Thursday, June 18, 2015

Memories of my father

Being a father, grandfather, great-grandfather and godfather, it is normal to expect greetings and well-wishes from some, if not from all, descendants for Father’s Day on Sunday.
Some wishes will be very sincere, others very likely only formal, but both will be welcome.
I want to wish all fathers, grandfathers, godfathers and fathersto- be a happy and healthy Father’s Day.
Having been separated from my father (also my mother and other family members) at the age of 16 during World War II, thinking and praying for my father and other family members daily was natural for me. For many years I had no idea if my parents and siblings were dead or alive, and eventually I found out they thought the same of me. Only during the “perestroika” in the Soviet Union was I able to establish contact with my mother and siblings who were deported years earlier to northern Russia, in the Ural Mountains. By that time, my father was dead, and his final resting place in the snow-bound Ural Mountains is known only to God.

I will never forget July 7, 1944, the St. John the Baptist holiday, spent with my family and with one of my cousins, Paulina Blazhkevych, in my native village of Volya Yakubova.

My father Oleksa (Alexander) was the oldest son of his parents, one of eight siblings, who was unable to continue his secondary education because of family responsibilities.

Nevertheless, upon being drafted into the Austro-Hungarian Imperial Army, he managed to quickly master German language and rose to the highest non-commissioned rank in an elite mountain brigade.

Upon discharge, he was offered a position in the equivalent of the state police in his home province of Halychyna, at that time known as “Crown land of Galizien und Lodomeria.” He was an active participant of the Ukrainian War of Liberation following World War I, and after its collapse he returned to his village, occupied by Poland. In addition to helping his father-in-law with farming, he became active in the village’s civic and cultural organizations. He was one of the organizers of a credit union and became its secretary-treasurer until the “liberation” by the Red Army in 1939 and the closing of the credit union by the “liberators.”

He was always willing to help his neighbors, and was often called to draft a last will and testimony, or write a petition. He was especially helpful during the Nazi occupation because of his mastery of the German language, even though his health was failing — the result of typhus acquired during the War of Liberation.

Upon the return of Soviet Russian occupiers in 1944, he and the rest of the family (my mother, brother and two sisters, the youngest being only 9 years old) were deported to the Ural Mountains area. His crime? Being a community activist and the first cousin of Col.
Andriy Melnyk, leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists.
 Mrs. Roma Guran, president of the Coordinating Committee of the Ukrainian American Clubs and Organizations of North Port and vicinity would like our community to know that at 4 p.m. July 2 at North Port City Hall, off Sumter Boulevard, the Proclamation of Ukrainian Independence will be read by the mayor of North Port.

The proclamation will then be handed over to representatives of our community.
Members of the Ukrainian community are encouraged to attend this ceremony. Kindly wear your embroidered attire.

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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