USCAK MARKS 50 YEARS OF SERVICE TO UKRAINIAN SPORTS
(1955 – 2005)
The Ukrainian Sports Federation of the USA and Canada, better known by its Ukrainian acronym USCAK, was founded on December 24, 1955 in Toronto, Canada, as an umbrella organization of Ukrainian sports associations, including the sports divisions of Ukrainian youth societies in North America.
On that date, 23 representatives of Ukrainian sports clubs as well as the SUM and Plast youth organizations, elected the first governing board of USCAK: Ivan Krasnyk – President; Yaroslav Chorostil – Vice President; Volodymyr Levycky – Secretary and Treasurer; Roman Prypchan – Director of Sports and Refereeing; Roman Sawczak – Director of Discipline and Verification. Also elected was a Sports Council chaired by Dr. Edward Zarsky, and an Auditing Committee.
According to its Bylaws, USCAK became the highest sports authority in North America, to which all Ukrainian sports activity was subordinated. Some of the declared objectives of USCAK were: to coordinate sports activity internally, within the Ukrainian community, and represent Ukrainian sports externally; to organize annual championships for Ukrainians in North America in a variety of sports; to maintain a registration of teams as well as individual players and referees; to issue rules and regulations; to select all-star teams that would represent Ukrainians in international competition. Above all, the founders of USCAK felt that by cultivating not only physical, but also spiritual qualities of the youth within the Ukrainian sports organizations; they would ensure the vitality of the Ukrainian people as these youths would eventually develop into full-fledged members of a free Ukrainian community.
The establishment of USCAK represented the culmination of an organizational process in the Ukrainian sports in North America that had started roughly in 1948 with the arrival to these shores of a wave of post-World War II immigrants, refugees from Communism, now referred to as the “third wave”. These new arrivals quickly formed a multitude of new civic, educational, professional, cultural, youth and sports organizations within the Ukrainian communities throughout the U.S. and Canada, in addition to joining those which had already existed there, primarily the churches and fraternal associations.
At that time, the only functioning Ukrainian sports club in all of North America was the Ukrainian Athletic-Educational Association “Chornomorska Sitch” in Newark, New Jersey, which has existed since 1924. Soon the new immigrants rejuvenated the ranks of “Chornomorska Sitch”, expanding considerably the range of its sports and community activities.
Everywhere else, the immigrants of the third wave established new sports clubs: in New York city – the Ukrainian Sports Club (“USK”) and the Carpathian Ski Club (“KLK”); in Yonkers, New York – the sports club “Krylati”, affiliated with the Ukrainian Youth Association of America (“SUMA”); Ukrainian sports clubs sprang up also in Rochester and Syracuse, New York. In New Jersey, new sports clubs were founded in Elizabeth (“Sitch”), Perth Amboy (“Berkut”), Trenton (“Strila”), and Passaic (“Ukrainian Center”). In Connecticut it was “Dovbush” in New Haven and the “Ukrainian Sports Club” in Hartford. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the sports center “Tryzub” was established, which later became well-known in mainstream American sports for its champion soccer teams, named “Ukrainian Nationals”.
In the Midwest, two Ukrainian sports clubs were founded in Chicago – “Levy” and “Kryla” – as well as one each in Cleveland (“Lviv”) and in Detroit (“Chernyk”).
In Canada, sports clubs named “Ukraina” were founded in both Toronto and in Montreal, as well as the Carpathian Ski Club (“KLK”) in Toronto. The Ukrainian youth associations SUM and Plast, both in the US and Canada, also took part in organized sports activities.
The first move towards an organizational superstructure came in 1953, when the Ukrainian sports organizations from the states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania united into an “Association of Ukrainian-American Sports Societies – East”, known by its Ukrainian acronym “SUAST – East”. With its headquarters in New York City SUAST – East was headed by Dr. Edward Zarsky. In the Midwest, a similar association united the states of Illinois, Michigan and Ohio, with its headquarters in Chicago. It was called SUAST – West (SUAST – North in some sources) and was headed by Ivan Krasnyk. The final step in the consolidation was the joining of the two regional SUAST associations with the Ukrainian sports organizations of Canada to establish the Ukrainian Sports Federation of the USA and Canada, USCAK.
