Philadelphia, Pa.—The Ukrainian-American community of the Greater Philadelphia area observed the 25th Anniversary of Ukraine’s independence on Wednesday, August 24, in an outdoor ceremony on the North Broad Street area of Philadelphia City Hall.
The Most Reverend Metropolitan Archbishop Stefan Soroka, of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia offered the closing prayer, praying for Ukraine and all who lost their lives defending Ukrainian independence and sovereignty.
Philadelphia Mayor James F. Kenney, after receiving the traditional Ukrainian bread and salt greeting of hospitality from performers of the Voloshky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble read the official City of Philadelphia Ukrainian Independence Day proclamation.
The proclamation was accepted from Mayor Kenney by the Honorable Ihor Sybiha, Consul General of Ukraine in New York, who addressed the audience.
Greetings were offered by the Honorable Michael G. Fitzpatrick, Co-chair of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus; Colonel Bob DeSousa, State Director, Office of Senator Pat Toomey; the Honorable Julius Pranevičius, Consul General of the Republic of Lithuania in New York and the Honorable Ayla Bakkalli, Representative of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis at the United Nations, Adviser to the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations on Indigenous Matters
Dr. Zenia Chernyk, president of the Ukrainian Federation of America, which organized the event, gave words of welcome, after being introduced by Roman Petyk, Esq. who served as Master of Ceremonies.
The national anthems of both the United States and Ukraine were sung by Yuliya Stupen, and the Ukrainian flag was raised at City Hall.
After Metropolitan Soroka’s prayer, children released blue and yellow helium-filled balloons that slowly drifted aloft into the Philadelphia sky marking the Ukrainian Independence celebration.
The following is the closing prayer offered by Metropolitan Stefan:
We humbly bow our heads to You, Lord, in heartfelt gratitude for Your sign of hope for a people long suffering under oppression of persecution under communism, and war and occupation by a foreign neighbor.
Thank you for Your presence and blessings with all who have gathered this day here in this City of Brotherly Love to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence. We are grateful for the efforts and dedication of those who raise their voice in support of Ukraine.
We pray for the freedom of all people in this world, that all may taste release from oppression and subjugation. A quarter century ago, Ukrainians rose from despair with hope as a free and independent nation.
Help us Americans to continue to peel the hope of the Liberty Bell in the hearts and minds of all who strive for freedom. Recall for us how our freedoms came with time and patience as our independent nation journeyed on its path of maturation. We recall the gradual process beginning with the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the Articles of Confederation in 1781 and the Constitution in 1787, and then amended with the addition of the First Ten Amendments, the Bill of Rights in 1791. We recall how our nation experienced growing pains as it designed the structure and implemented the ideal of self-government.
We recall the words of our first President, George Washington, when he observed, “Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth”. Grant, Lord, much patience and perseverance to the leadership and people of Ukraine as they mature in their democracy. Help all to be patient, good listeners, and enablers of a solid democracy. Allow no one to fall into despair and frustration, but persevere with optimism and hope. Inspire Ukrainians and Americans to sustain one another with steadfast efforts and hope to attain the liberty which You, Lord, desire for Ukraine and for all people of the world.
Lord, like the Psalmist, we too cry out to You to listen to the plea of Ukrainians for help from today’s oppressors. Ukraine has already been invaded in Crimea and its invaders have now amassed a huge invading army on its borders.
Lord, You have received the souls of over 10,000 soldiers and civilians who have died defending Ukraine. Grant them a place in Your eternal Kingdom for their ultimate gift of sacrifice of life in defense of others.
Thousands of civilians have been wounded and have become refugees. Grant Your healing to all who suffer. The celebrated liberty of a nation, Ukraine, is again being challenged, a challenge which will impact the freedom loving people of neighboring countries in Europe who have also released themselves from the captivity of communism.
Past atrocities and oppression of peoples often are enabled by the silence of other nations, and the silence of the respected voice of the media. We recall the souls of over 8 million people who died of a forced starvation by Stalin in the Holodomor in Ukraine in 1932-33. The world remained silent and the media made only a brief comment as to malnutrition occurring in Ukraine at that time. Lord, do not permit us Americans to be complicit in yet another developing subjugation of a people and a nation’s territory by remaining silent. Lord, we cry out to you for help from our oppressors in Ukraine. Inspire all of us to vigorously protest the threat of liberty to Ukraine and to all people of the world. It is our obligation as we celebrate and value our own freedoms here in these United States of America.
Lord, we as Americans offer heartfelt gratitude for the liberties and gifts You so generously pour upon this nation and its people. We are a people of hope. Direct us, Lord, to generously share that same hope and optimism with Ukrainians in Ukraine, those living here in the cradle of liberty in this City of Philadelphia, and throughout the world who today celebrate the 25th anniversary of Independence in Ukraine.
I conclude with the words of prayer offered by the Ukrainian poet, Taras Shevchenko, “O Lord, Grant us leave to live! We have faith in Your power and living spirit! Truth will arise! Freedom will arise! And to You alone, will all the tongues bow down, for ever and ever,” Amen.
Slava Ukraiini! Glory to Ukraine!
Rev. John M. Fields