LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
UACC head remarks on reception
In regard to the Ukrainian American community's recent dinner with President Leonid Kuchma, which was the subject of an editorial on July 20 and the focus of several letters to the editor written in response, I, too, would like to take a stand.
First, it should be noted that the dinner was sponsored jointly by Ukrainian Congress Committee of America and the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council. As originally envisioned the guest list was to include 15 representatives each from the UCCA and UACC, 10 from the non-aligned organizations, plus the president and his delegation. It was to be an intimate gathering, meant for a frank exchange of ideas and opinions between Ukrainian American community leaders and the president of Ukraine.
However, due to last-minute pressures, the size of the group more than doubled. The original intent of the dinner was forgotten. UACC stood steadfast and did not enlarge its delegation.
Yes, The Weekly did publish a photo of me seated next to the president. But The Weekly's reporter was simply doing her job, photographing the president as he was seated at dinner; I and several other leaders of organizations happened to be seated next to him during the whole dinner. Certainly that is not the same as interrupting the president and asking him to pose for a photo, or worse yet, standing behind the president as he was seated at his table and, in effect using him as a prop for a photo opportunity. In addition, it should be pointed out that it is the news media's assignment to document an event, which is not the same as having each and every person with a camera take pictures.
In conclusion, I would like to state that it is good The Ukrainian Weekly's editorial pointed out our failure, and it is good we have had this exchange of letters prompted by that editorial. Perhaps our community has learned something in the process and the next time we host President Kuchma, we will do better.
Ulana M. Diachuk
The letter writer is president of the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council.
Fiascos will reduce influence of diaspora
While I essentially still believe that the diaspora is quickly becoming irrelevant, I also believe that some of the points raised by letter writers in reaction to the July 20 editorial to the editor are well taken.
First, President Leonid Kuchma is not running for public office in the United States. He is not looking for votes here. If he has to press hands and kiss babies in the worst backwaters of Ukraine that is one thing. To submit him to that here at the Harvard Club is quite another. The event was held in full view not only of the local Ukrainian community but also at a major venue in the so-called world capital and it could have led to a truly major embarrassment.
At the same time we must acknowledge that there are many older people here in the diaspora who dedicated their whole life to working for, and dreaming about, a free and prosperous Ukraine. We should not only not exclude them from meeting with the most important dignitaries from Ukraine, but find ways of including them in such events. A meeting with the press is one thing and a meeting with the demos is another. The visit of President Kuchma to Little Ukraine in New York on his first official visit to the United States several years ago was dignified and touching.
I use many simple analogies to explain the differences between Russians and Ukrainians. I tell Americans that Ukrainians are Breughelesque, that is, exuberant and hearty and joyful about life. The Russians are van Dyckian, that is formal, staid, pompous and somewhat dogmatic. Now that we have a nation we must learn to be formal and proper in the proper venue. Some of us will never learn, unfortunately, because we never had the opportunity. Meetings with the president are not the place to learn. Nor must all meetings be open to all comers.
Dignified meetings with dignitaries from Ukraine will serve the local diaspora and Ukraine well. Fiascos will only reduce the influence of the diaspora at a time when Ukraine may need its help more than its government officials realize or are willing to admit.
Editorial reflects majority opinion
Regarding Askold Lozynskyj's response to The Ukrainian Weekly's July 20 editorial, I would like to note that the editorial reflected the opinion of the majority of Ukrainian Americans in the New York area, particularly its intelligentsia and scholars. Yes, Mr. Lozynskyj well understands the opinions of the hromada; unfortunately he believes in "positive criticism" only. In essence he mimics the thinking of many totalitarian leaders who never tolerated criticism in any form (instead punishing their critics in places like the gulag).
The Weekly's editorial did correctly reflect the unpleasant reality of the situation surrounding the reception of President Kuchma. Democracy is built on the foundation of public opinion, freedom of the press and freedom of speech (including open criticism).
Therefore, I find Mr. Lozynskyj's uncultured reaction to be quite strange.
Note from the editor:
The Ukrainian Weekly welcomes letters to the editor and commentaries on a variety of topics of concern to the Ukrainian American and Ukrainian Canadian communities. Opinions expressed by columnists, commentators and letter-writers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of either The Weekly editorial staff or its publisher, the Ukrainian National Association.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, August 31, 1997, No. 35, Vol. LXV
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