Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Farewell to the old year, welcome to the new

      People will bid farewell to the old year 2014 and welcome the new year 2015 differently, based on their own perception of this annual event. Some will celebrate in public places or at home with family and friends; others will limit their “celebration” to viewing the dropping of the ball in Times Square in New York City on TV or possibly in person, while still others will ignore the event and go to bed at their usual time.

    My wife Katrusia and I wish everybody, our children and other relatives, neighbors and friends throughout the world a happy, healthy and prosperous new year, regardless of how they
choose to observe it.

    The observance of the new year in Ukraine underwent a fundamental change during and as a result of the over seven decades-long occupation of the atheist Russian Communist regime. The goal of the regime was to eradicate religion and religious customs, including the observance of Christmas and all traditions associated
with it. In addition to persecuting individuals who observed any religious holidays, the national and local government and Communist party media were actively promoting alternate observances, in this case, promoting the observance of the new year with a Christmas tree (which was not called a “Christmas” tree), the Soviet equivalent of Santa Claus (called “Grandfather Frost”), the exchange of gifts and elaborate parties. The new custom became quite popular and this is how the new year is observed in Ukraine nowadays.

    While many, especially the Communist
party and “Komsomol” (Communist Youth League) members gave up their practice of observing Christmas, neither the religion nor the traditional observances of Christmas and other holidays had disappeared. Families continued to prepare the traditional Christmas Eve suppers (“Svyata Vecherya”), children and young people continued to gather and sing carols in public places and from house to house, and religious services were held either in the remaining churches or in private homes during the time when the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was outlawed. Many individuals, including
schoolchildren, had to pay the price for their religious beliefs. Demotions and firings of employees were quite common, and arrests and sentencings also took place.

    Since the restoration of Ukraine’s independence on Aug. 24, 1991, religion has taken its place in both government and private lives, and Christmas religious services and ancient Ukrainian customs and practices associated with Christmas are becoming more and more popular, but the once-considered strange, elaborate observance of the new year also continues.

    While Jan. 1 is the beginning of the new year,
both officially and in practice, Ukrainians have another special “old” new year, observed Jan. 14. That day is actually the “Jan. 1,” according to the “old,” or Julian, calendar. Some customs long associated with this “old” new year are still observed here and there; the most common is the “Malanka dance,” a party on Jan. 13, the day of St. Melanie (Malanka in Ukrainian). In North America, the Malanka dance is usually held anytime during the second half of January.

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

Our Neighbors — The Ukrainians
by  Atanas Kobryn

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas, happy holidays to all

   My wife Katrusia and I wish all our relatives, friends and neighbors who will be celebrating the birthday of our Lord Jesus, joy and peace this Christmas and beyond. And let us remember the most ancient and probably the most important Christmas tradition of forgiving and helping each other to feel the joy of life.

    Ukrainian Christians in Ukraine as well as many Ukrainian American and Ukrainian Canadian Christians will observe the Feast of Christ’s Birth, known in Ukrainian as “Rizdvo Khrystove,” on Jan. 7, in accordance with the Julian calendar still used for religious and church purposes. This later observance of Christ’s birthday has an advantage of being out of the commercialization craze, therefore, it is more religious and pious. Ukrainians traditionally give gifts (primarily to children but not exclusively) on St. Nicholas Day, which is on Dec. 19 according to the Julian (old) calendar, and Dec. 6 according to the Gregorian (new) calendar. The gifts are distributed by “St. Nicholas,” an individual attired in bishop’s robes, and not by Santa Claus.

    During my childhood and ’tween years in Ukraine, the gifts from St. Nicholas appeared under my pillow the morning of the Feast of St. Nicholas. These gifts were quite simple, usually nothing more than a small purchased pastry in human shape with a tiny head of St. Nicholas pasted on it. This was pretty standard practice and not because my parents could not
afford to buy something more expensive.

    Teams of members of the Ukrainian American Club of Southwest Florida, headed by Daria Tomashosky, will begin visiting homes of Ukrainian Americans in North Port and the vicinity to sing carols and to deliver special traditional holiday (Christmas and New Year) greetings. They will accept donations for a charitable cause, which the teams will explain during the visit.

                                              • • •

    It pleases the senses of most Ukrainians and Ukrainian Americans to hear frequently the world-renowned “Carol of the Bells,” in Ukrainian, known as “Shchedryk,” by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych (Dec. 13, 1877-Jan. 23, 1921).

    Mykola received his first musical lessons from his father, the Rev. Dmytro Leontovych, who was skilled at playing several instruments and was also directing a school choir. After attending schools, including the theological seminary in Kamianets-Podilsky, where he sang in the choir, began to study Ukrainian music and embarked on his first attempts at choral arranging, he began teaching music in various Ukrainian cities. He organized choirs and created numerous choral arrangements,
including “Shchedryk,” which brought him great success from the public following his choir’s performance in Kyiv in 1916.

