Ukrainian East Village: A Shortened Oral History of an Immigrant Neighborhood

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title>Ukrainian East Village



Ukrainian
East Village
A Shortened
Oral History of an Immigrant Neighborhood

Jaroslaw Kurowyckyj, 68,
proprietor of the East Village’s Kurowycky Meat Market: My parents left Ukraine
for the same reasons most Ukrainians left in the 40s. My family left in March
of 1944. I was 11 at the time. I was in school outside of my hometown, because
my hometown was too small to have a high school. My mother picked me up on
her way heading west and we wound up in Poland. My father showed up a couple
of weeks later.

Of course, all this started
happening after the Battle of Stalingrad, when the Soviets started heading
west. And of course all self-respecting Ukrainians and those who were aware
of what was going to happen started migrating toward the west. The way it
was, I wound up in Poland with my motherÐmy mother was pregnant at the time
with my brother and she couldn’t travel any longerÐand my dad kept going into
Czechoslovakia. The end of the Second World War caught my mother, myself and
my brother in Poland. We were in Poland for eight months after the Bolsheviks
occupied Poland. Then in late August of 1945 my dad snuck into Poland and
put us on a train and after some trials and tribulations we made it into Germany…
We wound up in Munich, stayed four years in a displaced persons’ camp in Munich.
I went to school there. My brother, who was born in ’44, was just ready to
start grammar school when we were invited to come to the United States. We
came to the United States on Nov. 10, 1949, the four of us.

Myron Surmach,
69, proprietor of Surma, the Ukrainian shop on 7th St.: Pre World War I, that’s
when my father immigrated to this country. 1910, at the age of 15. He had gone
through the third or fourth grade under the Emperor Franz JosephÐthis is prior
to the Treaty of Versailles, when Austria-Hungary was the power in that part
of the world. And so my father learned how to read. But when he came to the
United States, the only place he could get a job was the coal mines of Scranton.
They needed strong backs, and that’s what he had. So he went there, to a boarding
house in Scranton, digging hard coal, opening the doors for the coal cars in
tunnels, and he didn’t like that too much. He thought he was wasting time. He
wasn’t utilizing his potential. He had been a sheepherder in Ukraine, in the
Carpathian mountains, and he thought that was a waste of time, too…

Then he moved
to New York and said, the best place to put a store is by a church. Because
you know that on Sunday mornings you’re going to have a congregation going and
coming…

He used to
run the dances at Webster Hall. Annual Service Radio Ball! Come one, come all,
to the Service Radio Ball! Whoever gets engaged at this ball, I will pay their
honeymoon. Oh, man, he had a real following. He would be the MC. He’d hire a
band to play, and they danced, and they’d have a show, Ukrainian folk dancing
and singing, a sort of cabaret…

We were at
103 Ave. A for years. Had a double store there where we demonstrated records
in booths so people could hear before they bought. I still have a picture of
it. Ukrainian records. Some of them didn’t have phonographs, and my dad was
in the phonograph business, too. “Radio-phonograph combination!” he used to
say.

Lidiia Krushelnytska,
86, theater director: First we were in Lviv. I was living there when the war
started. It was 1939. I’d just graduated from the conservatory. On June 26 I
took my final exam. And then on Aug. 5 I got married and on Sept. 1 the war
started. In a few days the communists came to Lviv. My husband’s mother was
in Stanislawow, Ivano-Frankivsk now. And she sent his brother a message that
the KGB, the NKVD, were already at their house, looking for my husband. She
said, run away…

We came here
in ’49. We came on a boat to Boston, and from Boston by train to New York, and
I lost all my jewelry that I had in my pocketbook in the taxicab here. They
said to put all your jewelry on, because you will pay duties. It was not true,
nobody looked. It was so hotÐit was August, and terribly hot. In the train I
went to freshen myself up a little bit, and put everything in my pocketbook.
We stayed in the 23rd St. YMCA for a nightÐthat was our first night here. We
came from the pier by taxicab, and my son fell asleep in the taxi. And I put
my pocketbook on the seat. Dr. Karpovich came to meet us, and closed the door,
and the taxicab left with my pocketbook with all my papers and everything that
I had. That was the first night in New York. I was crying all night.

