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

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