    During the night of Jan. 22-23, 1921, Mykola Leontovych was murdered by Chekist (Soviet Russian state security) agent Victor Gerashchenko at the home of his parents.

    Mykola left behind over 150 choral arrangements, including artistic arrangements of folk songs, religious works, cantatas and choral compositions set to the texts of various Ukrainian poets. His “Shchedryk” is played worldwide without ever mentioning his name.

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


Our Neighbors — The Ukrainians
by Atanas Kobryn

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sofiya Fedyna entertains at Oseredok

   Officers and members of St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Religious and Cultural Center, known as “the Oseredok,” were busier last week than other times — including last Wednesday’s concert and presentation of Sofiya Fedyna, Ph.D., a singer, composer, lyricist, pianist, political activist and professor at the Ukrainian Ivan Franko National University in L’viv, Ukraine, sponsored by the Oseredok, who had no difficulty enlightening and entertaining the full-house audience for more than 90 minutes. She spoke about her personal and other Ukrainian patriots’ experiences in “Euromaidan” (November 2013-March 2014), where more than 100 patriots were killed by former president of Ukraine Yanukovych’s goons, and about the current situation of the undeclared war with Russian special forces and their Ukrainian fringe elements on the eastern border of Ukraine. She also interrupted her presentation several times by singing Ukrainian songs, some modern and some old-time patriotic songs which I and my friends used to sing during our teens in Ukraine. Those in attendance often joined her in singing.

    North Port Post 40 of the Ukrainian American Veterans and the Oseredok presented Dr. Fedyna with $1,000 each for her humanitarian projects in Ukraine.

    Following the “formal” presentation and concert, Sofiya mingled with the public during a social hour with coffee, sandwiches, and pastries provided by the Oseredok.

    Last Sunday, the Oseredok held a traditional and very successful dinner celebrating “St. Andrew’s Day,” honoring the patron saint of the Oseredok, the first-called apostle St. Andrew who visited the land now known as Ukraine during the first century A.D. A delicious dinner prepared by members and a special program were enjoyed by all.
                                                       • • •
    His Excellency Bohdan J. Danylo, who was ordained and installed last month Eparch (Ordinary) of St. Josapht Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy in Parma, which
also encompasses the Ukrainian Catholic parishes in Florida, visited our parish last weekend. He presided over a meeting of pastors of all five Ukrainian Catholic parishes in Florida last Saturday, and celebrated the pontifical divine liturgy at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church last Sunday. He was assisted by the Rev. Dr. Severyn Kovalyshin, pastor, and the Rt. Rev. Mitrate Archpriest Wolodymyr Woloszczuk, pastor-emeritus.

    Bishop Bohdan was welcomed in the church, in accordance with the Ukrainian tradition with bread and salt, presented to him by Larissa Shpon and John Susla, while the choir under the direction of Lubow Dobrowolska-Ingram sang three times, “Bud Imya Hospodnye Blahoslovenne” (May God’s Name be blessed). He was accompanied by an honor guard of parishioners and parish children carrying a cross, icons and candles.

    In his homily after the reading of Holy Gospel, spoken in Ukrainian and in English, Bishop Bohdan reminded parishioners and guests of God’s continuous love and continuous protection of the Most Holy Mother of God, and wished all to be able to be as true with God as Holy Mary was all her life. At the end of the liturgy. Bishop Bohdan greeted all parishioners and guests individually as they exited the church, and distributed commemorative icons.
                                                       • • •
    The members of North Port Branch 56 of the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America known as “Soyuz Ukrayinok” (union of Ukrainian ladies), headed by Ann-Marie Susla, had a unique opportunity to meet with UNWLA National President Marianna Zajac this week during an informal “meet and greet” coffee and pastries reception at the Ukrainian Catholic Parish Center.

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

Our Neighbors — The Ukrainians 

by Atanas Kobryn

Monday, December 15, 2014

Concert, bazaar and bishop’s visit

    The local Ukrainian American community will welcome at 4 p.m. today at St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Religious and Cultural Center, known as “the Oseredok,” one of the witnesses and active participants of the “Revolution of Dignity,” known also as “Euromaidan” in Kyiv, Ukraine (November 2013 — March 2014), which resulted in the ousting of pro-Kremlin former president Yanukovych and his clique.

