Ukrainian Museum Holiday Party

Our last event for Friday, December 14, was the annual Holiday Party at the Ukrainian Museum-Archives (UMA) on Kenilworth Avenue in the Tremont area which, according to its website and brochures, “was founded in 1952 by displaced scholars who took on the mission of collecting and preserving items from Ukrainian history and culture during an era when many of these materials were being deliberately destroyed in Soviet Ukraine.” We particularly like that part of the mission of the UMA is “to preserve and share the immigrant experience” thus there are “permanent exhibits documenting the four waves of Ukrainian immigrants to Cleveland, Ohio.”

This evening also marked the opening of a new exhibit honoring Mr. Bohdan Soroka (1940-2015), the noted Ukranian graphic artist and painter whose work, as was written on a placard, “is characterized by expressionistic style and imaginative pictoral representation.”

One person we enjoyed meeting was a woman named Eugenia who immigrated to the United States from Ukraine some 18 years ago. When she lived in the Ukraine, she taught English and French and now devotes a lot of her time teaching English as a second language to other people who have immigrated to the United States from such countries as Poland, Italy, China, and Japan.  

Mr. Fedynsky and the Franko Bust
Mr. Fedynsky and the Franko Bust

While we were there, our good friend, Mr. Andy Fedynsky, Director Emeritus and Resident Scholar of the UMA, saw us studying a bronze bust of Ivan Franko (1856-1916); prominent Ukrainian writer/poet and political activist; that rested on a platform in the entryway to the museum. This bust and several others at the UMA were created by famed Kiev-born artist Mr. Alexander Archipenko who immigrated to the United States from Ukraine in the 1920’s.

Mr. Fedynsky explained to us that the busts originally stood in the Ukrainian Cultural Garden until they disappeared in the 1970’s. Initially, it was believed that they were stolen, but later the busts were found stored in a Cleveland municipal garage. Eventually, they were returned and are now safely on display at the UMA. To be sure, fiberglass re-creations of the busts can now be found in the Ukrainian Garden. 

Mr. Taras Szmagala, the Executive Director of the UMA, overheard our conversation with Mr. Fedynsky and shared with us his memory of attending the dedication of the Ukranian Garden in 1940, where he carried a flag. Mr. Szmagala was only six years old at the time but has never forgotten this wonderful occasion.