Ukrainian Cultural Institute honors movement in homeland
On the same day that Russian President Vladimir Putin received his parliament’s permission to use military force in Ukraine, a small group of descendants from the nation in turmoil gathered at the Ukrainian Cultural Institute in Dickinson to pray for their kin back in “the old country.”
The gathering was set days ago as non-violent protests in Kiev, Ukriane, the country’s capital, turned bloody. With the president gone, the nation’s people try to reassert their independence from Russia before Putin’s request to use military force.
“For me, growing up here, I always heard about the stories from my father, from Uncle Roy (Basaraba), from our Baba of their oppression and why they moved here,” Dickinson resident Loree Ivanets said. “There was always that sense of forebodence about Russia. … We always had a sense that it was never really safe.”
Her husband, Oleh Ivanets, grew up in Ukraine, and much of his family still reside there.
Loree and Oleh had a much different upbringing.
“When I met Oleh, he told me incredible stories about when we were walking around here free and listening to rock’n’roll and just being free and exercising our rights,” Loree said.
Oleh and his friends were almost arrested as young men for singing Ukrainian Christmas carols.
Approximately 20 people filled a small room at the institution, where they watched a slideshow of events surrounding the protests. Pictures of bloodied and battered protestors, journalists and riot police flashed across the screen. Some in the room wept as they watched the violence unfold, including Oleh and Loree.
Ukraine was once a part of the Soviet Union but gained its independence in the early 1990s with the fall of the communist empire. In 2004 the peaceful Orange Revolution unseated Viktor Yanukovych after protesters declared his presidential election rigged. His challenger, Viktor Yushchenko, was declared the winner of the 2004 elections.
In 2010 Yanukovych was elected president of Ukraine. Many of the country’s citizens wanted Ukraine to have closer ties with the European Union, which was close to happening last autumn, before Yanukovych pulled away from a deal. The action set in motion protests in Kiev. Though they started peacefully, the president sent riot police to intercept the protesters.
The standoffs reached a breaking point Feb. 20 when violence broke in the capital. The death count has not been verified, but it is estimated dozens lost their lives, mostly from gunshots. The clash has been deemed the bloodiest day since Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union.
A few days later protesters for “Euro-Maiden” took several administrative buildings. The Ukrainian Parliament ousted Yanukovych last month and he has reportedly fled the country..
“For the past three years we watched how the people in Ukraine were upset with the government because it was leaning towards Russia,” said Agnes Palanuk, Ukrainian Cultural Institute president.
Thought to have obtained the funds through corruption, Yanukovych was able to build a large estate 12 miles outside of Kiev, complete with a zoo, golf course and luxury duck accommodations.
“If you know anything about Ukrainians’ lifestyle, it is sad that the ducks sometimes have better shelter than some of the people that we have seen over there,” Loree said.
Everyone is protesting in Ukraine, even the clergy. It seemed that no matter how many died or were injured, the protesters kept standing up for their cause.
“The clergy’s out there, they are out there,” Loree said of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. “They didn’t have the political power to do anything, but they were there praying, they stood in the middle.”
The Ukrainian Cultural Institute plans to send a resolution to President Barack Obama stating their stance on the situation in the country of their heritage.
“Many Ukrainians in North Dakota have deep roots with their kin in Ukraine as their ancestors settled and homesteaded in North Dakota over 100 years ago,” Basaraba read from the resolution.
There will be memorial services in honor of those who have died in the violence in Ukraine at St. John’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Belfield and St. Demetrius in rural Belfield after mass on March 9 and 16.