    Sofiya Fedyna, a world-renowned singer, composer, lyricist and pianist, in addition to being a professor of international security at the National Lviv University and head of the worldwide Lemko organizations, will appear at the Oseredok to sing Lemko and other contemporary Ukrainian songs and to talk about the current situation in Ukraine, including the eastern part now under attack by Russian military forces.

    Ms. Fedyna performs at charity concerts in various Ukrainian cities to raise funds to support the Ukrainian Army and Ukrainian volunteer battalions fighting the Russian aggressors. She visits the soldiers and volunteers at the front very often to deliver supplies purchased with funds raised at her performances, in addition to the greetings from “people back home.”

    My wife Katrusia and I were surprised and appreciate very much Ms. Fedyna’s visit last Sunday, accompanied by Anna Mariani of Port Charlotte. In addition to greeting Katrusia on occasion of her St. Patron’s Day (last Sunday was the feast of St. Catherine) Ms. Fedyna sang a Lemko version of “Mnohaya Leeta” (many, many years) and another Lemko song. We appreciate her visit and friendly chat, and hope to see and hear her again tonight.
                                                           • • •
    The traditional and very popular year-end bazaar at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, at Biscayne Drive and West Price Boulevard, will be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday. Oksana Lew and Iwanna Holowaty, both
of Venice, are co-chairs of the bazaar committee.

    Ukrainian food will be served all day, and baked goods (breads and pastries), artwork, crafts, and other gifts will be available for purchase. All are welcome.
                                                           • • •
    The Ukrainian Catholic community of Southwest Florida will have the great pleasure and honor to welcome the recently ordained and installed by Patriarch Sviatoslav of Kyiv, His Excellency Bohdan J. Danylo, Eparch (Ordinary) of St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Diocese in Parma, Ohio.

    Bishop Bohdan will celebrate the pontifical divine liturgy at St. Mary’s in North Port at 11 a.m. Sunday. All are welcome to attend.

    The parishioners and guests will have an opportunity to personally meet and greet Bishop Bohdan at a parish breakfast in the Parish Hall before the liturgy, starting at 8:30 a.m.
                                                           • • •
    Members of the Oseredok are inviting all to attend their annual dinner honoring the patron saint of the Oseredok, St. Andrew the first-called apostle, at 1 p.m. Sunday at 4100

S. Biscayne Drive in North Port. Tickets for the dinner, at $20 per person, are available from Halya Lisnyczyj at 941-429-2350.

                                                           • • •
    Illinois native Ms. Natalie Jaresko, who grew up in the Chicago area and is an alumna of DePaul and Harvard universities and the Kennedy School of Government, was appointed and approved by “Verkhovna Rada” (Ukraine’s parliament) to Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers as finance minister.

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

Our Neighbors — The Ukrainians
by Atanas Kobryn

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Ukrainian holiday events abound

    At 3 p.m. Friday, the North Port Cpl. Roman Lazor Post 40 of the Ukrainian Veterans will hold its monthly membership meeting at St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Religious and Cultural Center, known as the “Oseredok.” This will be the first meeting chaired by newly elected Post Commander Col. Roman Rondiak, USA (Ret.), who was formally installed, together with all other elected and re-elected officers, by National Commander Ihor W. Hron at the Installation/ Fundraiser Luncheon Nov. 13 at Heron Creek Golf & Country Club.
                                                           • • •
    The Executive Board of the Ukrainian American Club of Southwest Florida, headed by Daria Tomashosky of North Port, held its meeting Monday at St. Andrew’s to discuss, among other topics, the traditional Christmas dinner set for 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Oseredok. Party Committee Chair Anna Mariani reported that the program will include a very special and interesting guest from Ukraine. Klara Szpiczka reported that there are no more
tickets for the dinner and that all arrangements for food were completed. There will be hors d’oeuvres, main course items (mostly homemade by members), homebaked pastries for dessert, and coffee or tea.

    Board members also discussed the club’s participation in the International Coalition Night at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, in response to an invitation by the Ukrainian Army officers who serve as a liaison with the Headquarters U.S. Central Command at
MacDill; “Kolyada” (visiting homes of local Ukrainian Americans, wishing them happy holidays and new year, and singing carols), which will begin on Dec. 26; and the Jan. 28 meeting program.
                                                           • • •
    A week from today, at 4 p.m. Dec. 10, here will be an outstanding cultural event of the season at the Oseredok — a concert featuring world-renowned singer, composer, lyricist and pianist Sofiya Fedyna of L’viv, Ukraine. Ms. Fedyna defended her Ph.D. dissertation on the subject of international peace at the National L’viv University, where she now teaches. She remembers fondly her music teachers Iryna Akheian, Lesia Salistra and Maria Baiko, national artist of
Ukraine and professor of the National L’viv Music Academy. Ms. Fedyna, in cooperation with Professor Baiko, published her first two albums in 2005 and 2007, and in 2008, her third album.

