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    BRAMA News and Community Press

    BRAMA, May 5, 2005, 1:00 pm ET

    Updates 5/6/05 (related insert), 5/10/05 (photos added)

    The good, the bad, and the ugly - A retrospective look at the Yuschenko visit to Boston
    — By Prof. Peter T. Woloschuk
    Reprinted with permission of the author.

    The recent visit of President Yuschenko and his wife Kateryna to Boston was clearly a great success. He came to Boston at the invitation of the Kennedy family to receive the prestigious John F.Kennedy Profile in Courage Award and he also made time to visit five year old Nastia Ovchar who is being treated at the Shriner's Burn Center for third degree burns on over 80% of her body. Media coverage was comprehensive and positive. From an organizational perspective the event demonstrated that some members of the Ukrainian-American community have the ability to help organize such an event.

    President Viktor Yushchenko holds his Profiles in Courage award.
    Photo: Tania D'Avignon

    With the event still in our memory, it is appropriate to examine and learn from what worked and what didn't, and then to constructively go forward.

    Approximately 900 people turned out for the event including some 550 prominent Bostonians invited by the Kennedy Library Foundation and 350 members of the local Ukrainian-American community. The latter were invited by the Kennedy Library Foundation staff who had insisted that the broader Ukrainian-American community be present and participate. The Kennedy Library Foundation asked the Ukrainian-Americans for Democracy in Ukraine (UADU) to assist in the coordination of the event and act as the go-between with both Ukrainian Consular officials and Ukrainian-American community leaders.

    UADU is an ad-hoc volunteer organization which was formed in November 2004 to conduct a petition drive asking the Massachusetts Congressional delegation to intervene in the Ukrainian elections (more than 1,000 signatures were collected in one weekend). UADU has members who have existing relationships and expertise required for such a high profile event.

    As a result of UADU's intervention, the community got to watch the Yuschenko's motorcade arrival, witnessed the formal ceremonies simulcast into a separate theater (the main hall at the Library only holds 550), and attended the VIP reception with live classical music, gourmet food, and an open bar.

    In addition to the formal presentation of the award itself, there were a number of electric moments in the nearly five hours that the Yuschenkos spent with the Kennedy Family. The first occurred after a formal private exchange of gifts between the Yuschenkos and Senator Edward Kennedy in the family's private function rooms of the Library when the Senator, moved almost to tears, searched among the various momentos displayed in the room, and then picked up a very valuable bust of President Kennedy created by an internationally known sculptor, and presented it to Yuschenko saying that his brother, President Kennedy would have been proud to have met him and then concluded by saying that he hoped that the bust would serve as a reminder of the esteem that the entire Kennedy Family had for him.

    State Secretary Oleksandr Zinchenko with Caroline Kennedy.
    Photo: Tania D'Avignon

    The second came during a dinner for the Kennedys, Yuschenkos, their seniors staffs, and trustees of the Kennedy Library and Kennedy Foundation when Senator Kennedy stood up and told the assembled guests that the Kennedys were not only proud of their Irish roots but of their Ukrainian roots as well. People smiled at first but the Senator indicated that he was serious and called on his niece Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg to explain. She then stood and said that both of her husband's grandparents came to the United States as small children from villages in the Poltava Oblast and that they were Ukrainian. She added that as a gift to her husband, she had made arrangements for the two of them to travel to Ukraine this summer to visit Kyiv and Poltava and then to go to the two villages to trace his roots.

    The third and final moment came near the end of the evening when the Yuschenkos learned that the Kennedys had missed the final commercial flight back to Washington, DC because the event lasted more than two hours longer than scheduled and quietly invited them to fly back to Washington on the Ukrainian presidential aircraft.

    Yushchenko in Boston SLIDESHOW
     ·  May 5 05 - The good, the bad, and the ugly - A retrospective look at the Yuschenko visit to Boston
     ·  May 6 05 - Ukrainian Consulate responds to "The good, the bad, and the ugly..."
     ·  May 10 05 - Letter: The truth, the half-truth, and the lie.. - a response to 'The good, the bad and the ugly'

