The rest of the story

  The Ukrainian Weekly
  Sunday, October 1, 2006

  Faces and Places
  by Myron B. Kuropas

  If you like history, the story of the Ukrainian Church in the United States will enthrall you. Guaranteed.
  The first Ukrainian priest to come to the United States was Father Ahapius Honcharenko, who entered the Kyiv Theological Seminary at age 8. In 1857, after completing his religious studies with distinction, he became a chaplain at the Russian Embassy in Athens, and it was here that his life was transformed. Enamored of the revolutionary ideals of the Russian radio cal Alexander Herzen, Father Ahapius penned a number of articles critical of the tsar in the journal Kolokol published by Mr. Herzen in London. Arrested by the czarist police, he was being sent home for trial when, with the help of Greek friends, he was able to escape and make his way to London, where he lived for a year and a half.
  Father Agapius set out for the United States in 1865 and, after living for a time in New York City and New Orleans, settled, fortuitously, in San Francisco. With the recent purchase of Alaska, the U.S. government was looking for a way to educate the many Russian and Ukrainian citizens who resided in that territory, Father Ahaplus was just the man for the job. With some financial assistance from the government, he began to publish the Alaska Herald in Russian. Readers found information about the U.S. Constitution, U.S. laws and customs, and the poetry of Taras Shevchenko!
Father Ahapius eventually sold his interest in the newspaper and in 1872 purchased a 50-acre farm in Hayward, Calif., where he lived until his death in 1916.
  The first Ukrainian Catholic priest in the U.S. was Father Ivan Wolansky, who arrived in 1884. He was sent by Lviv Metropolitan Sylvester Sembratovych following pleas from Ukrainian immigrants in Shenandoah, Pa., who, finding little religious familiarity in other Catholic churches, wrote, "Something is lacking in us. Lacking to us is God whom we could adore in our own way." Rejected by Roman Catholic Bishop Patrick Ryan of Philadelphia because he was married, Father Wolansky remained in the U.S. nevertheless and, with the assistance of Volodymyr Simenovich, was instrumental in establishing America's first Ukrainian-language newspaper (Amerika) co-oper grocery store, a reading room, a choir and a Ukrainian heritage school for children. Before being re-assigned to Brazil, Father Wolansky established parishes in Jersey City, NJ., and Minneapolis, as well as in Kingston, Freeland, Olyphant. Shamokin, and Wilkes-Barre, Pa.Father Wolansky's pioneering efforts were followed by the so-called "American Circle" of Ukrainian Catholic priest-patriots: the Revs. Ivan Konstankevyeh, Nestor Dmytriw, Mykola Stefanovych, Ivan Ardan, Antin Bonczevsky, Stefan Makar, Pavlo Tymkevych and Mykola Pidhoretsky. It was they who laid the groundwork for the Ukrainianization process that eventually transformed some 40 percent of Rusyn American immigrants into Ukrainian Americans.Fathers Bonczevsky und Stefanovych served as UNA president, while Fathers Konstankevych, Dmytriw, Ardan and Bonczevsky were UNA secretaries. In 1910 Fathers Ardan became the first president of the Ukrainian Workingmen's Association (now the Ukrainian Fraternal Association).The first editor of Svoboda was the Rev. Gregory Hrushka. The Revs. Dmytriw, Makar and Ardan followed in his editorial footsteps.
  Thanks largely to the influence of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, who was highly regarded in Rome, the first Byzantine-rite bishop in America was the Ukrainian-born Soter Ortynsky. His 1907 appointment was not welcomed by America's Magyarophone, Rusyn-Ruthenian priests who had hoped for a bishop from their neck of Ukraine. As antagonism increased between Ukrainians and Rusyns, Bishop Ortynsky's tenure became increasingly untenable.
  Hoping to mollify the Rusyn dissidents, and to rally Ukrainian Catholics, the venerable Metropolitan Sheptytsky traveled to North America in 1910. As he visited various parishes, Ukrainian Catholics were ecstatic, welcoming him joyously. Rusyn Catholics were unimpressedBishop Ortynsky died unexpectedly in 1916. World War I and other developments prevented Rome from appointing a successor. Ukrainian Catholic priests, meanwhile, voted to have the beloved Father Peter Poniatyslyn serve as their intent administrator.Metropolitan Sheptytsky returned to the United States in 1922 and, according to letters discovered by Maria Klimchak, the administrator of the Ukrainian National Museum in Chicago, the metropolitan was confined to bed during much of the time he was visiting St. Nicholas Parish in Chicago. A sore on his leg refused to heal and doctors prescribed amputation. Fortunately, Dr.Stefan Hrynevetsky, a Vienna-trained Ukrainian physician in Chicago, advised against it. He had the metropolitan leave his bed and ever so slowly, began walking him around. Dr. Hrynevetsky continued this procedure for a number of days and the sore healed. (The complete story can be found in the July 21 issue of Svoboda.)
  Dr. Hrynevetsky, who charged no fees for his services, was a fascinating individual in his own right. He was an Orthodox Ukrainian who had left St. Nicholas Parish in disillusionment, and was one of the founders of the Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago. He was also the supreme otaman for many years of the Hetman Sich, a political organization loyal to Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky. During its glory days the Hetman Sich had military contingents (infantry, artillery and medical support) in Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland, as well as three airplanes for the training of pilots. The goal was to someday liberate Ukraine.
  While Rome stalled in sending a successor for Bishop Ortynsky, the newly established Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine sent Bishop Ivan Theodorovich to Chicago in 1924 to tend to the spiritual needs of Ukrainian Orthodox, most of whom were disillusioned Ukrainian Catholic. Rome took notice and that same year two bishops, Bishop Constantine Bohachevsky for the Ukrainian Catholics, and Bishop Basil Takach of Uzhhorod for the Rusyn/Ruthenian Catholics. From that day forward, Ukrainians and Ruthenians, although ethnically related, have traveled separate ethno-national paths in the United States, and, as Prof. Paul Magocsi has argued, in Ukraine as well.
  And that, dear readers, is, as they say, "the rest of the story."

  Myron Kuropas’ e-mail address is: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
  Published in The Ukrainian Weekly