified mail to convention delegates and General Assembly members were the complete text of the Proposed Amended Charter and By-Laws of the Ukrainian National Association Inc., as well as a summary of the key highlights of the proposed amendments.
The Ukrainian Weekly’s February 9 issue carried an announcement from the chair of the UNA Audit Committee, Luba Walchuk, who reported to members of the UNA that the proposed new By-Laws were overwhelmingly approved and would go into effect as of January 31, 2020, with one exception: “The current General Assembly will remain in their elected positions until the UNA’s next Convention, slated to take place in 2022.” Ms. Walchuk said a total of 70 ballots had been mailed out and the returned ballots were counted at the UNA Home Office on January 27 by a third party, the Tabatchouk Law Firm. As Audit Committee chair, Ms. Walchuk was present to validate the counting of the ballots. The official results were: 63 yes votes, two no votes, one ballot returned without a vote and four ballots not returned.
In accordance with the new UNA By-Laws, the president/CEO and six members (directors) of the Corporate Board of Directors are elected at the convention, while the COO/national secretary and CFO/treasurer are appointed (hired) by the directors. The immediate past president serves on the board in a non-voting advisory capacity. The convention also elects the six-member Fraternal Advisory Board and the three-member Audit Committee. The convention remains the UNA’s highest governing body; the Corporate Board of Directors is the highest authority in between conventions.
Also during 2020, the UNA officially concluded celebrations of its 125th anniversary. As readers will recall, this fraternal benefit association was founded on February 22, 1894, in Shamokin, Pa., and that is where the UNA in 2019 began celebrations of its milestone anniversary. On February 9, 2020, the UNA returned to Shamokin, where the UNA’s quasquicentennial came to a close with a divine liturgy, luncheon and program at Transfiguration of the Lord Ukrainian Catholic Church, which is closely associated with the UNA’s beginnings. A beautiful hierarchical divine liturgy was celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Andriy Rabiy of the Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Archeparchy of Philadelphia, who was assisted by the Rev. Mykola Ivanov, pastor. The responses were sung by the Dzvin Male Choir of Philadelphia and the Kazka Ukrainian Folk Ensemble. Bishop Andriy also delivered an informative and uplifting homily focusing on the significance of the UNA.
Afterwards, luncheon attendees heard introductory remarks by the COO/National Secretary Yuriy Symczyk and an address by CFO/Treasurer Roma Lisovich. The program opened with a prayer by Father Ivanov and the presentation of colors by members of Lehigh Valley’s Jack Palance Post 42 of the Ukrainian American Veterans (UAV). Joining Jerry Kindrachuk and Mathew Koziak in the color guard was Vincent Chesney, grandson of Michael Yonkovig, who was a member of the parish as well as a member of the post. Mr. Yonkovig had been a co-chairman of the UNA’s 75th anniversary celebration held in Shamokin. The Kazka Ensemble followed with the singing of the American and Ukrainian national anthems.
Northumberland County Commissioners Joseph Klebon and Sam Schiccatano presented proclamations from the county. Mr. Schiccatano also presented a citation from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives sponsored by State Rep. Kurt Masser. Mr. Kindrachuk extended a greeting from the UAV National Executive Board. During the musical portion of the event, Dzvin provided a lively rendition of Ukrainian songs, while Kazka also sang, presented a Ukrainian folk dance and joined in a beautiful trio instrumental performance with violinist Innesa Tymochko Dekajlo.
Our February 23 editorial, written on the occasion of the UNA’s 126th anniversary in 2020, underlined: “The Shamokin event was a fitting conclusion to a remarkable anniversary year for an organization that played a leading role in the development of the Ukrainian American community and continues its proud tradition of service to our community and our nation.” That same issue featured the last installment of the 125th anniversary series “A snapshot from history,” which had been published every week of the jubilee year.
The 2020 Almanac of the Ukrainian National Association, which is published by Svoboda Press, marked its 105th annual release. The 288-page Ukrainian-language publication was devoted to historic anniversaries of the year 2020. The Almanac opened with an article by the late Ivan Kedryn Rudnytsky, the well-known journalist active in Ukraine and the United States who was a longtime member of the Svoboda editorial staff. An excerpt from his memoirs spoke about the momentous year 1920 and what it meant for Ukraine.
