Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Have the merriest Christmas ever

The overwhelming majority of our friends and neighbors here in Southwest Florida and throughout the country will begin to celebrate tomorrow night one of the most beautiful holidays of the year — Christmas. It is true that, unfortunately, the original meaning of Christmas is lost in the commercialization of the preholiday and holiday season, to the point that many children (and probably many adults) don’t even know that the holiday was meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Santa Claus is the poor substitute for the Christian bishop Nicholas in what is now Turkey, who is being worshiped by many as St. Nicholas. 

My wife Katrusia and I wish all who celebrate Christmas (or another holiday) the merriest ever. Our thoughts and prayers will continue to be for all our children, grandchildren, great-granddaughters and other relatives, as well as for all our men and women in uniform, members of the Armed Forces of the United States and of Ukraine, who are defending our freedoms and democracy from ruthless totalitarian aggressors.
Many Ukrainians in our area and the overwhelming majority of Ukrainian Christians in Ukraine will celebrate Christmas according to the Julian (also referred to as the “old”) calendar, and the celebrations will be less commercial and more spiritual and traditional. The observance begins on the Christmas Eve, Jan. 6, with a traditional “Svyata Vecherya” (holy supper) consisting of 12 meatless courses — some, like “kutya” (pudding-like meal of wheat grains, poppyseeds and honey, often with nuts, raisins, etc.), “uzvar” (a dried fruit compote) and “knish” (traditional bread) prepared only for Christmas Eve. Various traditions, some originating in the pre-Christian era, accompany the preparation and serving of the meal, different in different parts of the large country. (Ukraine is the largest country in Europe outside of the European part of the Russian Federation.) Jan. 7, Christmas Day, is filled with church services, visiting relatives and carolers visiting households singing and wishing the inhabitants happy holidays, health and prosperity. There are two more days of the holiday, which, unfortunately, are not observed by Ukrainians outside of Ukraine, for obvious reasons. 

In many Ukrainian households, including my own parental home, the Christmas tree was not in vogue. In its place was a “didukh,” a sheaf or a bundle of wheat set up in the corner next to the holy icons, symbolizing prosperity in the coming year. 

In view of the fact that there are many theories advanced by many scientists, some supported by computer programs, as to the actual day and year of the birth of Jesus, the arguments as to whose observance is true are useless.
The Bazaar Committee of the very successful pre-Christmas Bazaar at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Parish was headed by Oksana Lew of Venice, who ably coordinated the work of a large number of committee members who tirelessly worked for several days in preparation for the bazaar and then worked many long hours during the event.

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 16, 2015

Annual bazaar draws a crowd

The pre-Christmas Bazaar held last Friday at St.Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, 1078 N. Biscayne Drive in North Port was a happy place to meet many members of the Southwest Florida Ukrainian American community, as well as many guests without a single drop of Ukrainian blood. 

The members of the bazaar committee chaired by Iwanna (Jean) Holowaty of Venice worked very hard, some without a break for 10 hours, to prepare and serve food, to serve at various stations selling pastries, gifts and other useful items, and, of course, do the hard work of cleaning up. 

Some of the visitors came from faraway places to meet friends and to enjoy the delicacies such as potato pancakes (the most popular item, according to kitchen staff), “varenyky” (pierogies) with potato and cheese or with sauerkraut, “holubtsi” (cabbage rolls with rice and hamburger meat), sausage with sauerkraut, “borsch” (beet soup), and an array of pastries too numerous to list. 

The Most Rev. Bohdan J. Danylo, ordinary of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy (Diocese) of St. Josaphat in Parma, Ohio, interrupted his scheduled meeting with area priests twice to visit the bazaar to meet the volunteers and visitors and to partake in the array of food. 

I was pleased to see John Dicky, an old friend from Buffalo, who was visiting his niece in Punta Gorda and decided to stop at the bazaar. 

The pastor of St. Mary’s, the Rev. Vasyl Petriv, and his wife Luba were not only spiritual but actual supporters, working alongside volunteers in and outside the kitchen during the preparation for the bazaar and on Friday during the event.
Parishioners and visitors of St. Mary’s had a unique experience last Sunday, to be present and to enjoy the beautiful Byzantine-style Ukrainian Catholic Pontifical Divine Liturgy (Mass) celebrated by Bishop Bohdan with several visiting priests, including the Rev. Vasyl Petriv, pastor, and the Rt. Rev. Mitred Archpriest Wolodymyr Woloszczuk, pastor-emeritus. The parish choir under the direction of Lubow Ingram sang the responses beautifully.
St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Religious and Cultural Center, known as the “Oseredok” (center) in Ukrainian, celebrated its 40th anniversary with a festive dinner and a special program Sunday. The celebration also included the observance of the Feast Day of St. Andrew, the “first called apostle” who, according to unwritten tradition, visited the area where Kyiv, capital of Ukraine, now is, and proclaimed that “here on these hills will be an important city with many churches.” St. Andrew is revered by Ukrainian Greek-Catholics and Orthodox in Ukraine and all over the world. 