Valentina Luchkan,
50, artist: When we arrived, it was already dark. I know we were in a hotel
on 5th Ave. and 21st St…. We stayed about three weeks in a hotel. And it was
like Disneyland, there were so many lights. It was beautiful.

Then the next
day, we were surprised, because there was a sanitation strike, with garbage
everywhere. This was 1955…I was so disappointed. I thought, if I knew it was
going to be dirty like this in this country, I wouldn’t have come. I didn’t
know that it was only a strike… When we ate in a restaurant we had tea, and
we were surprised that sugar and salt was for free. We lived on french fries,
mostly, because there was no foodÐwe had no foodÐand some bread. There was no
money.

Jaroslaw Leshko,
60, professor of art history, Smith College: We came to the states in ’49, in
MarchÐactually on the first day of spring, March 21, 1949… It’s almost like
a birthday in a sense, and every year I remember the anniversary. It’s immensely
meaningful. I remember vividly, I was a tiny boy, standing on the ship and looking
at the Statue of Liberty as it came into the port in New York. It was very,
very moving…

My father first
worked all sorts of jobs, as many people did, and found this little place on
7th St. Do you know the Stage Restaurant on 2nd Ave.? The original restaurant
that my father bought was precisely the same configuration. Just one long narrow,
narrow place with a little counter… A corner drugstore on 7th St. went belly-up,
it just bankrupted, and the owner of the house was a very, very nice guy named
Greenspan who urged my parents to take that locale because he said somebody
will take it, and you may have competition there if it’s a pizza place or a
restaurant or something like that. And he sort of persuaded them, pushed them
in the direction of taking it. They did, and then we gutted the whole place…and
created the Leshko’s that became somewhat prominent in New York…

Krushelnytska:
We started to be very active. We built a church, a school. It started almost
as soon as we came, we started to collect money… [We bought] this building.
And next to it, on the corner, Veselka. Then, next, as you go, is CYM [the Ukrainian
Youth Association, referred to even in English by its Cyrillic acronym]. Next,
the National Home. Then the CYM building, then the Ukrainian credit union, and
another building on 6th St…. We had, I think, almost 30 or 35 organizations.
The old immigrants were very active, and right away we started to work with
them…

Leshko: We
really were blessed in the fact that everybody came here at the same time. We
were all part of a vast immigration. We were all dirt poor, our parents came
with a couple of dollars in their pocket from the boat, but the truth of the
matter is that none of us really felt it, because first of all we were all in
the same position, and second of all, as soon as the new immigration cameÐthis
was a political immigration, an immigration of immensely talented people, people
that had professions back homeÐand literally within months of coming here there
was a Ukrainian music school, there was a dance school, there was Plast [the
Ukrainian youth scouting organization], there was CYM, there was this, there
was that. The whole infrastructure was immediately in place. We had places to
go, to meet, to interact.

Luchkan: Somehow
my parents found a basement on 3rd St. and 1st Ave…. We met some Polish people,
neighbors. They had an apartment where they had a shower and a bathtub, which
they covered and that was used as a table, daytime, but if somebody used the
shower, they’d take that away, put the curtain around it and people would take
a bath or a shower. They allowed us to do that.

Kurowyckyj:
Up to about 4th St. was a Jewish neighborhood. Then, from 4th to 10th it was
Slavic. Of course I’m not saying that this was exclusively so, but the predominant
ethnic group. Then from 10th to 14th St. there were Italians.

Luchkan: Everybody
used to go to Orchard St., because you could really get cheap things. Uptown,
not as much. Usually 21st St. was the highest you would go, because there was
also another church later on over there. I don’t remember us going anywhere
too far uptown… We did go to meet our friends uptown as far as 7th St. and
8th St., they used to have Arca [a Ukrainian store] over there, they used to
sell all kinds of books and records and candy. That’s where we spent most of
the time.