     ·  May 5 05 - Address of President Viktor Yushchenko at the presentation of the Profile in Courage Award, John F. Kennedy Library, April 5, 2005
     ·  May 5 05 - Remarks of Caroline Kennedy at the 2005 Profile in Courage Award Presentation to Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko (April 5, 2005) -/- Вітання Кароліни Кеннеді
     ·  May 5 05 - Remarks of Senator Edward M. Kennedy at the 2005 Profile in Courage Award Presentation to Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko (April 5, 2005) -/- Вітання Сенатора Кеннеді
     ·  John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library Home Page

    In retrospect, the Yuschenkos' visit to Boston went better than could be expected. The Kennedys were pleased, the Yuschenkos were pleased, and everyone who came to the Kennedy Library was ultimately included in the event. Media coverage was very positive and a number of local newspapers even did follow-up editorials and op-ed pieces. However, it should be noted that the event almost didn't happen. In dealing with the representatives of the Ukrainian diplomatic service, and through them, with the so-called leaders of the Ukrainian-American community of Boston, Kennedy staffers and Library Foundation employees developed such frustration that they held several meetings exploring alternatives including canceling and/or postponing the event.

    Issues ranged from staffers' inability to get an official commitment for the visit from the Ukrainian side, a schedule that changed a number of times even after the invitations were printed and mailed, a fundamental misunderstanding of whose event it was and the protocol of the welcoming ceremony, to the role of the local Ukrainian-American community.

    These problems were compounded by the fact that the local Ukrainian leadership did not act in the best interests of the community but sought to take care of itself. When invitations and tickets originally were made available by representatives of the Ukrainian consulate in New York which they had received from the Kennedy Library (and there were only 17 of them), their division and disposition was nothing short of scandalous.

    Although there has been an organized Ukrainian community in Boston for almost 125 years, it is sad to note that the community, and, more particularly, its leadership, has not been able to develop a sense of professionalism or a desire to showcase what is truly good and notable before the broader American community. The selo mentality of the earliest settlers, unfortunately, is still very evident.

    The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA) which has acted as an umbrella agency coordinating local activities for decades has been weakened by scandal and is now moribund. It is concerned with purely Ukrainian matters on a very basic level. It does not think about interfacing with the local government, other ethnic groups and organizations, or the local media and it has no master plan for growth or development.

    As a result, when UCCA was contacted by representatives of the Ukrainian Consulate in New York who said that they were in charge of Yuschenko's visit to Boston and were working with the Kennedy Library, it was unable to pull together a committee to work on the visit that truly represented the community.

    At the first meeting, the Consulate officials were clear that Yuschenko was coming to Boston to get the award at the Kennedy Library, that he would speak at the Kennedy Library, and that he would visit the Shiner's Burn Center. There was no room in the schedule for anything else.

    Unfortunately, no one listened. Most of the four hour meeting was dedicated to a discussion of the need for the Yuschenkos to visit the local churches, credit union, and other institutions. Several hours were spent debating how many children in Ukrainian dress should greet the guests and whether they should all have flowers.

    The following week the Consulate informed UCCA that it only obtained 17 invitations to the Kennedy library event and that the community was basically excluded. When they came for their second meeting, invitations in hand, they found that only three members of the group from the week before had been notified of their coming. The three took the invitations and proceeded to divide them in a most interesting fashion (for example, the Orthodox community of Boston was only allotted a single ticket).

    In concert with the Consular employees a welcoming ceremony was then put together which involved the president of UCCA making extended remarks, the Ukrainian Catholic priest and his wife presenting an icon, and the priest's children presenting a korovay. There was talk of a red carpet, a podium, and a microphone. There was also talk of preparing banners and placards in both Ukrainian and English with messages of welcome.

    President Viktor Yushchenko, Senator Edward Kennedy, First Lady Kateryna Chumachenko Yushchenko.
    Photo: Tania D'Avignon

    Unfortunately, no one thought to check with the Kennedy Foundation staff who believed that the event was theirs and the only people greeting the Yuschenkos should be the Kennedy family. No one checked to see if a red carpet, podium or microphone were being planned, and no one bothered to find out that Library policy prohibits any type of banners for safety reasons.

    No one asked if there was material for either the American or Ukrainian press, no one wondered about the need for translation of documents, no one thought about contacting some of the local political leaders, and no one thought about getting any official recognition for the visit.

    As a result of a lack of cooperation from the Ukrainian side, the Kennedy staff had to work all the harder. And they succeeded in pulling off a spectacular event against all odds. Press releases and translations were written overnight and last minute calls were made to all invited guests after Ukrainian officials significantly changed the arrival time almost at the last minute.

