Saving Our Ukrainian History

Anastasia, Margaret, Rosemary and Barbara

Anastasia, Margaret, Rosemary and Barbara

As we get older it is only natural to think about what we are leaving behind, not that I have plans to leave this world anytime soon. The reality, however, that death is inevitable enters my thoughts more often now. I remember when my daughter was 5 or 6 years old and she began to question me about what happens when we die. I wanted to keep it simple and fell back on what I was told growing up. I said, “when we die, if we are very good we go to heaven.” She immediately responded, “then I am going to be bad, so I won’t die.” Of course, I had to let her know that there was no escape from eventually dying, but assured her she would be here for a very, very longtime.

I’m not sure if everyone thinks of this, but I wish I could shape my narrative now, so that when I’m not here to explain, people will at least have some understanding of who I was and what was important to me.

My father has been gone for 27 years. I search for the sound of his voice, the accent, intonation, and volume. My oldest sister says that our brother, my father’s name sake, sounds most like him. Wish I could remember. I have spent the many years since his death trying to preserve what I could of him.

Margaret, Barbara and Rosemary in Krasne, Ukraine

Margaret, Barbara and Rosemary in Krasne, Ukraine

In 1999 my two sister’s and I accompanied my niece on her trip to adopt children from Ukraine. That is a whole story unto itself. What I am grateful for is the opportunity it provided for us to reconnect with my father’s family there. I will never forget arriving at the home of our cousins Emilia, Roman and Ivana. The question from my sisters was how do we know they are really our cousins. At that moment Roman reached into a drawer and began pulling out letters and photos. We can see it then; pictures of my sister’s wedding, my nieces baptism, my nephew’s communion, my graduation. These were the correspondence between my father and Emilia’s father. For years he shared all these life events with what was left of his family in Ukraine.

Ivanna, Stephania, Rosemary, Lidia, Emilia, Margaret, Barbara and Roman

Ivanna, Stephania, Rosemary, Lidia, Emilia, Margaret, Barbara and Roman

Below is an article written by the wife of the adoption advocate working with my niece. She did a wonderful investigative report and found our family. Some of the facts in the article are confusing and I’m not sure, if my grandfather was a tailor, or a shoemaker. I was an occupational therapist working in mental health at the time, never a psychologist as stated in the article, my sister rosemary was a botanical garden docent volunteer not a botanist. There are other small details that got lost in translation, but the sense of it is so true.

Click on images to enlarge and read. The smaller ones are the English translations.

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Article published in Voiceof Ukraine January 2000

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2nd part of Article in Voice of Ukraine

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English translation of the Article in Voice of Ukraine

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2nd page of article translation

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3rd page of article translation

I’ve volunteer with the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America for the last 15 years. Our group has raised funds and gathered clothing and supplies for humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

I also volunteer as a board director of the Ukrainian American Archives and Museum of Detroit. This is where I have the best hope of preserving our immigrant history. It’s important to tell our story, not just for our families and communities, but as a way to connecting to the world community.

I started a GoFundMe campaign to help the Ukrainian American Archives and Museum of Detroit with renovations.  Please consider making a donation.

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Getting around in Lviv

Lviv is as the tourist bureau says is “Open to the World”. As a non-native visitor I don’t feel out of place. There are people here from all over the world. My neighborhood market cashier now says thank you to me in English. I still say “dyakuyu”.


It is a delightful walking town. There is so much to see and the mood changes daily. Rynok Square and other the historical center of the city are my favorite places to walk very little car traffic, with benches and outdoor cafes to sit and just people watch, always lively and full of surprises.

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That said, as a pedestrian you need to be alert. Rush hour traffic is chaotic, too many cars and not enough street. Drivers frequently park their cars on the sidewalks. So far I haven’t seen posted speed limits. My observations as a pedestrian and an Uber passenger is that cars go as fast as they can until they encounter an obstacle.  Caution, you don’t want to be that obstacle. I always cross at the designated cross walk, but I wait for at least one other person to be with me.


When it comes traveling a significant distance, other than walking, my weekly mode of transportation is the “tramvay” or tram.


Fare for the tram is 5 UAH (Ukrainian Hryvnia), which is about 0.19 USD.  You can purchase tickets on the tram. Most rides are on the honor system. On one occasion an inspector entered the tram and asked us to show our tickets. You purchase your ticket, then you need to punch it as soon as possible. On a full tram this can be a challenge. Frequently when people are too crowded to snake their way forward to purchase a ticket they will just pass their money to the person in front of them with instructions for how many and which type of tickets they wish. Then their change and tickets will get passed back to them. Students ride for 2.50 UAH, I know this because two students passed me 5 UAH to buy their tickets.

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Generally my tram experience has been pleasant. I usually haven’t had to wait too long and fortuately my route only involves 4 stops. Twice someone has given me their seat. Unfortunately there have been at least three occasions when my ride was cut short. The driver was stopped in traffic barely moving. She then made a lengthy announcement, some of which I understood. While I was still digesting the message, everyone else on the tram just sttood up, rushed off and started walking. Typically, I am not afraid to go against the crowd, but in cases like this I have learned it is best to follow the lead of the native speakers.

Continuing to learn new lessons everyday.

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“Let life be a moment and turn from moments, we have eternity in our hearts” Ivan Franko

Another quick city tour. This time Ivano Frankvisk in South West Ukraine. Judy 90-190 miles from Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia. January weather typically can range from 19-34 F, July highs above 70 F.