Other sections of the UNA Almanac covered historic developments and entities such as the Treaty of Warsaw of 1920 through the eyes of a Ukrainian; the dilemma faced by Ukrainian political leader Symon Petliura (1879-1926); the world’s first democratic constitution, that of Ukrainian Hetman Pylyk Orlyk, dating to 1710; the highly respected Ukrainian newspaper Dilo, the first daily newspaper for Ukrainians in Halychyna, which was founded 140 years ago, and its connections with the Ukrainian American newspaper Svoboda; the Ukrainian Military Organization (known by the Ukrainian acronym UVO) that was established in 1920; the centennial of the Sich Riflemen’s movement as well as that of the Prosvita Society in the Zakarpattia region; and the 70th anniversary of the death of Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) Commander-in-Chief Roman Shukhevych.
Fifty-four student members of the UNA received scholarships or awards for the 2020-2021 academic year. They were featured in special sections in the UNA’s two newspapers, Svoboda and The Ukrainian Weekly, in the issues released in time for Labor Day weekend. Special scholarships awarded included: the Joseph and Dora Galandiuk Scholarship ($2,000), the Drs. Maria, Dmytro and Olha Jarosewycz Scholarship ($1,000), the Vera Stangl Scholarship ($750) and the Joseph Wolk Scholarship ($750), as well as five UNA Heritage Scholarships. In addition, 45 students received monetary awards based on their year of study, ranging from $125 for freshmen to $200 for seniors.
A news story about the current year’s scholarships was written by UNA Second Vice-President Eugene Serba, who chairs the UNA Scholarship Committee that met on June 26 to review all applications sent in by students who are members of the UNA. Mr. Serba pointed out that “There was a total of 54 applicants from 26 different UNA branches. The number and quality of applicants this year was truly exceptional, with a number of students applying for more than one scholarship for which they were eligible.” Notably, the number of applicants had increased from recent years.
The Weekly’s editorial noted: “In the more than 126 years of its existence, the Ukrainian National Association (UNA) has always supported young people in their pursuit of higher education, In fact, the first UNA scholarships were actually small stipends awarded to promising students to help them attain a better future. A formal scholarship program was established in 1964. Since then it has awarded well over $2 million in scholarships to several thousand young men and women – a legacy of which the UNA is justifiably proud.”
Like everyone else, the UNA was impacted by the novel coronavirus. And yet, the UNA’s operations continued throughout the pandemic. In a message to members, UNA President/CEO Kaczaraj reported: “At the UNA’s Home Office, which is based in Parsippany, N.J., we reacted immediately and put into effect a business contingency plan previously developed for such an eventuality. Out of an abundance of caution, our Home Office was closed and, beginning on Monday, March 16, our employees began to work remotely in order to continue serving our members without disruption. Thus, the UNA was focused on both protecting the health of its Home Office staff and meeting the needs of its thousands of members. During this temporary work arrangement, the UNA continued to accept membership applications, process claims and handle all variety of matters important to our policyholders. All the while, members could reach us during business hours (8 a.m.-4 p.m.) via our customer service number at 800-253-9862. We sincerely thank our members for their patience, cooperation and understanding during this trying time for us all.” The president’s message appeared in the June 28/July 5 issue.
The good news was that, as of June 1, the Home Office began transitioning to a multi-phased return to regular operations, while continuing to take precautions and following all guidelines issued by government officials and health authorities to make sure staffers were protected. Mr. Kaczaraj reassured members: “For over 126 years, the Ukrainian National Association has always been there for our members. While we are not yet back to operations as they were before the coronavirus pandemic, we pledge to you that we will continue to serve you as we always have – with the utmost professionalism, respect and care. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us with any questions you may have. Our dedicated staff is ready and able to respond.”
Meanwhile, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other family members continued enrolling youngsters as UNA members, as documented on the Ukrainian National Association Forum page in this newspaper. For example, the March 22 issue of The Weekly featured a full page of Young UNA’ers.
For the first time in the 126-year history of this fraternal organization, the UNA’s highest governing body between quadrennial conventions did not meet in person, convening instead by videoconference and teleconference due to continuing restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic. The UNA General Assembly, which encompasses executive officers, auditors and advisors, met virtually on Monday and Tuesday, October 5-6, with members signing in from their respective locations across the United States as well as Canada.
President/CEO Kaczaraj presented his report, noting that 2020 was an unusual year due to COVID-19 and assuring General Assembly members that the UNA is following the guidelines of New Jersey state officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Our Home Office is open for business. But staff is on a staggered work schedule to ensure social distancing. This helps us restrict the number of people in the office at one time. Although we were all working remotely at first, our insurance operations employees have returned to the office. The publications staff continues to work, for the most part, remotely,” he explained.
As regards the financial condition of the UNA, the president/CEO reported that in 2019 the UNA recorded another increase to its surplus, which as of December 31, 2019, was $11,287,000 (as compared with $11,021,000 as of December 31, 2018). The surplus grew further during 2020 to $12,898,000. Also notable in 2019 was another consecutive year of net profits. Total net income as of December 31, 2019, stood at $328,000 ($329,000 was recorded the prior year).
