The following is the full text of the speech given by Ukrainian National Foundation President Roman Hirniak at the gala dinner on July 14 during the Soyuzivka Ukrainian Festival that was held at the Soyuzivka Heritage Center in Kerhonkson, N.Y., on July 14-16.
It seems that the father of a bright young son went to a wise friend for advice as to what profession the youth would be fit for. The sage was brusque. “Let the boy choose for himself,” he said. “But,” protested the father, “he’s too young.” “Well,” responded the wise man, “put him in a room alone with a book on theology, an apple, a knife and some small change and see what he makes of it. If he chooses the book, make a minister of him. If he takes the knife, make him a surgeon. If the apple, he will make a farmer. And if he chooses the money, a banker.” Much relieved, the father went away but returned in a few days complaining that the plan hadn’t worked at all. “Why not?” demanded the wise man. “What did he do?” “When I went in,” said the father, “he was sitting on the book, with the knife in one hand and the money in his pocket and [he was] eating the apple.” “Ah!” said the sage, “that’s easy. The boy is a natural-born lawyer.”
Всечесніший отче доктор парох [most reverend doctor father], ladies and gentlemen, добрий вечір [good evening]. As Роман [Roman] mentioned, my name is Роман Гірняк [Roman Hirniak] and I have the privilege of being the president of the Ukrainian National Foundation. I’ll be returning to the underlying message buried in the earlier joke in a moment, but first I’d like to answer two questions that many of you may be asking yourselves: What exactly is the foundation and what’s its relationship to Союзівка [Soyuzivka]. As I think you all know, last year , Soyuzivka celebrated 70 years of ownership in the hands of Ukrainians. Now, while it was purchased by the Ukrainian National Association [UNA] in 1952, based upon guidance from its outside professionals, ownership of Soyuzivka was transferred by the UNA to the Ukrainian National Foundation in January of 2015. Incorporated by the UNA in New Jersey in August of 1992, the UNF (i.e., the foundation) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable foundation and can most easily be understood by citing its Certificate of Incorporation: “The objects and purposes of the foundation shall include, but not be limited to, to cultivate, promote, sponsor and encourage appreciation and public interest in the rich cultural heritage of Ukrainian Americans; to produce cultural presentations, including festivals and educational events, relating to Ukrainian cultural heritage; to provide a forum for sharing Ukrainian cultural resources and to provide the Ukrainian-American community and other persons interested in Ukrainian cultural heritage with recreational, sport and cultural facilities.”
Pursuant to its bylaws, the UNF is governed by a seven-member Board of Directors, which I’m honored to chair. I’d like to take a quick moment to introduce my colleagues on the board, all of whom are here this evening. Let’s first start with our treasurer, Slavko Tysiak, moving on to our secretary, Bohdanka Puzyk, and wrapping up with our four directors: Valentyna Tabaka, Andrij Cade, Volodya Krul and our newest director, Ariana Babczenko. Collectively, we provide oversight, advice and guidance to Soyuzivka Managing Director Stephen Barankewicz and his leadership team, on making our оселя [Soyuzivka Heritage Center] bigger, better, stronger and more efficient.
If this all sounds to you like the hallmarks of running a business, then you happen to be correct. However, the business model which we have here in Kerhonkson is not one of selling widgets. Rather, it’s one of providing an experience. One of facilitating, as our Certificate of Incorporation outlines, an appreciation of and public interest in the rich cultural heritage of Ukrainian-Americans.
About a year ago, at roughly the same time, Stephen and I stepped into our respective roles as stewards of Soyuzivka. Not surprisingly, we viewed the proverbial big picture from an identical vantage point, having both worked here as young fellas many years ago. We found ourselves, as well as others who were cut from the same cloth, using a singular catchphrase when referring to our vision of Soyuzivka at that time: 2.0. In other words, the new model. Over time, as with all catchphrases, ours underwent some massaging and is now one that you have begun hearing and seeing more and more of: revival. That concept, which Stephen will be speaking to during his remarks, envisions an improvement in the condition or strength of something. What I mentioned earlier, as making our оселя [Soyuzivka Heritage Center] bigger, better, stronger and more efficient.
Put simply, folks, it’s our turn to shape the legacy of Soyuzivka. It’s our time to take what our predecessors began seven decades ago and steer it on the right path for at least the next 70 years. That, ladies and gentlemen, with respect, is where you come into the equation. Our doctors, our bankers, our theologians, our attorneys, our businessmen and businesswomen, each and every professional community which is represented in this room and in our broader громада [community]. Future generations will judge us on whether we took the baton and ran with it, or let it drop onto the track. My colleagues and I on the UNF Board are solidly in the former category. We plan on running with it. And, in all candor, I absolutely realize that in sharing these words of encouragement with you, I’m preaching to the choir. You are all here for the same reason that the seven of us are. You intend to run with the baton, cement our legacy as one of growth and prosperity and leave our Soyuzivka better than it was when we found it. As the young kids say, you folks “get it,” and for that, ladies and gentlemen, we are deeply and most sincerely grateful.
Along the lines of folks, or better yet, institutions who also “get it”, are our Кредитівки [Ukrainian credit unions], whose leaders for years now have rolled up their sleeves when asked to invest in our оселя [Soyuzivka Heritage Center], by donating funds in recognition of what they, to their absolute credit, understand as their singularly important position. They are givers and we should do our part in supporting each of them and the financial products and unique membership benefits that they offer.
Please join me in taking a moment to recognize some of the individuals who are here with us this evening, as representatives of various credit unions. On behalf of the Selfreliance Chicago Federal Credit Union Foundation, Dr. Andrij Hrechak. Representing the SUMA Federal Credit Union, Treasurer and COO Ihor Makerenko and his lovely wife, Mariola, as well as Board Member Stefan Kapitula and his lovely wife, Teresa. From the Nova UA Federal Credit Union, please join me in welcoming Chief Executive Officer Valeriy Bogattchouk and his lovely wife Ivana Lotoshynski, Supervisory Committee Chair Helen Newmerzyckyj, Supervisory Committee Member Irene Lesiw, and Board Member Pawlo Figol and his lovely wife, Olia. And representing the Ukrainian National Federal Credit Union, Board Vice Chairman Stepan Kaczurak.
In conjunction with this year’s festival and this evening’s gala fundraiser, the foundation has been blessed to receive added and significant financial support from other credit unions and business entities, including Self Reliance New York Federal Credit Union, Rochester-headquartered Ukrainian Federal Credit Union and Winner Group Ukraine. Ми всім вам сердечно дякуємо [We sincerely thank all of you].
As was stated by the founders of the UNA nearly 130 years ago, “In unity there is strength and it is not easily defeated.” I invite you to continue exhibiting that unity by joining my colleagues and me in all of our efforts to preserve Soyuzivka’s legacy, to continue making investments in our future and continue advancing the betterment of the lives of our children … who will in their own time take the baton from us and run with it. Let’s fulfill our obligation, meet our responsibility and feel the satisfaction of knowing that the heart of our Ukrainian culture will continue to beat loudly throughout these mountains. Always remember … нема то як на Союзівці [There’s no place like Soyuzivka!].
Thank you for providing me with a brief moment of your attention. May the lord god bless and preserve Ukraine at all times protecting her from malice. Glory to Ukraine! Слава Україні!
Publish: The Ukrainian Weekly