Throughout its 50-year history, USCAK has been most successful in staging the annual Ukrainian championships of North America in several sports, among them most consistently in men’s and women’s volleyball, tennis and swimming, and in men’s chess (since 1966), as well as less regularly, in skiing and table tennis. Very recently USCAK championships have begun to include soccer. Track and field competition has been staged at the Annual Youth Games run by the youth organization SUMA under the aegis of USCAK.
USCAK fulfilled its other mandate – of external representation – by organizing the all-star teams and individual athletes who presented Ukrainians in the two Free Olympiads, in 1980 and 1984, which were held in Etobicoke, Canada. The Free Olympiads were staged by the captive nations of the Soviet Union, with the participation of Armenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine.
Two very successful Ukrainian Sports Olympiads, in 1988 and in 2000, both hosted by “Tryzub” Philadelphia, were also staged under the aegis of USCAK. The 1988 Olympiad was dedicated to the Millennium of Christianity in Ukraine.
A special chapter in the history of USCAK has been defined by its moral and financial support for sports in Ukraine since that country’s declared independence in August 1991. Shortly before the independence, in June 1991, a large delegation of USCAK athletes and officials, led by USCAK President Myron Stebelsky, went on a tour of Western Ukraine. They were invited by the Ukrainian Sports Association and the “Karpaty” soccer club of Lviv to a joint celebration of the 80th anniversary of the once famous “Ukraina” sports club of Lviv, Ukraine.
For the trip to Ukraine, USCAK assembled the following all-star squads: three soccer teams – men’s, junior and old boys – men’s and women’s volleyball, tennis and swimming teams, as well as a men’s chess team. About 120 players and coaches and nearly 300 tourists made the trip. The competition, which took place at various venues throughout Western Ukraine, lasted some 10-12 days. The USCAK tour, however, reaped benefits that have transcended sports. In their numerous interviews and patriotic public speeches, which received heavy media coverage, USCAK representatives emphasized the rebirth of Ukraine and the unity of Ukrainians on both sides of the Atlantic. This moral support coming from their brethren from North American provided extra impetus to the already growing movement towards national independence among the Ukrainian people.
Unrelated to this trip, USCAK established a working relationship with the National Olympic Committee and a number of Sports Federations of Ukraine. These fledgling sports organizations of the newly independent country were in desperate need of the hard currency required to enter the international arena. USCAK came to the rescue by launching in 1991 a fundraising campaign within the Ukrainian-American and Ukrainian-Canadian communities, channeling the donations mainly into the Fund for the Rebirth of Sports in Ukraine as well as some smaller ad hoc funds. The patriotic Ukrainian community of North America responded admirably, so that over the years USCAK was able to raise in donations and to disburse nearly $400,000 for the needs of sports in Ukraine.
Initially the money was spent on the membership fees of about 40 Sports Federations of Ukraine in the corresponding European and World Federations. Later, USCAK made major financial contributions in support of Ukraine’s teams at the 1994 Winter Olympiad in Lillehammer, Norway, and at the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympiads in Atlanta, Georgia and Sydney, Australia, respectively.
There were too many individual grants by USCAK to enumerate here, but one can mention their biggest recipients: Oksana Baiul, the Olympic champion Ice-skater; the scholarship fund for the students at the Lviv State Institute of Physical Culture; the Soccer Federation as well as the swimming and bobsledding teams of Ukraine. Furthermore, USCAK co-sponsored three Stepan Popel Memorial International Chess Tournaments in Lviv, and provided one-time grants to several Ukrainian child prodigies in chess. In 2002, one of the former USCAK grant recipients, Ruslan Ponomaryov, became the first-ever Ukrainian chess champion of the world.
At the time of this writing, in 2005, most of the founders of USCAK are no longer with us, but there is no doubt that they would be proud of how much the leadership and the rank-and-file members of today’s USCAK have accomplished for the good of Ukrainian youth and sports on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The legacy of USCAK demonstrates just how much can be achieved by hard-working and dedicated people who volunteer their time, energy and skills to a worthy cause without seeking any material gain in return.
