Thursday, July 31, 2014

City issues Ukrainian Independence Day proclamation

    Aproclamation to honor the 23rd anniversary of the re-establishment of Ukraine’s independence, Aug. 24, was issued by the North Port City Commission on Monday night. It was read by Mayor Jim Blucher during the commission’s regular meeting and delivered to Roma Guran, president of the Coordinating Committee of Ukrainian-American Organizations of North Port and vicinity. Guran expressed her thanks on behalf of the organization she is heading and on behalf of the entire Ukrainian American community for the commission’s act and for the continuous support of the City Commission and administration. Daria Tomashosky, president of the Ukrainian American Club of Southwest Florida, also spoke briefly about the long struggle of Ukrainians to restore the independence of their country and build a free, civilized, democratic and European Ukraine, now threatened by its neighbor and longtime occupier, Russia.

    The commission meeting was attended by a large group of local Ukrainian-Americans,
most wearing traditional Ukrainian embroidered blouses, shirts and dresses, and members of the local Cpl. Roman G. Lazor Post 40 of the Ukrainian American Veterans, led by Post Commander Eugene Tomashosky, wearing their uniforms of blue T-shirts and veteran’s caps.

    In addition to a large group of veterans in attendance, there were also many members of the local branch of “Soyuz Ukrayinok” (union of Ukrainian ladies), led by president Ann-Marie Susla, members of the Ukrainian American Club of Southwest Florida, led by Tomashosky, and a large group of members of the local Ukrainian
American Orthodox congregation, led by the Rev. John Fatenko. There were also distinguished guests, UAV National Commander Ihor W. Hron of Osprey and UAV National Adjutant Col. Roman Rondiak, USA (Ret.), who attended with his wife Ulana.

    Information about the actual activities here in North Port commemorating the 23rd anniversary of the restoration of Ukraine’s independence will appear in next week’s column.
                                                       • • •
    A nationwide drive of the Ukrainian American organizations, including our Southwest Florida community organizations, is underway to raise funds for humanitarian aid
to Ukraine. One of the drives is to deliver 10,000 Improved First Aid Kits, each costing $100, to save lives of wounded patriots, including children in Ukraine. Most, if not all, of the injuries occur in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, where Ukrainian Armed Forces are fighting the terrorists sent by Russia and supported by arms, equipment, supplies and additional manpower by Putin’s Russia. Donations can be made at www.

    Another organization accepting donations for humanitarian aid to Ukraine is the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee Inc. (, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit
organization established in 1944. All donations are tax-deductible.
                                                       • • •
    Reading the results of tennis matches in our local newspaper, one gets the feeling that Ukrainian players quite often do not get the recognition they, in my opinion, deserve. Most often it is because they get eliminated in the second round. It was a pleasant surprise to learn that Elina Svitolina of Ukraine won the WTA Baku Cup at Baki Tennis Akademijasi, Baku, Azerbaijan, by defeating Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia.

    Atanas Kobryn covers the Ukrainian community for the North Port Sun. He can be emailed at


Our Neighbors — The Ukrainians
by Atanas Kobryn

Monday, July 28, 2014

Congregation prays for Malaysia Airlines victims

     Parishioners and visitors attending last Sunday’s divine liturgy (Mass) at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in North Port, which was celebrated by the Rev. Dr. Severyn Kovalyshin, pastor, and the Rt. Rev. Mitrate Archpriest Wolodymyr Woloszczuk, pastoremeritus, prayed for the 298 victims (and their survivors) of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, flying from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — at the hands of Russian-trained, equipped and supported mercenaries and criminals masquerading as “separatists.” The brief prayers were led by Pastor Kovalyshin following his brief remarks about our moral obligation to pray for the victims who were downed over long-suffering Ukraine, even though there are no known Ukrainian victims.

    The church choir under the masterful direction of Lubow Ingram of Venice, who responded during the celebration of the divine liturgy, then sang a song-prayer, “God, Hear Our Plea.”

    In Rome, Pope Francis led thousands of pilgrims
and tourists assembled in St. Peter’s Square in prayer for peace in Ukraine and the Mideast.

    The Ukrainian-American community of North Port and Southwest Florida is following the developments in Ukraine and doing its best to raise funds for humanitarian aid to displaced Ukrainians from the illegally annexed-by-Putin Crimea and the area of hostilities in southeastern Ukraine, and other worthy causes.

    If anyone reading this column would like to join the local Ukrainian-American community in this endeavor, please
contact me via phone or email, and I will provide information on how to contribute.
                                                        • • •
    Mrs. Roma Guran of Venice, president of the Coordinating Committee of Ukrainian American Organizations of North Port and vicinity, asked me to remind all about the signing, reading and presentation of a proclamation to the representatives of the local Ukrainian-American community at 6 p.m. Monday in North Port City Commission chambers at City Hall.

