Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ukrainian Immigration to the US

The 2000 United States Census lists 862,762 persons of Ukrainian ancestry. ( However, there were some problems with the methodology of the census, and individuals who used historical or geographic terms to identify themselves were counted with other groups. Many individuals identified their country of origin (such as Russia, Poland, or Austria) rather than their ethnic background. As a result, some demographers estimate that there are actually between one and two million Americans of Ukrainian background.

States with the largest Ukrainian-American populations include:

1. New York- 148,700
2. Pennsylvania- 122,291
3. California- 83,125
4. New Jersey- 73,809
5. Illinois- 47,623

Michigan actually comes in the top ten, with a count of about 46,350.

My grandfather emigrated from Ukraine to the United States in 1950.

Between the World Wars, when the Holodomor took place, Ukrainians in the U.S. sent aid to their countrymen, but it was refused by the Soviet Government. Another wave of executions in Ukraine and other parts of the Soviet Union was carried out in 1937-38 by Stalin. However, during the period between the World Wars, immigration as a whole was restricted by the ''Red Scare,'' isolationism, and largely by the quota system. An estimated figure of between 20,000 to 40,000 Ukrainians arrived in the U.S. during the interwar time.

In 1948, the US Congress passed the Displaced Persons Act, permitting hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to come to the United States. According to many sources, this was during the third major “wave” of emigration. At the end of World War II, there were about 4 million Ukrainian displaced persons in Europe. Some were ex-prisoners of War from the Soviet Army, some were actual survivors of Nazi Concentration Camps, but the vast majority were those forcibly taken from their homeland to Austria and Germany as laborers during the War. Most of these immigrants settled in major cities on the Atlantic seaboard and in the Midwest.

My grandparents settled and raised their family in Northern New Jersey. Growing up, I experienced Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Ukrainian holiday traditions. My grandfather and his sisters became part of a closelyknit Ukrainian community, so I decided to research some of the organizations in the area.

The Ukrainian American Cultural Center of New Jersey is located in northern New Jersey. The Cultural Center’s purpose is to provide facilities for the preservation of Ukrainian heritage and culture, and to promote and conduct educational and social programs for persons of Ukrainian descent and for the community at large. The facility is needed to support many Ukrainian organizations, groups and activities including Saturday morning language and heritage classes, youth and adult religious education, youth organizations and scouting groups, dancing groups and music programs, senior citizen programs, youth sports club activities, etc.

Another interesting place I found is the New Ukrainian School. The New Ukrainian School is dedicated to teaching the Ukrainian language, history, culture and religion to students ranging from kindergarten through twelfth grade. According to its website, the mission of the New Ukrainian School is “to promote, support, conduct and maintain educational programs, especially for, but not limited to, American youth of Ukrainian descent. The focus is on the rich cultural heritage of the Ukrainian people.”

I find it interesting that there remains such a rich tradition and desire to continue Ukrainian culture even in today’s world. However, I was not extremely surprised to find all of these resources. My grandparents continue to participate in a large community of Ukrainian Americans. I have always enjoyed being able to attend traditional holiday services at a Ukrainian Orthodox Church. My parents were even married in a “traditional” Ukrainian wedding. I think it’s extremely important to learn about one’s heritage, and I hope that I can pass it along to my own children. Though America is often referred to as a "melting pot", I enjoy the fact that I can experience communities in which the culture of the residents' homeland is vibrant and thriving.

*This is my third post, to make-up for missing the field trip



John Danna said...

That's actually very cool that so many Ukrainians live in those states. I thought Michigan would be higher up due to all the people of Ukrainian descent I've met here in Michigan. I don't find it hard to believe that the number is much higher than reported. The census system is not very accurate in the first place and I'm glad so many were able to escape the atrocities of Stalin's regime.

mpokora said...

This particular blog caught my eye. It seems there are many of us in this course that have similar family histories. Laura's example of Ukrainian heritage is quite similar to my own.

All of my family were labeled as displaced persons after the War, and began arriving around 1950.
Many Ukrainians came to America in waves, with family members leaving and setting in American cities one by one, sending home money to bring their relatives over as well.
Upon hearing of the auto industry in Detroit, my family on my Mother's side headed directly from Ukraine to Michigan to seek work and a new life. Many of them were members of Western Ukraine's short lived independent government in 1920, & also managed to survive the famine and WWII. All have since moved from the Detroit area over the years.
My other set of Grandparents were Kulaks, chased from Ukraine by the Red Army. Many of my relatives were killed during this time, but my grandparents landed up in Northern New Jersey (Clifton) (with others going to New York City). They, too, joined a large Ukrainian community and Church, with all the children attending Ukrainian school, Ukrainian scouting (Plast) and anything else one could devote time to just 'being Ukrainian'.

Clearly, just from the students in this class, we can see the impact of Ukrainian immigration after the War. To me, this is pretty exciting.

Emma Goss said...

I looked around for other Ukrainian communities in the US and apparently there are large populations of Ukrainians in some of the southern states. The Ukrainian Congress Community of America, or the UCCA, visited centers like the one in New Jersey but in Atlanta, Georgia and North Port, Florida in 1994. The community in Atlanta is apparently growing. They have a Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox Church and a Saturday school system for children also to accommodate the new influx of Ukrainian immigrants. To learn more about this visit, check out this website:

eurofreak05 said...

The Ukrainian experience reflects what many immigrants from Eastern Europe lived through. I myself am an immigrant. My family and I immigrated from Poland to the United States over a decade ago. Our experience was probably less romantic than that of previous generations. We were not fleeing persecussion, genocide, war, famine, or poverty. We did not get here through a third country or on a boat. I did not see the Statue of Liberty till I was already living here for a couple of years. Yet in a way all immigrants share a common experience- trying to fit into the mosaic of American yet at the same time trying to hold on to customs and language. I really appreciate your post because it resonates so personally with me.