And in Greenwich
Village… We used to go to the park over there, and go rollerskating. Usually
we would skate on one, because we would share the rollerskates, we had one pair
of rollerskates. I used to share with my sister the rollerskates. Each one would
get one, and that’s it.



Osip Subotnik,
61, scientist:

Tompkins Square Park was great. It was run down, and there were corners where
you did things. When you were a little kid, you played cowboys and Indians in
it… There was one corner, the northeast corner, that had chinning bars and
parallel bars, this primitive iron piping. And that’s where the musclemen would
go, Ukrainians, Poles, Hispanics.

Askold Lozynskyj,
49, lawyer: It was a tough neighborhood. It was an extremely difficult neighborhood.
Tough in the sense that you had to be tough. We played in the street and we
had fights all the time, and we had gang fights. But it was on a different level.
I mean, we didn’t carry guns. We would fight with pipes, that kind of stuff,
you know. Turf wars, one block against the other. It was more a testosterone
type of thing than anything else. The boys would get together and they would
fight the other boys, from the other block. Sometimes it would be interethnic.
It could be Ukrainians against Poles or Ukrainians against Puerto Ricans or
Puerto Ricans against Poles. Sort of ridiculous, but when you’re 12 or 11 or
10 years old, it makes sense.

Subotnik: There
was a Polish population there, and they had their parish on 7th St. between
Ave. A and 1st Ave.ÐSt. Stanislaus. Sometimes if a bunch of Ukrainian kids would
be walking down 7th St. and these kids were hanging out, there might be clashes.
And sometimes, with the Plast thing, they’d see these Plast members, and they’d
pick on them because they’d be carrying a flag or something like that.

Lozynskyj:
My father was an attorney by profession, but not an attorney here. He was an
attorney under Poland. So when he came here he got a menial job working…across
the river in Brooklyn, Domino Sugar, and my mom went to work for different companies,
but it was essentially menial work. She would do office cleaning, and he was
essentially on the loading dock, and there were other immigrants, Ukrainian,
PolishÉso his need to speak English was quite remote. He passed away in 1977,
and, frankly speaking, he never really spoke English well… My mom to this
day, she’s still alive, she’s 85 years old, she doesn’t speak English well.
I mean, sufficiently to understand and to get around, but she never felt the
need to speak English.

Nina Samokish,
76, manager, Molode Zyttia (“Young Life,”), a 9th St. shop specializing in Ukrainian
merchandise: We live in a kind of ghetto, a Ukrainian ghetto. You don’t need
to know English here. You have your own banks, your own laundries, your storesÐeverything’s
in Ukrainian. It’s a ghetto. You have the National Home.

Boris Danik,
69, retired aerospace engineer: I did not like the Ukrainian National Home,
mainly because of the horrible stink of its toilets. It’s still there, amazingly.
Amazingly, you know, it’s our national aroma. I’m ashamed of it. Really, when
you go to Ukraine you run into the same thing. But you can see it right here
in New York City. That’s our tradition.

Subotnik: I
had three fights. Actually, two fights and a beating. Actually, one fight and
two beatings… I was fairly young, maybe 13, 14, walking down the street with
a friend, and a couple of guys decided to beat me upÐbut they left my friend
alone and just beat me up. They shoved me into a doorway and worked me over.
I tried to fight back, but I couldn’t, because you’re backed up against the
door and there’s three or four guys pounding you.

Lozynskyj:
I went to high school when I was 13. Previous to that, my grammar school was
at St. George’s, it was on 6th St. So other than 6th and 7th St. I pretty much
knew absolutely nothing.

Subotnik: The
nuns and the lay teachers at St. George’s did a tremendous job. They had to
prepare immigrant kids who were, at the time that I was there, brand new off
the boat. No English…

There was an
emphasis on religion, with crosses in the classrooms. It was structured, it
was nice, we had meals. We got breakfast. You’d walk down into the basement
cafeteria, it was an old building, and you would get your milk, your fruit,
your cereal, which I’m sure was part of the poverty thing.

