A visit to western North Dakota

Mail in rural north dakota
Mail in rural north dakota on the way to the homestead
Original North Dakota Homestead from the 19th century Sod house







It is interesting how in life you make plans to have an effect on an event and in the end the event has an effect on you. Well that is exactly what happened to me.

I have learned so much since having been invited to speak at the Ukrainian Festival here in Dickinson, ND that I can’t begin to tell you how impressed, pleasantly surprised and happy I am to have been a part of it.
I came with the intent to explain what I saw and experienced in our ancestral homeland Ukraine this past year, well actually since December 2013. I toiled over how much to say and how much not to say so as to leave a clear picture in the peoples’ minds of what is and has been really happening in Ukraine. There were other excellent speakers who spoke of Ukraine’s dilemma in relation to its big powerful neighbor on the east, Russia.
Growing up in New Haven, Ct. in a Ukrainian community I was sure I was well informed about all our “hromady” and emigre passions. Well I was wrong. I never knew about this community in North Dakota. Not only did I not know about it, I never even heard about it until I visited Ellis Island with my grand daughter and saw a big picture of Ukrainian Immigrants standing in front of their tiny church on a hill  a few years ago. It was a picture from North Dakota. i said to my grand daughter someday we will go see that church and that hill.

Well a few years went by, life took me to Kyiv Maidan and the events in Ukraine that lead up to war with Russia now. Little did I know, that these events would lead me to Dickinson, ND in 2015 but they did. Those who attended my presentation know what I have experienced, but I would like to briefly share my experience with you that I have had over the past few days. I visited the UCI (Ukrainian Cultural Institute, Dickinson, ND), the University, the churches, the cemeteries, and Agnes Palanuk who is author of “Ukrainians in North Dakota In Their Voices”. Members of the community lent me a car to use and invited me to see the place they lived in which stretches for miles and miles. Col. Dolenko the military attache from the Ukrainian Embassy was here as well. On the last evening of the festival we were summing up our thoughts and experiences and we came to this conclusion;
This “hromada” this community this Parish of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and Ukrainian Orthodox Church, are a unique “Hromada” unlike any other in the world. It may be similar to the communities in Parana Brazil, or Misiones Argentina, or Western Canada, but because this was in the United States it has it’s own character. After 1861 when slavery was abolished in Ukraine there were millions of peasants without land and work. The rulers were the Tsars in the East and Austrians in the west. The Austrians weren’t as domineering as the Tsars but they too were rulers over Ukrainians in Ukrainian lands. The Ukrainian peasants owned nothing, had little if any land, the countryside was populous and families weren’t able to feed their children or provide a home. Between 1870 and 1914 hundreds of thousands left Ukraine from the Dnister Bukovyna areas mainly, and nad Dniprianshchyna in Central Ukraine. These are the people who came to North Dakota to homestead in 1896 via Europe, Canada and Winnipeg, and some from Eastern USA. Agnes Palanuk’s family dates back to one of the first settlers from Ukraine in North Dakota from Halychyna where the Zbruch River meets Dnister. Her grandmother came with her husband and little daughter in 1897. That little daughter Paraska (Polly) is Agnes’ mother.

We were shown the land that these Ukrainian families own. They stretch as far as the eye can see. They are beautiful. They are farmed with sunflowers, wheat, canola, and more….. The hay is bailed now and looks beautiful on the plains. Since 1950 oil wells have been found. The land that was so difficult to plow and seed and reap, is now plentiful and has made our Ukrainians comfortable.

The first families lived in sod houses (a style of building they knew from Ukraine), and those houses still speck the landscape. They don’t speak of addresses here, they speak of the Palaniuk, the Havreluk, the Gregory etc homestead. This is how they settled and build North Dakota. They got 160 acres of land, and had to live on it. This broke the tradition of  “selo” (village) in Ukraine since now they would be surrounded by the fields and not neighboring houses. In Ukraine the villages  were surrounded by the fields. Often the first settlers experienced loneliness, especially the women. Within 5 years 40 acres had to be farmed so as not to lose the homestead. They pitched in and helped each other. To plow and seed 40 acres of grassland often without a horse  was not an easy task. They had no money to start with so many didn’t have a horse. They did all the work by hand.
Today these families own Western North Dakota and rightfully so. They have mineral rights for their land, and they continue to hold onto it in their families and in their community. This is America. This was cultivated and cared for and cherished by immigrants from Ukraine. No other community in the United States has this quality. This is their bat’kiwshchyna (homeland). Ukraine is in their hearts.
Halyna Klymuk
July 21, 2015
Dickinson, ND

featured image is my friend Agnes Palanyuk standing in front of her Aunt’s house saying Welcome   “Zakhodit'”     so I did.   Agnes was the local teacher and would stop by her Aunt’s house here on her way to the school house. She was on horse at the time………