Therefore, as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of USCAK and its major contribution to Ukrainian sports, let us salute all those people who made this success story possible. The honor roll starts with the USCAK Presidents in chorological order: Ivan Krasnyk (2 terms), Volodymyr Levycky, Yaroslav Chrostil, Dr. Mykhaylo Snihurovych, Yuriy Kosachevych, Volodymyr Kizyma, Roman Kucil (8 terms) and Myron Stebelsky (1989 – to present).
Special recognition, however, is due to those USCAK executives whose far-sighted initiatives and tireless efforts provided the crucial financial and moral assistance to sports in Ukraine, beginning in 1991. Let us salute this remarkable group of activists who made it happen. All of them are currently members of the USCAK executive board: Myron Stebelsky, President; Irenaeus Isajiw, Vice President; Omelan Twardowsky, Press Officer; Alexander Napora, Financial Secretary, and Roman Pyndus, Secretary.
Indeed, their contributions have been recognized in Ukraine. Thus, Myron Stebelsky was awarded a certificate signed by Ukraine’s President Leonid Kuchma for his “significant personal contribution to the development and strengthening of the Ukrainian state”. Messrs. Stebelsky, Twardowsky and Orest Popovych (USCAK Chess Director) were honored with gold medals as “Builders of Ukraine” by the Kyiv-based all Ukrainian society “Prosvita”. The above trio was joined by Messrs. Napora and Pyndus in receiving certificates from the Lviv State Institute of Physical Culture, which recognized them for the “many years of fruitful work directed towards the development of the Ukrainian sports and educational movement beyond the borders of Ukraine”.
The name of USCAK has been immortalized in the Museum of Sports Glory in Kyiv, Ukraine, by a permanent exhibition titled “Diaspora – USCAK”, displaying documents and mementos related to Ukrainian sports activity in North America.
Of course, the USCAK leadership could not have accomplished all of this alone. So, as we congratulate them in this Jubilee Year, let us also salute all those Ukrainian clubs which organized and hosted the annual USCAK championships in various sports, providing their facilities and financial support. Let us salute the countless tournament organizers, directors, referees, and above all – the competitors, many of which had to travel long distances to USCAK events, usually at their own expense. It cannot be overemphasized that all of the people involved in USCAK activities – certainly hundreds and perhaps thousands of them over a period of half and century – have been volunteers, who donated their time, energy and expertise, not only without any financial or other material remuneration, but often incurring considerable out-of-pocket expenses in the process. For example, those who went on the USCAK tour of Ukraine in 1991 paid their own way. Finally, let us salute the generous donors within the patriotic Ukrainian community of North America whose contributions made it possible to USCAK to help finance the first baby steps of the sports establishment of newly independent Ukraine.
Petro Bezpalko, a Kyivan journalist and a student of sports in the Ukrainian Diaspora, described USCAK as a unique phenomenon, for which there are no analogs amount the diasporas of other nations.
A unique institution deserves to be well documented and its memory well preserved. Some steps in that direction have been taken already. Published in 1980 was the “Propamyatna Knyha” (“Commemorative Book”) of USCAK, followed in 1997 by “Na Olimpiyskykh Khvylakh” (“On the Olympic Waves”) and in 2002, by a compilation of publications “USCAK and Sports in Ukraine”. All of these books are in Ukrainian, although the last compilation does contain 10 articles in English.
The present “Jubilee Almanach” complements the existing historical record, providing future researchers of Ukrainian sports with a treasure trove of information, and ensuring the remarkable legacy of USCAK a well-deserved place of honor in Ukrainian history. It is hoped that this impressive record will provide added inspiration to present and future generations of Ukrainian sports activists in North America and will energize them to new achievements in the tradition of their predecessors.
While some of the clubs that existed at the time of the founding of USCAK are now defunct, several new ones have sprung up to take their place: “Poltava” – Rochester, NY; “Vatra” – Long Island, NY; “Karpaty” – Ontario, Canada; and the “Stepan Popel Chess Club” – Buffalo, NY. In 2005 there were 16 sports clubs and youth associations affiliated with USCAK, attesting to its vitality. May the Ukrainian Sports Federation of the USA and Canada continue to flourish for another 50 years and beyond!
Written by Dr. Orest Popovych, USCAK Chess Director
ОСНОВНИКИ і ПЕРША УПРАВА
FOUNDERS & FIRST BOARD
Др Едвард Зарскі
Др Михайло Снігурович