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    BRAMA News and Community Press

    BRAMA, October 23, 2009, 9:00 AM ET

    Op-ed

    The President and Prizes for Activists

    In a letter in the Kyiv Post last year, the writer pointedly mentioned that no Ukrainian had ever received the Nobel prize.

    A few years ago, Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko was nominated for the Nobel Prize for peace. It did not fly, as it became apparent that peace-making was not one of his strong points.

    The next best level of recognition, then, has to be a medal from President Yushchenko, and he reached out to the diaspora's top echelons in September 2009. Activists received medals in New York.

    Navigating in New York City is much easier. Here the disagreements are minor. For instance, it could be argued whether or not publishing a guide to Ukrainian cemeteries and museums in America would be more worthwhile, from a historical perspective, than an encyclopedia of the Ukrainian diaspora.

    Those somewhat familiar with the work on the recently published encyclopedia tell about the crush of candidates insisting that they should be included. One caller reportedly asked, "Who in my family will not be included?"

    The tradition of mutual adoration and marginal outcomes sometimes trumps the standards of achievement beyond monkey management.

    It also looks as if the awards committee had decided to take their toy trains and have the photo-ops now, figuring that this was President Yushchenko's last visit in the official capacity as Ukraine's president.

    To get somewhat serious about the notions of merit, there are indeed some Ukrainian names in the USA who will be remembered in their respective field (not necessarily by Ukrainian busybodies).

    One is the late Dr. Sviatoslav Trofimenko (born in 1932), whose research in chemistry may not have placed him in the Nobel prize circuit but was noted for its importance.

    Dr. Taras Kuzio, professor and political analyst, stands out among many, and does not require a nominating committee. There are others, some of them in academia.

    And then there is someone who needs no medal — the late Ihor Olshaniwsky, Chairman of Americans for Human Rights in Ukraine in the 1970s and 80s, who also assisted the family of General Petro Grigorenko during their resettlement in the USA.

    The mysterious selection process for deserving candidates of prizes awarded by the President of Ukraine, some already for the second and third time, obviously draws on a limited sample from the diaspora. Criteria for choosing award winners may be easy to define, but not easy to implement in an actual selection process. To make it right, it would have to be rigorous. Nothing of that sort can be expected in a carnival atmosphere.

    Dr. Boris Danik
    North Caldwell, NJ
    October 14, 2009

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