    Mrs. Guran is asking attendees to wear embroidered attire, and Cpl. Roman G. Lazor Post 40 of the Ukrainian American Veterans to wear gray trousers, blue T-shirts and veteran’s caps.

    Information about the formal commemoration of the 23rd anniversary of the restoration of
Ukraine’s independence (Aug. 24, 1991) will be communicated at a later date.
                                                         • • •
    My wife Katrusia and I would like to thank our daughter, Maria Luba Hirak of Staten Island, N.Y., who, with her youngest granddaughter and our greatgranddaughter, 7-yearold Natalya (Deeka), flew in last week to help us to celebrate one of our family holidays and get better acquainted with “Deeka.” Our oldest son, Alexander Zenon Kobryn of Lakeland, also stopped by to chat with his sister and his great-grandniece.

    Due to Katrusia’s disability, we are unable to travel to Staten Island to visit our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

    Atanas Kobryn covers the Ukrainian community for the North Port Sun. He can be emailed at 

Our Neighbors — The Ukrainians

by Atanas Kobryn

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Plans for independence observance this month

     The Coordinating Committee of Ukrainian American Organizations of North Port and vicinity, consisting of representatives of all local Ukrainian American clubs, associations and other entities, headed by Roma Guran of Venice, is reminding all that the reading of the proclamation to recognize the 23rd anniversary of the restoration of Ukraine’s independence will take place at North Port City Hall commission chambers at 6 p.m. July 28. Ukraine’s independence was restored by an act of Verkhovna Rada (supreme council) of the then Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic on Aug. 24, 1991. The act was overwhelmingly confirmed by the nationwide referendum held on Dec. 1, 1991.

    Traditionally, a copy of the proclamation by the City Commission is presented, after the reading, to the representatives of the local Ukrainian American community. The Coordinating Committee is asking all to attend the City Commission meeting and to wear embroidered attire.

    Members of Cpl. Roman G. Lazor Post 40 of the Ukrainian American Veterans are being asked to attend said meeting wearing the “D” uniform (blue T-shirt, gray trousers and veteran’s cap).

                                                  • • •

    Sixty years ago, a battle in western Ukraine, known to Ukrainians as “the Battle of Brody,” was fought July 13-22, 1944, by the Ukrainian military unit known as the “Halychyna Division,” attempting to stop the advance of the several times stronger Soviet forces moving toward Lviv, the cultural capital of western Ukraine. The Soviet forces surrounded the Ukrainian unit July 18, and on
July 21-22, some 3,000 survivors broke out and eventually regrouped. The rest of the 11,000 members of the division were killed during the battle; others were taken prisoner, with many prisoners summarily executed by SMERSH, the Soviet Army counterintelligence unit. The surviving prisoners were charged with high treason, even if they were not Soviet citizens, and sentenced to 25 years of hard labor in the Gulag camps. If they survived the 25-year sentence, they were not permitted to return to the area of their birth or previous residence.

    An unknown number of battle survivors had managed to join the Ukrainian Insurgent
Army, known by its Ukrainian initials UPA, where some attained leading positions due to their superb training in the division. One of my cousins, Vasyl Kulyniak, who managed to survive the battle and joined the UPA, becoming one of the UPA company commanders with the nom de guerre “Dubovyi.” He died as a hero during a battle with a Soviet KGB unit in 1947.

    The UPA was organized in 1943 out of independent self defense units established throughout Ukraine to defend the Ukrainian population against the oppressive Nazi German occupational administration and police. After the Soviets reoccupied Ukraine after
driving the Nazi Germans out, the UPA continued to fight, without any outside help, the Soviet Russian occupational administration, including its police and military units. Many of my relatives and friends, who were members of the UPA, died in the skirmishes, including my other two cousins, Ivan and Eugene Petsyukh; my wife Katrusia’s brother, Ivan “Yanko” Osadciw; and others. The final resting place of most of them is “known only to God.”

    May their memory be eternal! “Veechnaya Pamyat!”

    Atanas Kobryn covers the Ukrainian community for the North Port Sun. He can be emailed at

Our Neighbors — The Ukrainians

by Atanas Kobryn

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

No glory in war

    For someone whose childhood and tween years were overwhelmed by the war waged by foreign aggressor armies, with the local vulnerable population being the first and most numerous victims, my wife and i Katrusia cannot help but to be compassionate for the people, especially children and teenagers, of Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia and other places where there is no peace. Our thoughts, prayers, and often tears, are mostly directed toward our native Ukraine, where treacherous bands of murderers sent from and equipped by the neighborly country which often calls itself “brother of Ukraine” kill, maim and rape innocent citizens and destroy their homes.

