The Ukrainian Weekly, November 19, 2006
Ukrainians in North Carolina Organize New Association
by Oleh Wolowyna
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The number of Ukrainians in North Carolina has experienced a
significant increase in the last 15 years. According to the 1990 and 2000 censuses, the
number of persons of Ukrainian ancestry in North Carolina increased from 4,900 in 1990 to
about 9,600 in 2000 – an increase of 100 percent.
For 2004, the latest data available, the Census Bureau estimates that there were 11,400
persons of Ukrainian ancestry in North Carolina. In other words, in the last four years, the
number of persons of Ukrainian ancestry in North Carolina increased by 1,800.
These numbers are likely to be underestimates, as some persons of Ukrainian ancestry and
recent immigrants may have not reported their ancestry on the census form, or were
reluctant to fill out the census forms (recent immigrants).
Census data from 2000 show that the highest concentrations are found in two Metropolitan
Areas (MA): Charlotte-Gastonia and Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, with about 2,500 in each
MA, followed by the MA of Greensboro-Winston Salem-High Point with 1,400.
An attempt to organize Ukrainians in the state was made in 1989, when an association
named Southern Ukrainians was formed under the leadership of Paul Wasylkewycz. The
major activity of the association was participation in the yearly International Festival held in
the state’s capital, Raleigh, with a cultural exhibit. The association also featured during the
festival the Lyman Ukrainian dancers from Baltimore, and their performance was a huge
success. To this day persons associated with the International Festival talk about the
Ukrainian dancers. Unfortunately, the association was not able to gather momentum and
ceased to exist after about three years.
In the last 10 years a significant number of immigrants from Ukraine settled in North
Carolina. Probably due to job opportunities in universities and high-tech companies in the
state, there are quite a few professionals among these immigrants. This “Fourth Wave” was
a key element in the creation of the Ukrainian Association of North Carolina in the Triangle
Area (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill).
In August of 2005 a group of “new” immigrants from Ukraine suggested the creation of an
association of Ukrainians in North Carolina. An informal committee of “new” and “old”
immigrants was formed, and after several meetings it was decided to create the association
in October of 2005. Officers were elected, a website was set up (http://ncua.inform-decisions.
com) and the association was registered as a non-profit organization in the State of North
It is interesting to point out the composition of the officers of the association: four new
immigrants, three post-World War II immigrants (one of them of Ukrainian-Polish ancestry)
and one American-born. Thus the association was able to integrate Americans and both
new and old immigrants.
It should be noted that the website is a valuable communication and advertising tool. It is an
efficient way to inform members, as well as the larger community, about the association and
its activities. It also helps the group find new members in the state, as almost every week the
association receives e-mails from Ukrainians, Ukrainian Americans and Americans, who want
Among American members the association has former Peace Corps volunteers who served
in Ukraine, families who adopted orphans from Ukraine, and persons who worked in Ukraine
in various capacities. Currently the association has a list of more than 100 families, mostly
from the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, although there are members also from other
cities in North Carolina and a few from South Carolina.
Although the association is only one year old, it has been quite active. Its first major activity
was participation in the 2005 International Festival held in Raleigh. More than 30 ethnic
groups in the Triangle area participate in the festival with cultural exhibits, folk dances and
ethnic food stands.
The Ukrainian Association of North Carolina set up a cultural exhibit with traditional
embroideries, wood carvings, Easter eggs and folk costumes. The theme of the 2005 exhibit
was: “Welcome to Ukraine,” and the exhibit was designed to inform visitors about Ukraine, its
culture and history. A map of Europe helped place Ukraine within the continent, and a
detailed map of Ukraine served as a geographic and historic reference. A continuous slide
show presented pictures of the different regions of Ukraine, of famous Ukrainian Americans
(artists, athletes, etc.), and of the Orange Revolution.
The exhibit was quite a success. Although it was a first for the association, it was one of the
best exhibits at the annual festival. It attracted hundreds of visitors, who had a chance to
admire Ukrainian culture and learn about Ukraine. It also served to advertise the association
and during the festival 18 new names were added to the membership rolls.
Cultural exhibits were also organized at the International Festival in Morrisville, N.C., and at
the Exploris museum in Raleigh. A special exhibit about Ukrainian Easter eggs, with a live
demonstration, was also presented at the Exploris museum.
A small but enthusiastic contingent of Ukrainians in Fayetteville, N.C., marches every year at
the Fayetteville International Festival with Ukrainian flags and dressed in national costumes.
Members of the Ukrainian Association of North Carolina joined them this year and last year.
Thanks to the association’s website, contacts were established with local Baptist churches
that have been working for years with orphans in Ukraine. Last December they hosted a
group of orphans from Berdiansk, Zaporizhzhia Oblast, and many local families expressed
the desire to adopt these children. Members of the association greeted the children,
informed them about Ukrainians in the United States, and helped the organizers and
prospective parents with Ukrainian-English translations. The association also participated in
a fund-raiser for orphans in Ukraine organized by a church in Landis, N.C.
Bishop Robert Moskal, the Ukrainian-Catholic eparch of Parma, Ohio, visited the state to
explore the possibility of organizing a Ukrainian Catholic parish. He celebrated a Ukrainian
liturgy at a Catholic church in Raleigh and met with a group of Ukrainians to discuss the idea
of building a church in North Carolina.
Bishop Moskal promised his support to this endeavor, and steps are being taken to find a
suitable place for the future parish and to assign a Ukrainian priest to organize the parish.
One of the most important events organized by the association was the celebration of
Ukraine’s Independence Day. More than 60 persons attended this year’s celebration, a
picnic by a lake, including several persons from cities outside the Triangle area. This was an
excellent opportunity for members to get to know each other and establish new
relationships. Recent immigrants from Ukraine, transplants from large communities in the
North, American-born and old immigrants all found common ground and had the opportunity
to build bridges of understanding.
The Ukrainian Association of North Carolina is an interesting experiment in trying to blend
two very different cultures and perspectives: the new immigrants and the natives plus the old
immigrants. The group is continuously looking for common interests and complementarities.
It is not easy to blend these very different perspectives, but the experience of one year is
encouraging. Time will tell if this will become a sustainable reality.
* * *
The officers of the association are: Oleh Wolowyna, president; Iryna Fastovets, vice-
president; Vasyl Shymoniak, vice-president; Olya Sydorovych, Ukrainian secretary; Carrie
Lynn, English secretary; Richard Unkiewicz, treasurer; Maryna Kapustina, webmaster; and
Rostyk Lewyckyj, member.
For information readers may contact Dr. Wolowyna at 919-933-6428 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or
Mr. Lewyckyj at 919-967-6163 or email@example.com.