They taught
minor music appreciation. We would sing things like “I’ve Been Working on the
Railroad,” to Americanize us. And all of those old-time, almost Stephen Foster-like
songs… Not that we loved doing that, but it was part of what we did. With
art, what they did was they handed us out these large postcard-sized things
with classic art scenes… That’s where I learned about Cezanne and Van Gogh.
I was just completely flabbergasted that this world was out there.

The ethnic
composition seemed like it was almost all Ukrainian, either off the boat or
born here, born on the Lower East Side. For the most part, we got along. Sometimes
there were clashes between the immigrant kids and the more American kids, kids
being rough with each other.

Walter Zaryckyj,
49, professor of political science, NYU: My brother was lucky he didn’t have
to deal with the nuns from St. George’s, because they beat the shit out of me.
It was so bad that my parents decided that it was better to take him to public
school…a nun went after me with a baseball bat. A big rod. I was in third
grade.

Subotnik: The
main center was 7th St. between 3rd and 2nd Aves., because the church was there.
The other main center was around 9th St. and 2nd Ave., because Plast was there
and Veselka was there, and Orchidia. So you would have always gangs of kids
hanging around the corners, either because they were let out of their Plast
activities or if you had nothing to do, you headed for that corner because you
knew friends would be there.

Lozynskyj:
The first opportunity to drink was to go to McSorley’s, even when you were underage…
If you were 16 years old, you were getting served… Then there were Ukrainian
bars that were serving you when you were 16. The Blue & Gold Tavern, A&G’s [now
known as] Verchovyna tavern. That used to be entirely ethnic. Today A&G’s is
not ethnic at all. Entirely. Old drunks, and the kids who were 16 years old
and trying to get a drink in a bar and play some pool.

I grew up in
A&G’s, in fact. My friends and I, when I was 15, 16 years old, it was my hangout,
A&G’s. That was Verchovyna. Drinking was a basic staple. We were drinking when
we were 13 years old…

I don’t remember
fights at McSorley’s… We used to do strange things, like eat a jar of their
mustard, make bets, that kind of stuff, and be sick for like a week…

Surmach: [In
1970, women were for the first time allowed into McSorley's.] Oh yeah, that
was memorable. There was a very buxom young lady in a very skimpy bikini at
the door, and the rule at McSorley’s was no women allowed. Now this was a very
fetching woman standing in front…and it was like a paradoxical situation.
Everybody was dying to look at her and meet her, but the law was she couldn’t
come in. So she was like a frontrunner to abandoning this law. I think her name
was something like Roxanne. Anyway, she was very pretty.

Subotnik: After
12 o’clock Mass finished, those of us who were over 18Ðthe kids went to 12 o’clock
Mass, because that’s when the social life on Sunday began. At 12:45, when Mass
let out, all the kids would congregate, pour out into the street in front of
the church, and groups of kids would go someplace. You’d be fairly well dressed
up, because of church, and you sort of went from church to Orchidia. It was
sort of a social center.

Lozynskyj:
The bartender was George, and RustyÐRusty was a tough guy, a bodybuilder. He
was a real tough guy, so he made sure that you were 18 or at least somewhere
near and there was no trouble in Orchidia, because if you became rowdy, Rusty
would come out and throw you out. I was thrown out many times, out of Orchi’s…

The Lys Mykyta
[Sly Fox] was an old-boy’s hangout, for the older folksÐyou know, the Ukrainian
National Home bar. It was a very interesting place. It was the old politicos,
the guys who were the writers, the Ukrainian writers. The Mykola Ponediloks,
Ihor Chernytskyj [Ponedilok was a humorist and performer; Chernytskyj, a writer],
they used to get sloshed at the Lys Mykyta, and reminisce and talk about art
and talk about literature.



Samokish:
We began to think, how will we make it so that our children will stick together
as Ukrainians for the longest time? We saw that Plast had the most to give…
It teaches kids how to live, and teaches kids how to be leaders in the community…
But it started 50 years ago, and it’s weakened a lot since then. I don’t know
how much longer it’s going to be around.