    Both bouquets and brickbats are due for those involved. The following list should give some insight into their distribution.

    The Good

    • the Kennedy staff for refusing to limit Ukrainian attendance to the 17 designated by the Ukrainian Consulate and UCCA and who opened the event to the entire Ukrainian-American community;
    • the Kennedy staff for caring enough to make sure that the Ukrainian media had Ukrainian translations of all documents;
    • the Kennedy Library staff for seeing that all floral decorations were composed of blue, yellow, and orange flowers;
    • the Kennedy Family who spent more than $100,000.00 on the event;
    • the Kennedy Family and staff who all wore something orange;
    • The Kennedy Foundation staff for commissioning a special Ukrainian flag for the podium and for purchasing 300 small Ukrainian flags which were given to the Ukrainian community members waiting outside the Library for the arrival of the motorcade;
    • Secret Service and Library security for dealing patiently with members of the Ukrainian community who didn't think that the rope barriers were intended for them;
    • the media who stayed in place at the Kennedy Library even though the Ukrainian president ran more than 1? hours late;
    • Tania Mychajlyshyn D'Avignon who translated both Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg's remarks and a backrounder into Ukrainian overnight and who also acted as official photographer for the Shriner's Burn Center, welcomed the President to the facility as the only Ukrainian present, and shared in the translation duties on site;
    • John Didiuk who work as translator and baby sitter for the government officials accompanying the president from Ukraine;
    • Alexander Gamota who helped draft proclamations for the Mayor of Boston, City Council, and State Legislature, got them promulgated in a single day, and then worked with the American media at the Kennedy Library;
    • George Gamota Jr. who acted as translator and baby sitter for the media from Ukraine;
    • George and Oksana Kyrychok, Michael Nosal, and Ulana Tymchyshyn who had the unpleasant duty of trying to keep the Ukrainian community behind the security barricades;
    • Mary Joyce Morris who worked with the American media.

    The Bad

    • the Ukrainian official who planned the President's trip to Boston from Chicago and who did not realize that there was a one hour time difference between the two cities thus making his arrival an hour late;
    • the Ukrainian officials who decided that there would be no welcoming ceremony at the airport;
    • the Ukrainian official who distributed invitations to selected Ukrainian- Americans in Boston and then failed to tell the Kennedy Library who they were;
    • the Ukrainian officials who, in spite of numerous requests, failed to provide the Kennedy Library with a list of the party traveling with president so that adequate arrangements could be made for them ;
    • the Ukrainian officials who failed to make a copy of President Yuschenko's remarks available to Library and the media either in Ukrainian or in English;
    • the Ukrainian security officials who ate and drank at the reception while their American Secret Service colleagues remained at their posts and did their duty;
    • the Boston Ukrainian community leaders who failed to communicate with the neighboring Ukrainian communities of Salem and Woonsocket and invite them;
    • the members of UCCA who were told twice by phone and once in an e-mail that Kennedy Library policy forbade signs and banners on Library property and who went ahead and made and attempted to display them anyway;
    • the members of the Ukrainian community who made difficulties about their seating assignments;
    • the Ukrainian community leaders who refused to leave security areas after repeated requests;
    • the Ukrainian community leaders who wanted the President to meet with local survivors of the Holodomor and listen to their stories;
    • the local Ukrainian leaders who wanted UPA songs included in the program;
    • the Ukrainian community for failing to say thank you.

    The Ugly

    • the Ukrainian official who decided to move the scheduled arrival of President Yuschenko to the Kennedy Library up one hour after 2,000 invitations had been mailed;
    • the Ukrainian official who decided to cancel a speech at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government a few days before the scheduled event
    • the Ukrainian protocol official who tried to tell the Kennedy staff what Kennedy family members should say;
    • the Ukrainian officials who decided that there would be no press conferences and no direct media contact in Boston, the nation's fifth largest media market.;
    • Askold Lozynskyj of New York who broke through Secret Service security barriers and almost knocked several members of the Kennedy family over in his determined haste to be the first to kiss President Yuschenko and Foreign Minister Tarasiuk in spite of the fact that it was not his party and he was not the host. His actions did not endear him to Boston media who were trying to get a clear picture of the Yuschenkos and the Kennedys by themselves particularly when he did not have the sense to step back, and, as a result, ruined every shot;
    • Zenoviy Protz, president of the Boston branch of UCCA. Ditto;
    • the UCCA welcoming committee with their icon and Korovay. Ditto;
    • the members of the Ukrainian presidential staff and security team who exclusively spoke Russian amongst themselves and used it in all of their radio transmissions. One perplexed Kennedy staffer was heard to ask, "Why are they still speaking Russian after the Orange Revolution and after all that Putin and Kuchma tried to do to them?";
    • the Ukrainian Consul of New York who personally invited a number of prominent Ukrainian-Americans including church hierarchs to come to Boston to participate in the ceremonies and to meet the president and then failed to let the Kennedy Library know that they were coming or to make any provisions for them whatsoever;
    • the members of the Ukrainian community who tried to enter the VIP hall without proper invitations and who then caused scenes when staffers questioned them. They fooled no one;
    • Ditto for those who passed their invitations to others to sneak them in;

