As I close in on my seventieth birthday, I consider myself increasingly more introspective. I have been actively involved in the Ukrainian American community most of my life and have often wondered why so few of my eighth-grade classmates have been involved as I who attended St. George Ukrainian Catholic School which should have been a breeding ground for Ukrainian American community activists. But not so. Frankly of 120 classmates only a handful have come close to being community oriented. A recent bizarre and silly experience gave me reason to consider this question again. I was intent on contributing some of my greatly appreciated stock to a Ukrainian American foundation. I was advised that this Foundation does not have a receptacle for such a contribution. I suggested that it form one and I would not only make my own contribution but endeavor to convince others to do likewise. I was unceremoniously rebuffed.
Certainly, a novice to the community would have been jaded and never returned. There are many other ways that our community dissuedes new recruits. One is the perception of corruption. Many and I mean very many unfortunately, see the community as a communal trough, as an opportunity to enhance one’s own or one’s family’s financial wherewithal. This is not considered stealing but, in fact, it is. Some of the perks include preferential rents, free meals, paid transportation, and the like. In many instances not only does the activist benefit but he shares his communal largesse with his family.
This type of self-aggrandizing has been going on for generations. Some even hold paid positions when the organization simply cannot afford it. Often the brazen retort is that I am working for the community at a lower pay scale than I would or could realize in the real world. Just as often, frankly were it not for the community position many of these so called “dedicated patriots” would be unemployed. This in no way is a condemnation of compensated employees indispensable to the function of an institution. The Ukrainian American, Canadian, European and even Australian communities have been greatly revitalized, transfused, if you will, by the new wave at a tremendous human cost to Ukraine, albeit not financially.
Some have estimated that one fourth of Ukraine’s Gross Domestic Product comes from money transfers made by emigrants abroad. This wave is a labor wave after all. Whatever they earn they keep. They live as economically as possible so that as much as possible can be remitted to their brethren in Ukraine. However, as a result little if anything is donated to community coffers. The most conspicuous monetary denomination on the proverbial collection plate is one with a picture of George Washington. Unfortunately, too many of those one-dollar bills are needed to pay the expenses. I have criticized many of the organizations to which I belong and even some with which I am not affiliated for their excessive spending as they persistently operate at a loss.
Truth be told, very many such organizations exist and survive only because of the financial wherewithal and long-term vision of our fathers and mothers. However, that capital will not last forever. So, as I approach my golden years with my faith in my mother’s genes (she lived to 99), I am hopeful but very much concerned with the future of our communities. The eyes of most of our foundations are turned to Ukraine. But who will be funding the future of our own communities which are no less important than institutions in Ukraine? Our children? I do not think so. We certainly must be a little savvier than the foundation which cannot and will not accept stock, bond, or mutual fund donations. We also must open our eyes to personal aggrandizement and expose it in order to stem it. Living for the community is very different from living from it. All benefit from community life. Let’s limit the benefit to the spiritual. These matters occupy my mind more and more resulting in my becoming an irascible old man. By the way, why do we call them golden years when in fact each morning you wake up to new aches and pains?
November 11, 2021 Askold S. Lozynskyj