The city has undergone many changes since it’s beginning in 1662, including a name change. 1962 Stanyslaviv was renamed Ivano Frankivsk after the famous poet Ivan Franko. Franko was a frequent visitor. Reflective of city’s and Ukraine’s changing rulers, he wrote in Ukrainian, Polish and German. Half of the city was destroyed by fire in 1868., If was occupied by Russian troops during WWI. Taken over by Austria in 1918, Poland in 1921 and the site of battles between Germany and Russia in 1941. Because of the need to rebuild, the city has a newer feel than Lviv.


Utilizing Framents of the old city’s defense wall they created an entertainment center. “Bastion” as they call it, is full of shops, restaurants and an indoor walkway gallery.

I loved walking on the pedestrian part of the Nazalezhnosti Street. It was fun seeing all the sculptures.

The city is continuing to grow, with a population close to 230,000. You can see some of the changing history in the variety of architecture. The photo above is the largest hotel in Ivano-Franvisk. Hotel Nadiya is a 3 star hotel, has 244 rooms and 2 restaurants. When I first saw it I wondered if it was a casino, because it is so big and bright. No sure when it was built but know it wasn’t here in 1662.

I plan to go back to Ivano- Franvisk soon. It is surprisingly more artsy than I had remembered.









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Short Walking Tour of Yaremche


The word “Yaremche” comes from Turkish word meaning little half. Like much of Ukraine the city has been occupied by different countries through the centuries.  Today it reminds me of places in Michigan like Petoskey and Traverse City. There are health spas, waterfalls, hiking trails and water sports like kayaking in the Prut River. During the winter it is a popular ski resort.

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Yaremche is also known for it’s unique wooden architecture. Glad I had a chance to get a glimpse.

A trip through Yaremche would not be complete without a enjoying some local food and visiting an art market with Hutsul artworks.

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I don’t ski anymore


Bukovel is more than a ski resort


I was a bit nervous when my cousin Ivanna and her husband Sasha ushered me to the ski lift. I have many memories of skiing in Northern Michigan. Some fond memories when I mastered the “bunny hill”, reserved for beginners and children. Then there are the terrifying memories. Times when at the top of the “mountain” or hill, I realized how high up I was and remembered I really was kind of afraid of heights. At this point there was only one way down. The thought of loosing control would cause me to freeze up and become rigid. I then would turn into to perfect bullet and speed down the hill, with no hope of ever stopping.

Thankfully at Bukovel you can ride the ski lift to the top of the Carpathian mountians, walk around, then hop on the lift back down. Such a fun experience.


The resort is open all year long, with a long list of activities, including “roller coaster” and “bike” zip lining.  As well as trout fishing, horse back riding, water skiing, rafting and scuba diving. Our visit was near the end of the ski season.  Visitors were enjoying the last of the snow.  Above I included the list with prices.  It might be a bit pricey for an average Ukrainian family to spend a weekend or longer here. But it is beautiful.


These frogs were enjoying the lake. I was amazed at how many were there.  The mountain streams of the Prut River wind through Yaremche. We stopped near the river and had a nice picinic lunch.


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On our way to Yaremche we spent some waching some kayakers paddle their way through a short rapids under a bridge. They were well protected with helmuts and wet suits. Some were tossed around a bit before righting their kayaks. One person in an inflated kayak was actually tossed out and his kayak became wedged betwen some rocks.


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A Photo Dash through Lviv


Get to meet a couple of super heroes

Lviv is a city alive with incongruacies and frequent visual surprises., Here I quickly include a few that got my attention last Friday morning.

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Somethings don’t get lost in translation

Determined flower

This flower pushing it’s way through the cement reminded me of how artists add beauty to our lives in the same fashion. Not always, but many times an artist must not be afraid to stand alone and expose themselves to the world.

New work in progress “I am Here”

You may never know how your determination helps inspire others. More importantly it provides an opportunity for some new understanding of ourself and how we connect to the world around us.

It reminds me of a quote by sculptor John Rood. I can’t remember it exactly, but it was something about how art was one of the best ways for us humans to communicate an understanding of each other.

From my window today

This is the first day I have several hours during the morning to reflect and be alone with my thoughts. I took the photo of the flower on my walk back from the studio of Hanna Drul . I have been fortunate a friend introduced us. Thank you Ustyna Soroka. Hanna has welcomed me into her studio It is a joy to be with of an accomplished artist and all around wonderful woman. Hospitality, grace and kindliness need no language. A warm smile is a powerful universal expression of acceptance.

Lviv National Academy Student

Lviv National Academy student

Ksenia, Lviv National Academy graduate assistant

Natalka, Lviv National Academy graduate assistant

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A week of Discovery

A lifetime of sights packed into a week.

So many new things still so much to learn.

Not sure my Ukrainian language skills are improving as much as my English language skills are diminishing. Words in both languages are constantly floating in my brain. I am never sure what will slip from my tongue through my lips.

People keep giving me cake. It is wonderful. I hope my increased walking will help keep me from out growing my limited wardrobe.

So far I have been to the Philharmonic, an art opening, coffee mine, book market and many art studios.

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I also have paid homage to many churches and shrines as well as admired several of the bronze monuments and murals.

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i found this sweet doll at the book market. So much more to see and discover. I am so fortunate to be here.


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