      Brama has confirmed information that the Embassy of Ukraine requested the assistance of the Ukrainian National Women's League of America (UNWLA) in raising funds for the Nastia Ovchar case, and to help provide housing for family members, among other things. The UNWLA has been consistent in steering most of its humanitarian assistance towards Ukraine, but made an exception in this situation as a cooperative effort with the Government of Ukraine.

    • the Soyuz Ukrainok (see side note) which suddenly decided to take an interest Nastia Ovchar at Shriner's and who even called an emergency meeting to figure out strategy after they learned of Kennedy family interest. Since Ukrainian independence there have been scores of patients from Ukraine in various Boston hospitals and they all needed help. Interestingly, Soyuz Ukrainok never got involved before.

    Boston is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the United States. It is a center of high culture, finance, high technology, higher education, and medicine. It has an old Ukrainian settlement with many individuals who have distinguished themselves over the years and who play an active role in the life of the city and the region. However, almost none of them are active in the Ukrainian community, and, as a result, it is a community that is virtually invisible.

    Olia Ovchar poses with President Yushchenko and the First Lady outside the hospital room where burn victim Nastya Ovchar is being treated.
    Photo: Tania D'Avignon

    For the past 125 years the Ukrainian community of Boston has been plagued with bad leadership and one crisis after another and has continually lost or alienated people of talent and ability. As a result, although there are more than 75,000 people of Ukrainian ancestry in the Boston area, fewer than 1,000 belong to any of the local Ukrainian organizations, including the churches, and most refuse to have anything to do events sponsored by them.

    With the advent of the post-Orange Revolution government in Ukraine and its desire to be open to the west, it is more imperative than ever that Ukrainian-Americans and their communities act as interpreters, lobbyists, and bridge-builders.

    Unfortunately, events like the Yuschenko visit to Boston show that community leaders still aren't mature and that they still don't understand the task at hand. They continueto conduct business in the same old ways that clearly didn't work in the past. As long as selepky are in charge, Ukrainian-Americans will continue to wonder why the have no voice…why no one pays attention to them.

    The Yuschenko visit to Boston was a success in spite the efforts of the Ukrainian Embassy and the official Ukrainian-American community leaders. The success happened because a number of people with the requisite skills and experience stepped forward and put in many hours of effort in a very short time. It is clear that the broader Ukrainian-American community has the resources to put it on an equal footing with any other. It is time to redefine what constitutes our community and take full advantage of a very talented resource pool. The Ukrainian-American community can continue to hold its own against others or it can remain a backwater.

    Peter Woloschuk (center) poses with Mrs. Chumachenko (right), mother of Ukraine's First Lady.
    Photo: Tania D'Avignon

    About the author:
    Prof. Woloschuk is an adjunct professor of communication and journalism at Boston College and Northeastern University and also occasionally lectures at the University of Massachusetts and Pine Manor College. He is the editor-in-chief of the Pine Manor College Alumnae Bulletin and spent more than 10 years working for the Boston Globe. Woloschuk has served as the deputy director of communications for the city of Boston and director of media for the Boston Police Department. He has traveled extensively for the White House Travel Office working on events and media for the president and the first lady and has helped coordinate media and security for all seven Papal visits to the United States for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Woloschuk is the head of Ukrainian-Americans for Democracy in Ukraine-Boston (UADU) and has worked on numerous events at the Kennedy Library. He and the UADU were approached by the Library staff and asked for assistance with the Yuschenko visit.

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