    One of the latest official news items about the situation in Ukraine speaks of weeks and perhaps months before the remaining strongholds of the
murderous mercenaries sent from and equipped by Russia can be liberated, mainly because the main goal of the Ukrainian military personnel is “to minimize loss of life of the civilian population.”

    My wife Katrusia takes the situation especially hard. She was only 8 years old in 1944, the youngest child of her parents, when the front line, for the nth time, moved close to her village, and the inhabitants were forced to evacuate. It was to be only temporary, until the attacking forces would be driven back, but the attacking forces did not retreat. Consequently, Katrusia, her 15-year old
brother and their ailing mother were continuously moved away from the attacking Soviet Russian army until they found themselves in Germany. Her father, a World War I veteran whose war injuries got worse due to a lack of medical attention during the ongoing war, was unable to be moved and was left behind. Also, her 17-year-old brother, Yanko, who joined the clandestine Ukrainian Insurgent Army known by the Ukrainian initials “UPA” to fight the occupational Nazi German administration, remained with the rest of his fighting comrades (and eventually died, with his final resting place “known only to God”).

    The next seven years, until she and her mother were finally able to come to the United States in 1951, they had to endure the existence of other displaced persons by being moved from one camp to another. Since Katrusia’s
mother was too ill to work, Katrusia had to be her mother’s mother, taking care of her and doing everything she could to feed her and herself.

    This is why Katrusia often cries when she reads about or sees on TV the stories about the killings and other atrocities, young orphans left behind, and all who had to flee their domiciles. She asks often: Will the wars ever end?

                                                        • • •

    The list of departed members of the North Port and Southwest Florida Ukrainian American community that appeared in last week’s column inadvertently omitted the name of the late Stefan Solohub Sr., 90, of North Port, an active member of St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, who passed away March 24, 2014.

    Atanas Kobryn covers the Ukrainian community for the North Port Sun. He can be emailed at atanask@aol. com. 

Our Neighbors — The Ukrainians
by Atanas Kobryn

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

‘Happy Birthday’ (Mnohaya Leeta) America

    At my age, it is especially gratifying to be able to celebrate yet another Independence Day, the 238th anniversary of the birth of the United States of America, the country which became my and my family’s second and permanent home. Having done my best to be a good and productive citizen, including my honorable service in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, I cannot think of anything better to do to celebrate this holiday (I am too old and not strong enough anymore to march in the parade) other than to say “Happy Birthday, America!” and to wish, in the time-honored Ukrainian tradition, “Mnohaya Leeta (many, many years), America!”

    Being a history buff, I cannot ignore the fact that the United States was born in the year 1776 when the last bastion of the freedom
of Ukraine, the ancestral country of my birth, was destroyed by the army of the Russian Empress Catherine II, whom the Russians call “The Great” and Ukrainians refer to as “The Bloody One.” The conquest and subsequent destruction of the Ukrainian Kozak city-fortress Zaporozhian Sitch was accomplished following treacherous subversive activities, in the time honored Russian (previously known as “Muscovite”) tradition practiced today by the current Russian Emperor Vladimir Putin.

    Many Ukrainians, except the pro-Russia
elements, believed that “the spirit of freedom moved from Ukraine to the new nation, the United States of America.” The national prophet of Ukraine, poet Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861), wrote in one of his poems “When will we see our Washington with a new and righteous law? We will see it someday!” (my own translation). Ukrainians, who elected Petro Poroshenko as their president last May 25, do not consider him to be “their Washington,” but they are supporting his moves, believe that he will do the right thing, and hope that he will be able to bring peace and prosperity to their long-suffering but proud country. 

                                               • • •

    The North Port and Southwest Florida Ukrainian American community lost several very active members who died during the first half of the current year.

    The first person to depart, on Jan. 12, was an active member and generous supporter of St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in North Port, Lubomyr J. Iwaskiw, 81, of Venice. He was followed by Catherine Kaczmarskyj of Port Charlotte and Olya Retcka-Stasiuk of Warm Mineral Springs, who was press secretary of North Port’s Branch 56 of the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America.

    On Feb. 2, Antonina (nee Wynarczyk) Harwas, 97, of North Port died
after a brief illness. She was followed by Nadia Mandrusiak, a longtime resident of Venice.

    Last month there were three deaths: Maria Chiminec and Roman G. Swystun of North Port, and Halyna Korol of Warm Mineral Springs.

    All were active in the local Ukrainian American community and local Ukrainian
churches, clubs and other organizations. They are missed by their surviving relatives and by the Ukrainian American community at large. May they rest in peace, and their memory be eternal

— “Veechnaya Pamyat!”

    Atanas Kobryn covers the Ukrainian community for the North Port Sun. He can be emailed at 

Our Neighbors — The Ukrainians
by  Atanas Kobryn