As the opening ceremonies began, the honor guard, Igor Hoshowsky — retired U.S. Army captain and Jerry Andrushko — 98-years old, who fought in the Ukrainian Army for her freedom — both stepped up to attend the American and Ukrainian flags respectively.
In a patriotic appeal, Solomiea Laba — the master of ceremonies — called on Nichole Riedle Sleight to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” after which Sleight led those assembled in singing the Ukranian National Anthem.
The clergy who numbered four represented the Ukranian Catholic and the Ukrainian Orthodox churches. Rt. Rev. Mitred Archpriest Phillip Weiner, pastor, St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Church; Rev. Volodymr Dmyterko; and Rev. Andrij Dwulit together with Rt. Rev. Igor Krekhovetsky, pastor of St. Mary’s Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church added a strong voice in prayer for an independent Ukraine.
On the occasion of the 28th Anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence on Aug. 24, Ukranian Americans in Rochester gathered beside the Ukranian Centennial Monument at Irondequoit Town Hall to acknowledge and celebrate their Ukrainian Heritage. The assembled were greeted by David Seeley, the supervisor of the town of Irondequoit who declared a Proclamation of support for Ukraine. In his proclamation, Seeley said that through the Irondequoit-Poltava Sister Cities Program, we, citizens of Irondequoit have created an international bond in friendship with Ukrainians. Seeley reminded us to remember the victims of the Holodomor in Ukraine, 1932-33 and the Ukrainians who continue to defend Ukraine’s independence and human rights in the face of Russian separatist aggression in Eastern Ukraine even today. The tone was set. In friendship and dignity, with fortitude and courage, determination and effort, freedom can be realized. On behalf of the Ukrainian community, Dr. Christine Hoshowsky, president of the Rochester Ukranina Group Inc. accepted the proclamation.
Following this exchange, Hoshowsky presented Seeley with a framed photograph of the Arbor Day event on April 24 in Irondequoit. It showed Seeley, members of the Town Conservation Board, Tamara Dennysenko, chair of the Ukranian-American Community Foundation; and Dr. Christine Hoshowsky, president of the Rochester Ukraninan Group Inc. gathered at the gazebo to share the beauty of nature and to avow respect for human dignity. The Arbor Day event was a project initiated by the Irondequoit town council and the Ukranian community was invited to partner with the town this year. The red oak tree on the West lawn of Irondequoit town hall grounds was planted as part of the Tree City U.S.A. agenda featured at our Arbor Day event. It is now known as the Friendship-Holodomor Tree.
U.S. Congressman Joseph D. Morelli stepped up the podium and greeted the community on this auspicious day for Ukranian-Americans. He Introduced his son, Joseph Morelli, Jr., a member of the Monroe County Legislature. Both men, father, and son are accessible to the Ukranian community.
Morelli spoke favorably about the event hosted by the Ukranian-Americans last November, which honored the late U.S. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and the late U.S. Sen. John McCain. Both leaders were strong advocates of a free and unencumbered Ukraine. Morelli continued his remarks to include Seeley’s vision of a “garden for civilized discourse.” The idea evolved into a place to foster friendship and human dignity marked by the bench beside the Arbor Day Red Oak Tree. Then Morelli brought closure to his remarks by observing that independence is not won just once, rather, it is fought for time and time again.
Next, Maria Dereshcyk recited a poem about our motherland-Ukraine. It was inspirational and it touched our hearts.
The guest speaker, Dr. Nataliya Shulga, a Ukranian visiting in Rochester shared her thoughts on politics in Ukraine. Shulga, a former researcher and academic at the University of Rochester is presently serving as the deputy director of the Diplomatic Academy as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. Shulga, unabashedly stated that Ukraine stopped Russian aggression at its borders, thereby, saving the European Union from the possible outbreak of World War III. The conflict in eastern Ukraine today frequently referred to as the “Frozen Conflict” is a misnomer — in the face of 13,000 Ukrainians killed and cease fire after cease fire collapsing under the Minsk II agreement. The hope is that the newly elected president of Ukraine, Volodymr Selensky who carried an astonishing 72% of the vote for president and recently scored a victory in Ukraine’s Parliamentary election is in a strong position to continue the necessary reforms throughout Ukraine to make the nation a contender of membership in the G7, the EU and NATO.
Dr. Olena Prokopovych, associate professor of political science at Nazareth College and the director of the Political Science Program was delighted to speak to us about the student exchange program between Ostroh Academy in Ukraine and Nazareth College here in Rochester. One Ostroh student per academic year travels to Nazareth College to study for a semester. The college picks up the tuition costs while the Ukranian community does fundraising to cover the room and board costs for that student. This past summer, a group of students from Nazareth College together with Dr. Nevan Fisher, the associate vice-president for global programs, Prokopovych — Political Science, Nazareth and Tamara Denysenko, chair of the Ukrainian-American Community Foundation, traveled to Ostroh to complete the exchange for the year.
This fall, Fisher will do a presentation complete with pictures about this trip. The program is called the Ostroh Academy Nazareth College Partnership Program. Attendees of the tour to Ukraine returned excited about their experience.
Next, there was a musical interlude, as Julia Pavlyk sang two Ukranian songs which stoked a love of our ancestral homeland. Ukranian songs evoke a nostalgia for a rural way of life lost to us in the West and fast disappearing in the homeland.
Volodymr Pavlyk reported on the medical shipments to Ukraine facilitated by ROC-Maden Inc. Some supplies go to help soldiers on the Eastern front. Other supplies go to a mobile medical clinic which travels throughout Ukraine to aid poor people in villages. Still, other medical supplies are sent to schools to help needy children Fundraising for medical supplies is ongoing.
Hoshowsky thanked all the wonderful people who participated in our program to honor Ukraine’s 28th Independence Day Celebration. Together we can lift Ukraine to her rightful sovereignty and geopolitical integrity.
In closing, we drew a soft curtain around our bittersweet sorrow as we prayed to the melody and words of “Bozhe Velyki Eidyni” — Mykola Lysenko. Let there be peace in Ukraine! Slava Ukraini!