Subotnik: You
would have weekly meetings. Each little group, each cell, would have a leader
and a secretary and a treasurer, and we could pay like 75 cents a week or something.
It was very organized. We would have an older guy who would be the leader. You
were a novak, like a Cub Scout, and then you became a yunak. In
both cases, you had an adult. It was very formalized, with uniforms and so on.
The purpose was twofold. It was a Boy Scout organization. And the second thing,
it was a nationalistic organization… So basically, Plast was Boy Scouts-plus,
the plus being Ukrainianism. Otherwise you just would have joined the regular
Boy Scouts. There was a heavy element of thatÐUkrainian language and Ukrainian
history.

Lozynskyj:
[Plast summer camp, in East Chatham, NY] was the only opportunity to get out,
right? Either that or the fire hydrant or the street… And it was something
that your parents could afford, because a regular camp, or some type of resort
environment, that was beyond their means.

Zaryckyj: That’s
what my parents pushed me toward, science and engineering. Physics and engineering…
I think that the three things Ukrainians should have gotten into, and they probably
would be knocking on the EU’s door at this point, because the diaspora can play
a very big roleÐI’ve seen it in the last couple of yearsÐthe three professions
that they should have gotten into, wholesale, were academia, journalism and
politics. And they didn’t get into any of them because they had to be doctor,
lawyer, engineer, fire chief… By the 80s they were beginning to accept MBAs,
though that was still frowned upon.

Subotnik: For
me personally, nirvana happened when I was a little, little kid and I discovered
the local libraries. One was smaller, but it was equally wonderful, it was the
one on 10th St., right across from Tompkins Square, between A and B. I would
read a lot about cowboys and Indians. Americana was very big to me.



Krushelnytska:
In the 60s it was unbelievable. One time at a rehearsal we went very late and
a policeman was standing on the corner of 10th St. and Ave. A. He said, “Ma’am,
are you not afraid to walk alone?” We were so glad we moved to 1st Ave. You
should have seen it, they had tents there, everything, camping. It was terrible.

Kurowyckyj:
The first ones to run were the Jews. Then the Italians moved out. The Poles
moved out. Not to the extent as the other ethnic groups.

Flower children
moved in. Crime increased. You started to have triple locks on the doors. You
had car break-ins and so on… My son was born in ’58, my daughter was born
in 1961, so they were young children. When they were coming home from school,
they would go to the shop, and then I would have toÐif my wife wasn’t homeÐI’d
have to take them home and bring them upstairs, because there were so many people
sitting on the stairs you couldn’t get in the building. Hippies, the flower
children. This was like a plague here. I mean, no matter where you turned around,
the whole park. Everywhere.

Lozynskyj:
Everyone was doing some variety of dope. Marijuana was plentiful. I remember
we worked in a hat shop, all of the boys of that scene from 7th St. During the
lunch hour we’d go down to the bathroom and get high on marijuana or hashish.
A lot of guys graduated to harder drugs, unfortunately. And a lot of them are
no longer with us as a result, because they OD’d. But I would say that grass
and hash were a basic staple. We did it, and we smoked and we drank, essentially.

Surmach: I
enjoyed the hippie scene. That was also when Doctor Zhivago, that film,
everyone wanted to be Omar Sharif, and everyone wanted to wear a Russian shirt.
I happened to make them! And I made quite a few and all the rock people from
the Fillmore East used to come in here. Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen. Oh, yeah.
My son keeps quizzing me on the people who came in here. A guy named PlantÐRobert
Plant. Jeff Beck. Marty Balin, I’ve forgotten the names. Who was the lead singer
for the Jefferson Airplane? Female? And people from Santana. They all associated
with each other, so if one guy said, Hey, I’ve got a great place for you to
visit on the Lower East Side in New York, right next to where we were going
to perform, they’d come in. Remember this gal who died of alcoholism? Janis
Joplin? Yeah, I made dresses for her, too. She was a fun person, too. Very laid
back, when she was with me.

