Project

Little Ukraine: US Immigrants in Anastasia Vlasova’s Project

Anastasia found three Ukrainians who left for the US from 15 to 65 years ago and was surprised to discover they still live as if they had never left.

Anastasia Vlasova, 22

Kyiv Post newspaper photographer, EPA freelancer. Magnum Foundation Fellowship program participant.

This story started out of pure curiosity, but eventually became personal for me. People of my generation in Ukraine are used to hearing from their parents that Ukraine is not the best country to live in and that life in the West is better, so we need to emigrate when we grow up and graduate. I was curious about the better life of those who did emigrate. And I was surprised to discover that they still cherish and build their own personal Ukraines.



Jerry

Yaroslav (Jerry) Skripets is 69. He is half-Ukrainian and half-Polish. Jerry was born in Germany, and soon his parents moved to America and settled in New York. Jerry still keeps Ukrainian symbols that he inherited from his parents, he easily changes the language of conversation to Ukrainian and spends all of his free time in a Ukrainian sports club in the East Village.


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Jerry lives in his imaginary world – the walls of his apartment are decorated with rushnyks (Ukrainian embroidered towels), old photographs of his parents, newspaper clippings that are a mixture of Klitschko brothers and naked women. He listens to ABBA songs on an old tape recorder, easily starts dancing even when alone in the quietness of the Ukrainian sports club and he can’t wait to get his “Obama money”, meaning his pension. He does not remember where his mother was born or where his Ukrainian relatives live, but every Sunday he goes to St. George Church in Manhattan and he proudly declares “I am Ukrainian!”


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Daria

Everybody knows Daria Genza in Ukrainian Manhattan. She is originally from Skole, a town near Stryi. Her family moved out of Ukraine when she was five. Daria spent seven years in Germany, where she learned Ukrainian folk dancing. When she moved to America in 1953, she continued dancing. Daria’s husband was a dancer too – together they started “Verkhovyntsi”, a Ukrainian folk dance ensemble in New York.


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Daria has been dancing her whole life, and after she finished her career at the ensemble, she started teaching children Ukrainian folk dance at the school at St. George Church in Manhattan. When it became too difficult to dance, she started teaching children folk songs. Nowadays, Daria still comes to every class of Svitlychka children’s Saturday school that she started in 1971 with the Ukrainian Women’s Association of New York to spend the time with the children.


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From the beginning of Euromaidan protests to the present, Daria has been sending packages with humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

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Halyna

Halyna Fedchenko still counts the days and months of her stay in America. She moved on May 26, 2011 when she was 30. She recalls how important it was for her as a new immigrant to celebrate Orthodox Christmas with her immigrant friends, how she found a didukh (Ukrainian Christmas decoration) in a shop on Long Island, and how she loves coming to Ukrainian holiday celebrations on Staten Island. When the Euromaidan protests started, Halyna actively participated in them in New York.


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In 2014, Oleh, Halyna’s policeman cousin from Ternopil, went to fight in ATO. Oleh has already had three rotations and now he is waiting for a fourth one. Halyna and Oleh talk on Skype every day when he is on rotation. Once, during the call, Halyna heard a loud explosion very close to Oleh. She complains that it is hard when your cousin is somewhere in the trenches under shelling and you live so far away and are safe.


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