    Ms. Fedyna was an active participant in the “Revolution of Dignity” from November 2013 through February 2014 at Kyiv’s Maidan, which resulted in ousting pro-Kremlin former president Yanukovych. Since that time, she performs at charity concerts to support the Ukrainian Army fighting the terrorists and Russian Army invaders in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.

    On Sept. 24, she performed at the L’viv Philharmonic Society Charity Concert to support the 44th artillery brigade; on Oct. 12,
a charity concert to support the Ukrainian Army in Drohobych; on Oct. 15, to support the AZOV Battalion of the Ukrainian Army in L’viv; and on Nov. 8, a charity concert to support the Ukrainian Army in L’viv. She is also the president of the worldwide Lemko organizations.
                                                          • • •
    St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, at North Biscayne Drive and Price Boulevard, will hold its annual Christmas Bazaar from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 12. There will be Ukrainian food with meals served all day; breads and pastries; artwork, crafts and gifts available for purchase; raffles and 50/50 chances; and a white elephant table. All are invited. Pre-orders accepted; call 941-423-2427.

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

Our Neighbors — The Ukrainians
by Atanas Kobryn

Monday, December 1, 2014

81st anniversary of ‘Holodomor’ commemorated

    Last Saturday was declared a Holodomor commemoration holiday, with services in the capital of Kyiv and all other cities and towns throughout Ukraine to commemorate the genocidal artificial famine in 1932-33 ordered by Stalin that took over 10 million lives. President Petro Poroshenko and other national and local officials participated.

    In New York City, a special ecumenical
service was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan and many representatives from various denominations, in addition to the Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox Church dignitaries taking part. In many locations outside of Ukraine, observances took place in various cities, including Chicago, Toronto, Paris, Rome and Lisbon.

    In North Port, “panakhyda” services were celebrated after the conclusion of the regular liturgies (Masses) at St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Religious and Cultural Center by the Rt. Rev. John Fatenko, and at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church by the Rev. Dr. Severyn Kovalyshin, pastor, with the Rt. Rev. Mitrate Archpriest Wolodymyr Woloszczuk, pastor emeritus, and His Excellency Miguel Mykycej, retired bishop of Ukrainian Catholics in Argentina, who is visiting his sister Eva Juzyn of North Port. Representatives of local Ukrainian American organizations, with lighted candles, lined up behind the two main candle-holders, president of the Coordinating Committee, Roma Guran, and Marian Bojsiuk, representing
Ukrainian American Veterans Post 40 Commander Col. Roman Rondiak, USA (Ret.).

    The Ukrainian Baptist Church of North Port, according to Pastor Vitaliy Bernatskiy, celebrates a week of Thanksgiving with daily prayers, including thanksgiving prayers for this year’s harvest, for the well-being of the local community, and for Ukraine and the soldiers fighting the War of Dignity against Putin’s aggression.
                                                        • • •
    Local branch 56 of the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America, known better as “Soyuz Ukrayinok” (union of Ukrainian ladies), headed by Ann-Marie Susla of Englewood, held a very nice and well-attended “tea evening” to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the UNWLA’s national magazine, “Nashe Zhyttia — Our Life” last Sunday at St. Andrew’s.

    Ann-Marie informed me that Soyuz Ukrayinok’s traditional fall picnic, held last Wednesday at Maxine Barrett Park in Venice, was a success in spite of the relatively cold weather (not nearly as cold as in Ann-Marie’s hometown of Buffalo!). The picnic committee, chaired by Larissa Shpon of Warm Mineral Springs, arranged for a delicious
buffet lunch and some interesting activities that the guests enjoyed a lot. Ulana Rondiak of Osprey did a masterful job as mistress of ceremonies.
                                                        • • •
    Last week’s column reporting on the UAV Post 40 installation/ fundraiser luncheon at Heron Creek Golf & Country Club omitted the awards given out. UAV National Commander Ihor W. Hron, who is also Post 40’s past post commander, was presented with an award for his many initiatives on behalf of UAV and Post 40 by outgoing post Commander Eugene “Gene” Tomashosky.

    Tomashosky also recognized and presented the annual Commander’s Award to a well-known and respected couple, professor Vira and Dr. Bohdan Bodnaruk of Venice, active with St. Andrew’s and other organizations. Vira Bodnaruk is also president of the Ukrainian Language Society, which, among its many activities, promotes the distribution of Ukrainian books and other literature in Ukraine, with emphasis on the eastern region.

    A happy, safe and healthy Thanksgiving to all.

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


Our Neighbors — The Ukrainians

by Atanas Kobryn