Jorma was going
to electrify the bandura [Ukraine's national stringed instrument]. I don’t know
if he did. He was teaching blues guitar at the New School later on. That’s why
I enjoyed it. I used to go to all the concerts, I’d get backstage passes. Who
was the guy who played riffs? The black guitarist? Jorma walked up to me and
said, What do you think of Jimi Hendrix? I said, I’m always waiting for him
to finish what he’s playing. He gets into the middle of it and just goes and
goes and goes, and then he’s done. I like a beginning, a middle and an end,
I’m more formal. But I said his playing, it’s very quick.

So that era
was fun. I used to take my daughter and my son. They said, Dad, can we sit in
the rows? Meaning, they wanted to look at the stage from 10th row center. We
always got in the back. We watched the people enjoying the show while we were
looking at the people.

Lozynskyj:
Six o’clock Mass [as an altar boy at St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church on
7th St.]Ðthat was a nightmare, to have to do a 6 o’clock Mass. Six forty-five
was the Mass, and you were scheduled for 6:45. You have to be there in advance,
you have to light the candles, you have to put on your cassock. It was the old
St. George’s, the old church, where the rectory and the condominiums are now
located. That was where the church was, and there was a nuns’ house right next
door, a tiny little building. The church was ancient, it was apparently a courthouse
previously… During Easter we used to stand guard at the altar because we had
standing guard by the body of Jesus Christ, and I remember walking out and smoking
a joint and then standing there.

Zaryckyj: Ours
was the sort of old captive-nation thing. You can imagine what my dad thought.
My dad had jury duty in April of ’68, I get the [acceptance] letter from Columbia
on April 15, I’m excited as all hell, I’m supposed to go up there to see the
campus the last week of April, and suddenly, April 23, my father’s down doing
jury duty at the court, and suddenly he sees all these radicals being wheeled
down. They had over 700 arrests. They took over five buildings. Yeah, my dad
wasn’t too keen on me going to the little red school…

My brother
and I and a couple of guys were the first Ivy Leaguers in the area, from that
generation, from the ones that were literally either born here or got here when
they were one year old. But believe it or not, by ’72, there were several of
us, and even better, after ’68, kids were going to college. Ukrainian kids,
whether they were doing the city engineering stuff, and becoming very successful
at it, or they were doing the little hotsy-tot schools, everybody essentially
got into the counterculture, and that’s right across the board, Plast and CYM.
Whoever went to the university, as the old folks would say, they got into the
counterculture, and I’m not going to hide it, I did too. And it was heavy counterculture.

Kurowyckyj:
…There is no doubt whatsoever that it was the Ukrainian community that saved
this neighborhood. Because we were the only ones that didn’t run… You walk
down 7th St. and practically every second house belongs to a Ukrainian. They
didn’t sell, they didn’t abandon the buildings, they didn’t run. And again:
only us, and nobody else.

Zaryckyj: You
had a point at which you almost drove the Ukrainians out. The early 70s, mid-70s.
When Ford was telling New York to drop dead… That was a low point, and we
thought that we probably wouldn’t come back.

Kurowyckyj:
It was called the Lower East Side, and then, you know, it becomes trendy, and
who would want to live on the Lower East Side? You had Greenwich Village, so
then we becameÐwhen the yuppies started coming inÐwe became the East Village.

Samokish: Ukrainians
usually come to this store for Plast uniforms, Americans for brooches, for jewelry
in general…

Since I’ve
moved here, I’ve been robbed twice, and they rob the store every day. Usually
there’ll be three of them that come. One of them will be asking me some kind
of question, and the other ones are stuffing their pockets. And then they say,
no, I’ve changed my mind, goodbye. There’s nothing you can do. One time a guy
with a baby, he’s holding his baby. He’s looking at something, and throwing
things into the baby’s blankets. I said, wait, there was a golden trident [a
Ukrainian national symbol] here. He was an American, a Puerto Rican, and he
stole a gold trident. He took a Ukrainian trident, because it was gold. Then
he took the baby and left.

Kurowyckyj:
They don’t rob butcher shops. It’s too dangerous. You might get a knife or a
cleaver in your head.

