I write this in English to reach my Ukrainian American peers. There is also a Ukrainian language version but that is mostly like preaching to the choir. Mostly, because a similar problem exists in other Ukrainian diaspora communities, French, Belgian, German, Russian and many others.
I have been accused, by my own wife no less, of being an angry old man. I acknowledge the angry part but not the old. No, I will not address the subject of genes, health and life expectancy. I have been relatively active in the Ukrainian diaspora community for more than 50 years, while I am not old, I am a veteran of that community. Frankly, at all times I have been obsessed with one or another issue and often many at one time which is a result of my mother’s character, passed on to me. In a recent interview I was asked what I hoped to see before I face God. I provided the following three items: international acceptance of the Ukrainian role as a victim throughout the XX century; Ukraine as a full fledged member of NATO and a vision to eat in a restaurant in Donetsk or ride in a cab in Kharkiv without being jarred by that heinous language that daks and kaks.
However, almost immediately I realized that this list was unsatisfactorily incomplete. I want to hear my own family and my Ukrainian friends in the diaspora speak Ukrainian among themselves even when I am not present or eavesdropping upon them. Being called strident or even extremist for insisting upon the Ukrainian language being used exclusively in Ukrainian community communications does not offend me. It is a badge of honor, much like being called a Banderite. I have provided a rational response pointing out that Ukrainians are all over the world, not everyone speaks English and the only means of communication is via the Ukrainian language. My own personal feeling is more strict: a Ukrainian residing in the diaspora who is no more than a third generation Ukrainian, but who does not speak, read and write is either very lazy and thus not really being Ukrainian or intellectually deficient. I do not believe in the maxim that numbers mean strength. I also do not adhere to the concept of blind unity. Give me quality over quantity. I am quite sure that I will not make friends with this analysis. There is no excuse for not learning Ukrainian and there are ample opportunities and facilities. Not learning is tantamount to committing a national sin. While there is no national hell at this time if we continue with this cavalier attitude and condone it in Ukraine, with Russia next door and constantly flexing her muscles, there may very well be a Ukrainian hell in the future. And those who refused to learn or speak Ukrainian will deserve only that hell.
Another ruinous phenomenon within the Ukrainian diaspora that troubles me is corruption. It is not the pervasive remnant of Soviet society, but equally debilitating to society. It is more pernicious because it is very personal and its perpetrators know very well that it is wrong. It did exist in the past with our predecessors but it was then widely condemned or scorned, sometimes even punished. Ukrainian community organization operate often at a deficit. This is due to the fact that administrative costs far exceed the benefits provided b y these structures to their members and the general public. This is a number one cause for concern of not for profit organizations.
Additionally this condition is exacerbated by a lack of accountability. I am currently involved in a struggle to obtain an accounting from an organization which has not accounted for twenty three years. The person with access to the records has refused to account and has argued that only members of the organization are entitled and since all members are now deceased, no one is. How crude and ill informed is that position! The treasury of the organization stems from public support. That public has a right to an accounting. This one organization is merely a minor example, certainly not the most egregious. I will not end this tirade by suggesting that the people on top are probably well intended because they are not. True many are incompetent but in that case they ought to be dismissed if they refuse to resign voluntary and competent people be brought in.
In conclusion to add to my bucket list previously provided to an interviewer I submit that Ukrainians in the diaspora have to use the Ukrainian language in all community communications and that corruption in the diaspora must be addressed and uprooted, if they wish to remain relevant for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. Thank you very much for permitting me to vent.
July 21, 2021