PARSIPPANY, NJ – Throughout 2019, the Ukrainian National Association, one of the oldest fraternal insurance societies in America, will celebrate a landmark anniversary – 125 years of protecting Ukrainian Americans and Ukrainian Canadians, and serving Ukrainian communities. 

The year of events will begin on Friday, February 22, in Shamokin, Pa., the city where the Ukrainian National Association (UNA) was established exactly on that day in 1894. 

Three members of the UNA Executive Committee, President/CEO Stefan Kaczaraj, COO/National Secretary Yuriy Symczyk and CFO/Treasurer Roma Lisovich, will travel to Shamokin to receive a proclamation from Mayor John Brown congratulating the UNA on its 125th anniversary and commemorating Shamokin as the UNA’s birthplace.

“United by the bond of our common Ukrainian heritage, the UNA was established as a fraternal insurance society to protect our people from the stress of financial uncertainty,” noted Mr. Kaczaraj. “We have done this successfully for more than 12 decades – truly a unique legacy in America’s history. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were more than 600 fraternal insurance societies. Now there are less than 100. We are one of them. This is a testament both to the commitment of the UNA to our members and our community, as well as the loyalty of our members and our community to the UNA. I am proud to say that, for 125 years, the UNA has been insuring our community.”

 “UNA: Insuring Our Community for 125 Years” is the theme for the anniversary year, and a jubilee logo was designed by Nadiya Folk to reflect this milestone achievement. Throughout 2019, the UNA will introduce special programs and benefits to celebrate the 125th anniversary, among them a restructured youth scholarship benefit, as well as a charitable giving benefit. In addition, the anniversary will be actively promoted at festivals and community events throughout America and Canada. For a good sense of UNA achievements through the decades, a photo archive of UNA history has been posted for viewing on the UNA website: www.unainc.org.

The finale for the year will be a grand concert – “Celebrating 125 Years!” – that will be held Saturday, November 2. The concert will include performers from the United States, Canada and Ukraine. Among the performances will be dynamic dances by the world-renowned Ukrainian Shumka Dancers from Canada, as well as the lyrical sounds of the bandura by the Women’s Bandura Ensemble of North America. Also performing will be virtuoso violinist Vasyl Popadiuk. 

The venue for the concert is Dolan Performance Hall, a state-of-the-art theater on the campus of the College of St. Elizabeth in Morristown, N.J. Easily accessible both by car and public transportation, the theater is centrally located for dozens of major Ukrainian communities in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and other states in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast from which guests will be traveling. For those planning to travel for more than just the evening, the theater is near hotels and a train station, close to major airports, and an easy trip into Manhattan. 

In mid-2018, the UNA 125 Committee was established to plan and manage anniversary events. The committee chair is UNA General Assembly member Bohdana Puzyk. “I consider this to be a great honor to have been asked to chair a committee that will plan the celebrations of such an auspicious year – honoring 125 years of the UNA’s continuous service to the Ukrainian communities in the United States and Canada. For generations, the UNA has been a powerful force for keeping Ukrainians in the diaspora united, through our newspapers, our publishing house, summer camps for children, scholarships for students, and major efforts such as the monument of Taras Shevchenko in Washington D.C., as well as numerous projects to battle against Soviet disinformation. We have much of which to be proud,” UNA Advisor Puzyk commented.

She added, “To help plan this year, I am fortunate to be working with a very talented and dedicated team that includes Nadiya Symczyk Folk, Roma Hadzewycz, Roman Hirniak, Irene Jarosewich, Myron Kolinsky, Roma Lisovich, Eugene Osidacz, Eugene Serba, Tanya Soltys, Oksana Stanko, Yuriy Symczyk and Luba Walchuk,” UNA Advisor Puzyk commented.

The Mission of the UNA

In 1894, the establishment of the UNA was driven by the need to help the thousands of new immigrants arriving from Ukraine who worked dangerous jobs in the coal mines of Pennsylvania. Deaths were frequent, and young widows did not have the ability to pay for a funeral, much less receive future income. From the original “burial policies” that paid funeral expenses and provided income to the bereaved families, the UNA expanded into a full-service insurance provider with tens of thousands of members. 

The distinction of being a fraternal insurance society is important. As a fraternal society, the UNA is a not-for-profit association. Proceeds from the sale of insurance products are not given to anonymous investors; rather, proceeds go directly to provide benefits to UNA members and to Ukrainian communities.

In keeping with a resolution adopted at the 39th Regular Convention of the UNA held in May 2018, special emphasis will be focused throughout the year towards growing the endowment fund for UNA publications. 

“Communications are essential to maintaining the UNA network and serving our communities, both in print or electronically,” said Mr. Symczyk. “The UNA newspaper Svoboda, which began publication in 1893, a year before the founding of the UNA, strongly advocated for the establishment of this fraternal society. The UNA is indebted to the first editor of Svoboda, the Rev. Hryhoriy Hrushka, who consistently wrote about the vital need for Ukrainians to come together and help each other. The UNA has a long history of promoting the interests of Ukraine and Ukrainians through the written word and, while it may now deliver the information in different formats besides on paper, most notably electronically through e-mails, social media and websites – the need for good writing, good editing, good content remains. The UNA Publication Endowment Fund will support this goal of sustaining quality communication.”

Throughout 2019, information about the UNA and 125th anniversary events and activities will be available through the UNA publications Svoboda and The Ukrainian Weekly, both in print and online (svoboda-news.com and ukrweekly.com), on the UNA website (unainc.org), as well as by following Ukrainian National Association on Facebook. 

Irene Jarosewich is an advisor on the UNA General Assembly.

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