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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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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Де я? Where am I

Де я? Where am I?

This is the theme of my time here in Lviv so far. However, it could be a metaphorical reminder to live life in the moment. Frequently stoping and taking in where you are and deciding if that is where you want to be. I continue to get turned around, but I am no longer afraid to change direction.

The weather in Lviv was blue sky sunny and beautiful today, but cold. Glad I remembered to wear my sweater under my wind breaker, but really missing my gloves.

Below is a photo of me riding on my #8 tram. Today I discovered that if I stay on the right path it is only a 5 minute walk from my apartment, not the 10 minutes it has taken earlier in the week. Getting back home, is still another story. Can’t seem to go back the way I came. I’m constantly aware of needing to cross at the crosswalks. Cars do not seem to want to stop, so I wait to join a group crossing. Are there no traffic lights in Lviv?

Today Irene and I were taken to a wonderful Cafe called Biscuit. Pan Orest treated us to apple strudel, coffee and a taste of pine cone liquer. Then we took a quick look at Strysyikyi park, famous for it’s black swans. I can remember visiting this park with my father and being excited about seeing black swans for the first time. I will need to find my way back here as the weather warms up.

I am eager to get to the studio tomorrow morning. My studio mate Kseniia said they will be unloading the kiln. I look forward to see the wonderful work these students have made.

Hope to write more tomorrow.

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In the beginning

Ceramic art at the Lviv National Academy of Art

Use your words. That recording plays over in my head, like a mantra or a chant. Finding the words in the midst of experiencing new things has become a challenge. How can I express thoughts and emotions that are actively still forming.

Today I went to the Lviv National Academy of Arts for the first time. The seed of this trip was planted decades ago. It took years for me to have the courage to even speak about such a crazy idea. An extended stay in Ukraine to immerse myself in Ceramic Art, a childish dream. Yet, here I am.

The active part of pursuing my idea began in February of last year. I must thank all my friends and family who supported me and continue to support me. Oksana, who was able to point me in the right direction. Irene, who tirelessly helped me plow through the language barrier, translating my request to the Academy. Cathy and Diane, who have helped me keep moving forward for the last 20 years. Last but not least my family. Especially, my husband and daughter who understand my need to create.

I continue to be overwhelmed and in awe of all the new things I am seeing and doing.  Here is a visual sample of my day. From taking the tram to cooking 4 chicken breast on a hot plate.



The photo above is from the Tram station in Lviv where my journey began.  The director of the ceramic department kindly met me at my apartment and escorted me to the Academy.


From the outside you would never guess how much it is overflowing with creativity and ceramic art. Here is a sample.

Below are photos of the kiln room. They have both electric and gas kilns

These photos below are of what they call “chamotte”. It appears to be a type of heavily grogged clay, which provides extra strength and less cracks for large sculptural pieces.

This photo below is of my wonderful tour guide and ceramic artist Natalka. She also introduced me to something else new to me “Molochnaya”. It is a milk glaze, and ancient technology of milk burning. The piece she is holding and the one next to it are both products of this process.

 Tomorrow I will return with a packed lunch and begin creating.

Here is one of the four chicken I cooked on this hot plate. The room still smells like chicken.





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