Julian Kytasty,
43, bandura player: When I came here, right around 1980, ’81, I caught sort
of the tail end of one phase of this community’s life… It was a time when
a lot of the little shoestring businesses were closing up… The first year
or two I was here, two of the three Ukrainian bookstores closed. Then of course,
a few years later, Orchidia closed. So right at that time, there’s that first
wave of real commercialization coming in here, and it really impacted heavily
on the public face of the Ukrainian neighborhood. A lot of places had to close,
and right now pretty much the ones that are left are the ones that own their
own buildings…

The thing which
both kept the Ukrainian community here in the East Village very cohesive for
as long as it stayed cohesive, and also contributed to its aging, is that there
was, for those postwar displaced persons coming here, this incredible sense
of mission. Some of them were more highly politicized, they had just gone through
four years of kind of stewing in these displaced persons camps, thinking about
what had just happened to them. By the time they came they hit the ground running,
starting up schools, and newspapers and youth organizations and cultural organizations,
choirs, theater groups, everything they could think of, because they felt they
had to create this alternative Ukrainian culture here which would preserve the
things that weren’t going to be preserved there.

I certainly
bought into this. I passed up whatever I could have been doing in the American
world to work in this world for 10 years here, all through the 80s, for very
little pay, just because I felt that that was my mission as well. That helped
the cohesiveness of the community. But also what happened was the people who
had this great commitment and started these things, didn’t want to let them
go…

Samokish: The
current [post-Soviet, "fourth-wave" Ukrainian] immigration is a very economic
immigration. We left Ukraine for nationalistic reasons. To put it bluntly, we
had to. The communists came and were sending people to jail all the time. I
think that our [immigration] was different, and I think that they’re leaving
their own country by their own choice. It’s not as bad there as they say. They
come here and they say, at home we have nothing to eat, we have nothing to wear.
It’s not that bad. I went to Ukraine a year ago. It’s not like America, obviously,
but here, too, it’s hard to get a job to begin with, to make something of yourself.
They’re needed there.

Olha Kuzmowycz,
84, journalist: [Svoboda, the New Jersey-based Ukrainian-language newspaper]
started because the new immigrants wanted to have a paper. They wanted to read
about Ukraine, about the old country that they came from… I was there when
it was a daily. As a weekly it started three years ago. Because they didn’t
have enough readers in Ukrainian. They used to have them, very much, but now
it’s less and less. And the fourth wave, they don’t subscribeÐthe Ukrainians
that come now. They don’t know English, and they read more in Russian than in
Ukrainian.

Kytasty: It’s
a very interesting tribe, these contemporaries of mine who have grown up completely
bicultural. There’s not a whole lot of us. The ones a little bit older tend
to be pretty much Old World, and our younger siblings already don’t have the
language as well learned, didn’t have quite the same degree of intensity of
community life around them when they grew up. It’s a small tribe, but we know
each other when we see it.

Krushelnytska:
I get homesick, very much. Or I did. Then, when I went to Ukraine already, and
now that I know I can go, it stopped. When I went for the first time, and the
plane flew over Ukrainian soil, I thought I’d get a heart attack, because we
didn’t imagine that there would come a moment when we could go back. And then,
disappointment, terrible disappointment. Everything was in ruins. The house
where we lived in Lviv didn’t exist anymore. The whole street was one big building
on that side where our house had beenÐa television station or something.

Kuzmowycz:
When I go to a concert or lectures now, I see always the same old people. You
almost never see the young people coming. And this community is shrinking and
shrinking. The only thing that is not shrinking now is the church, because the
fourth wave, they came to the church. They go to the church, but they almost
never go to lectures or concerts. The young people, they don’t come. And that’s
understandable.

I have to do
proofreading for the paper. This means from the first page to the last one.
Naturally, I have to read the obituaries, also. And when I read them, and see
the names of the young peopleÐyou know, daughters and sons-in-laws or daughter-in-laws,
they’re all American. Almost all of them. I wouldn’t be surprised if my grandchildren
married Americans. That’s natural… That’s the reason why the Ukrainian life
here, downtown, in Little Ukraine, is shrinking, definitely shrinking…That’s
the way it will be.

Mrs. Samokish’s
contributions were translated from Ukrainian by the authors.



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