North Port’s first ecumenical Ukrainian church, now used exclusively by the Ukrainian Orthodox congregation, was dedicated to St. Andrew. 

Last Sunday’s celebration included greetings of visitors, living past presidents, other distinguished members of the community, and remarks by current president Victor Lisnyczyj and cultural affairs vice president, professor Vira Bodnaruk. The United Choir directed by Lubow Ingram sang the prayer-hymn “O, One and Only God!” and two traditional patriotic songs to the delight of the audience.
A delicious sit-down dinner prepared and served by members of the Oseredok’s board members and volunteers was enjoyed by all. 

A nice commemorative book was published with many historic photographs and articles in English and Ukrainian describing the history of the Southwest Florida Ukrainian American community, and including greetings from state Senator Nancy Detert and North Port City Manager Jonathan Lewis.

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 9, 2015

Planning for Christmas bazaar, bishop’s visit

The annual pre-Christmas Bazaar at St.Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Parish Center, 1078 N. Biscayne Drive (corner of Biscayne Drive and West Price Boulevard) in North Port will be held Friday starting at 9 a.m., with coffee and pastries available for visitors. Traditional Ukrainian American dinners, including homebaked pastries, to eat on-site or for takeout, will be served from noon until 6 p.m.
There will be many gift, household and other items for sale in addition to raffle tickets and the aforementioned food. All are welcome.
The Most Rev. Bohdan J. Danylo, Ordinary of St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy (Diocese) in Parma, Ohio, will visit the Southwest Florida Ukrainian Catholic congregation Saturday and Sunday.
The bishop will meet with parishioners and celebrate the solemn pontifical Divine Liturgy (Mass) with the Rev. Vasyl Petriv, pastor, at 9:30 a.m. Sunday at St. Mary’s Church.
On Saturday at 9 a.m., Rev. Petriv will celebrate a Requiem Divine Liturgy at St. Mary’s for the repose of souls of Col. Andriy Melnyk, on the 125th anniversary of his birth, and his wife Sofia (nee Fedak). Melnyk was a hero of the Ukrainian War of Liberation, one of the military leaders during and immediately following World War I, a leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) after the murder by KGB agent of his comrade-in-arms and brother-in-law Col. Yevhen Konovaletz, and a prisoner of Polish prison and Sachsenhousen Nazi German concentration camp.
St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Religious and Cultural Center, known as the “Oseredok,” will celebrate its 40th anniversary and St. Andrew the Apostle’s Feast Day with a festive dinner and special program at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets, at $25 per person, must be purchased in advance at the center, 4100 S. Biscayne Drive.
A jubilee commemorative book will be published that will include the history of the Ukrainian American Southwest Florida community and the Oseredok in both English and Ukrainian languages.
Last Friday’s monthly membership meeting of Post 40 of the Ukrainian American Veterans was chaired by UAV National Commander Ihor W. Hron of Osprey, who relayed some interesting information of the dedication of National Holodomor Memorial in Washington, D.C., last month. Hron, in addition to representing UAV at the festivities, also commanded the UAV Color Guard.
After approving reports of Post Adjutant John Czerkas and Finance Officer Oleh Sawkiw, and discussing several proposed initiatives, Hron formally inducted two new members, Zenon Derzhko of Englewood and George Sawczak of Sarasota.
The next membership meeting will be at 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 5, at the Oseredok.
The traditional Christmas party of the Southwest Florida Ukrainian American Club, held Saturday at the Oseredok was a resounding success.
The party committee was chaired by Anna (Nusia) Mariani of Port Charlotte, who led a dedicated and hardworking team of volunteers. In addition to a tasty buffet dinner, followed by a dessert of delicious pastries, the highlight of the evening was the North Port High School girls’ choir, directed by Chris Brown, which sang several beautiful songs and carols including the world-renowned Ukrainian “Shchedryk,” known as “Carol of the Bells,” and “Silent Night” in German and English.
The choir received several standing ovations.
Also contributing to the success of the party were the Slavic Pentecostal Church singers “Blahovist,” led by guitarist Volodymyr (Vova) Zayats, and the club’s male singing group.
Atanas Kobryn covers the Ukrainian community for the North Port Sun. He can be emailed at

Our Neighbors — The Ukrainians
by Atanas Kobryn