FACES AND PLACES
by Myron B. Kuropas
Time to step up to the plate!
Let's talk Soyuzivka. You know, that Ukrainian hideaway in the Catskills that the Ukrainian National Association created and made available for our enjoyment.
And enjoy it we did. During the summer some of us spent our weekends and vacations there. We partied, we danced under the stars. We played tennis, sunbathed and swam in the Olympic-sized pool.
Some of us worked there. Remember the legendary Walter Kwas? ("You can run but you can't hide.") Remember Chemny? How many Chemnys were there? Did anyone keep count?
Some of us met our spouses at Soyuzivka. We got married there. Many of us sent our children to Chemny camp, or to the Ukrainian Cultural Courses, or to the Dance Workshop or to Tennis Camp.
For us, Soyuzivka was a place to meet and greet old friends in a convivial, Ukrainian setting. It was our Ukrainian island, our summer home away from home. Excellent food. Excellent company. Outstanding memories.
Where else could we enjoy the kind of Ukrainian talent that Soyuzivka concerts offered? Dances, choir, quartets, trios, pianists, instrumental performers, soloists - you name it. Workers with special talent would often provide the entertainment on Saturday nights. Before the cultural courses were eliminated, students would perform during their "graduation" exercises.
Miss Soyuzivka made her first appearance in 1956.
Tennis tournaments, swim meets and volleyball games contributed to the special Soyuzivka ambiance.
Well-known painters exhibited their works -- Kozak, Hnizdovsky, Hutsaliuk. Where else can one find busts by Archipenko and Mol on the same grounds?
At one time Soyuzivka was the place to be during the summer. During the 1960s and '70s one had to make summer room reservations a year in advance. Families would book the same room for the same time every year.
If you met Ukrainians who had never been to Soyuzivka you were shocked. "You've never been to Soyuzivka?" we'd ask. "Oh my goodness. Where have you been?"
Parents whose American-born children wanted nothing to do with their Ukrainian heritage would often take them to Soyuzivka. And Soyuzivka worked its magic. Many "conversions" occurred in those mountains.
Weddings, christenings, reunions and organizational conventions became part of the Soyuzivka season, along with Thanksgiving Day dinners, Sviat Vechir, New Year's Eve banquets and Memorial Day events. Labor Day was always a biggie, a magnet for young and old alike. People drove from as far away as Milwaukee and Chicago just for the weekend.
Ukrainians from all over the world visited Soyuzivka - from Australia, from Argentina, from Brazil, from Ukraine, even from Canada. Especially from Canada.
Our parents and grandparents did their part to maintain Soyuzivka as a thriving enterprise. They invested their time, their treasure and their skills because they believed in Soyuzivka. It was more than a resort, a retreat from the hum-drum of everyday living. It was a Ukrainian institution of which they and we could be justly proud.
As our parents and grandparents aged, Soyuzivka aged with them. In recent years, Soyuzivka became a little more seedy, a little less impressive, a lot less inviting. The magic was fading.
Our people were no longer spending time at Soyuzivka. They were going to Ukraine and elsewhere. Why spend precious vacation days at a Ukrainian resort when one can go to Lake George, or Cancun, or Hawaii?
Part of the problem, of course, was the fact that the UNA had not kept up with changing times. Our expectations changed. We had become accustomed to certain creature comforts which Soyuzivka failed to provide. Things we now take for granted - air conditioning, telephones and televisions in the rooms - were missing.
About 10 years ago, Soyuzivka patriots became concerned. An ad-hoc "Save Soyuzivka" committee was formed. The UNA Executive Committee noticed. A UNA Soyuzivka Committee was formed, headed by Stefko Kuropas and Taras Szmagala Jr. Plans were developed and presented at the last UNA convention in Chicago. Discussions followed. Reso-lutions were passed. The delegates were committed to saving Soyuzivka.
A number of things changed within the last year. Soyuzivka came under new management. A Soyuzivka Renaissance Fund was established. A fund-raising banquet celebrating 50 years of Soyuzivka was held last fall. Donations of nearly $100,000 were received.
Today, a plan is finally in place to save Soyuzivka. Renovations have begun, fresh paint has been applied and walking trails have been blazed.
More is in store. The goal of the Renaissance Fund is to raise enough money to renovate Soyuzivka in two phases. Phase I includes upgrades and remodeling of the main lobby, the dining room, Veselka and certain rooms, which will significantly improve guest comfort. The cost is $1 million.
As revenue improves and Phase I is completed, Phase II will kick in. A cautious appraisal of further improvements will be made. Additional projects aimed at enhancing business and recreational facilities will be considered.
Are you ready to take the place of your parents and grandparents and contribute? Are you ready to step up to the plate and do your part? You can begin by picking up the phone and making a reservation for this summer. This is what Lesia and I plan to do.
If you got married at Soyuzivka, how about buying a park bench or a brick with your name and wedding date on it. This is what Lesia and I plan to do.
Finally, you can make a donation to the Ukrainian National Foundation Soyuzivka Renaissance Fund. This is what Lesia and I plan to do.
What about you? Are you ready to step up to the plate?
Remember. Every donation to the Ukrainian National Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) organization, is tax-deductible. Show you care. Make your check payable to the Ukrainian National Foundation/Soyuzivka Renaissance Fund. Do it now!
Myron Kuropas' e-mail address is: email@example.com.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, June 22, 2003, No. 25, Vol. LXXI
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