COO/National Secretary Symczyk presented a detailed report on sales of UNA life insurance policies and annuities, citing a significant uptick in sales of life insurance, both in terms of the number of policies sold and total face values of insurance coverage. Other topics discussed by Mr. Symczyk were: new life insurance illustration software for both agents and Home Office staff; agent recruitment; reformatting of applications and supporting documents for online/digital use; and development of new payment options, such as credit card charges and electronic fund transfers. The COO noted that a Corporate Manual Committee was formed to complete work on this companion document to the new UNA By-Laws that were approved in January.
Ms. Lisovich, the CFO/treasurer, explained that the UNA, as an essential business, continued to serve its members during the coronavirus pandemic. “The UNA was able to respond quickly and efficiently to the crisis. It had a quick response framework that worked well and allowed the UNA to quickly adapt to new work protocols. The technology upgrades that were completed in January 2020 were crucial to this success,” Ms. Lisovich observed. The CFO cited these positives during the period: an increase in life insurance sales compared to the second quarter of 2019, reflecting pandemic fears, as consumers wanted life protection; capital surplus position remained strong and increased as the absence of equities in the UNA’s investment portfolio allowed it to avoid the declines other insurers experienced; UNA cash flows, liquidity and leverage were healthy. Overall, the CFO reported, the UNA was having a good year with sales, revenue and net profit outperforming 2019.
Three standing committees of the General Assembly – Financial, Membership Outreach and Publications – met virtually during the second day of the annual meeting, either by teleconference or Zoom.
During the concluding discussion of the annual meeting, General Assembly members agreed that it would be beneficial to meet more often. As a result, it was decided that the body should meet semiannually (it is hoped that one of those meetings would be in person and the other virtual). Thus, the next meeting of the UNA General Assembly is expected to take place in the spring of 2021.
During the year, the UNA learned of the deaths of several of its stalwart activists. At the beginning of 2020, it was reported that Irene V. Sarachmon, secretary of UNA Branch 206 in Woonsocket, R.I., for 20 years, had passed away on December 26, 2019. On September 12, Peter Serba, secretary of Branch 173 since 1954, died at the age of 96. Mr. Serba (father of UNA Second Vice-President Eugene Serba) was a delegate to every UNA quadrennial convention since 1958 and singlehandedly had signed up over 400 UNA members. On December 30, Anna Burij, secretary of UNA Branch 402 in Etobicoke, Ontario, for 34 years, passed away at the age of 95. Mrs. Burij was a delegate to numerous UNA conventions through the years.
Another huge loss for the UNA family was Marta Kolomayets, who passed away on August 16 in Kyiv. Ms. Kolomayets, 61, was a member of The Ukrainian Weekly’s editorial staff and the paper’s pioneering Kyiv correspondent. A “Thank you and farewell to our colleague, Marta Kolomayets” was written by UNA Advisor Irene Jarosewich, who chairs the General Assembly’s Publications Committee. It was published in the August 30/September 6 issue.
Toward the end of the year, with Christmas approaching, the UNA released its 2020-2021 Christmas cards, once again featuring the creativity of Ukrainian artists Iryna Korchuk of Lviv and Volodymyr Petryshyn of Ivano-Frankivsk. The packet of cards also included a birthday card by the same artists. This annual initiative aims to raise funds for the Ukrainian National Foundation, the UNA’s charitable arm, and donations could be designated for the UNA Publications Endowment Fund, Soyuzivka Heritage Center or the UNF’s General Fund.
In the November 29 issue of The Weekly (and the November 27 issue of Svoboda), the UNA bid farewell to the editor-in-chief of The Ukrainian Weekly and Svoboda, Roma Hadzewycz, who retired as of December 1, and announced that the new editor-in-chief would be Andrew Nynka. UNA President Kaczaraj wrote: “For more than 43 years, 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. Ms. Hadzewycz’s encyclopedic knowledge of UNA history will be greatly missed, as will her dedication, talent, professionalism and experience.”
The next week, Mr. Kaczaraj released a message formally welcoming Mr. Nynka that was printed in both of the UNA’s newspapers. He noted that the new editor-in-chief “is an experienced and awarded journalist, researcher and teacher,” whose previous positions included work as a journalist with The Ukrainian Weekly in 2001-2006. “The UNA is proud of the powerful legacy of our publications – one that has met change and transformation more than once over the decades. We welcome Mr. Nynka back to the UNA to continue this effort,” the UNA president wrote.