The meaning of DP (Displaced Persons) camp to Ukrainians

Mama Orysia Kowalchuk Tato Wasyl Klymuk (Oleh) and Me August 1950 Regensburg Germany. Green Card Picture for Immigration to USA. New Life begins………….
Ukrainian school in Rheine Camp 1946. Westphalin Germany British zone there is a story
Один з перших СУМ таборів в Німеччині 1948 або 1949 у Шонґау. Більшість учасників табору були з Анґлійської зони на півночі. One of the first CYM camps in Germany 1949. A vykhovnyk (counselor) was Bandera.
Oseredok CYM Dusseldorf in Shongau.1955
Oseredok CYM Dusseldorf in Shongau.1955

The post War Emigration from Ukraine to the world via Germany and what made German Hromady different……..

Many younger people don’t understand so I tried to write it down simply for my friend’s daughter who asked.

There were millions of people in DP camps and out of DP camps in Germany after WWII. Many many of them were Ukrainians. Since Ukraine did not exist this was the first place they were able to register not as Poles, not at Soviets or Russians, but as Ukrainians. It was here that they had Ukrainian schools, Ukrainian trade schools, churches, plast and CYM, theater, drama gymnasia, and music, all in Ukrainian. That hadn’t happened before. They escaped and got their first wif of freedom in the American and British zones. It wasn’t all hunky dori, because there was spying and killing and sending back etc. but it was from here they moved to all over the world.

Australia, South America, England, France, Belgium, Canada and last but not least to the USA. Many who left Germany after 1950 were on their way to the USA or Canada or they had to stay. Who stayed? My father in law said , the bandyty the prostitutky and the sick. My father in law belonged to the sick. 75% of his lungs were not working because of the conditions in the coals mines in Dortmund. He was an ostarbeiter which means slave laborer from the east.

Australia like England were new and they built up quickly and sustained themselves more or less, Australia was simply far from Europe. They worked bought property and built schools churches and narodni domy. South America had old iimmigrations but they were poor and tried to go to America. Many did. The Venezuelan one is just about gone unless there are new people there and then there is Argentina and Brazil with surviving hromady to this day. Canada and the church work with them.

The USA and Canada have old emigrations from Austrian times in the late 1800’s. They were basically economic but after WWI political as well. They built churches schools and narodni domy that still stand today. They came to stay and really were not going to go back. Some did but few.

The hromady in France are old as well. Petlura was in France. They are the debaters and the talkers. They will talk you to death at the dinner table and don’t be surprised to have 6 opinions among 4 people all talking at once. It is lovely and normal. I loved being a guest in France. Especially at the Mitrovych house.

Belgium were the holders of the fort. They all worked hard, and educated their kids. I was so happy to go back two years ago and find all my junaky were lawyers, doctors, scientists, teachers, honest workers and more. I have always admired and been fond of the hromady in Belgium. In Holland there were unique families of strong individuals namely Kushpeta and Antonovych. These two families and a few others put Ukraine on the Dutch map.

Now we come to Germany;

Germany never bought any property or buildings. They watched as the people left from 1945 to 1965. It was a depletion of people from year to year. They felt the Germans and the diaspora owed them because they got out or because they were Germans. So everything Ukrainian was paid for by kultur amt, and social amt etc. most people did not work or they worked on zeppelinstr or dachauerstr or isarring 11. This too was money from the govt or diaspora. This makes for a weak group. They felt they were the chosen politicians of Ukraine and immediate connection to the east. They kind of were. This created an aura of we are special. I was very shocked to observe this when I married and moved to Germany in 1977.

I lived there from 1977 to 96 and kept telling them if they don’t buy a domiwka, if they don’t buy a ploshcha if they don’t buy a church they will disappear. This was the plan of the Germans. Look at your church on Shoengau str. or whatever I forgot already. Take off the dome and you have an instant Walmart. It was a plan. We already lost Krefeld which Sheptytskyj bought, and Essen and Ratingen and Braunschweig and Regensburg and I don’t know what is in Duesseldorf anymore. I don’t know about Hannover or Hamburg now either. They were pretty strong and I think the pravoslavni and katolyky actually bought their own church in Hannover.

So that is why “Uli” your German hromada looks different now than the rest of the world. It is the old capitalist philosophy Money talks where nobody walks. The Hromada in Germany never had ownershipl They supposedly wanted to go back to Ukraine. but they died or were murdered by the Russian KGB….. the young ones don’t really know what happened. Someone should write a history, because the whole diaspora in the world began in Germany…… so it is an interesting phenomena …..

There were hromady in Poland, Czech Republic, old Yugoslavia that one was mainly funded by Rome. But I don’t know much about them…. I know they go back to WWI and Ruskyj Krstur to 1750 or so. They were economic migrations under Austria. Maybe others will fill in…

Post Script next day Oct. 5th 2014.

The sad thing about Germany is they had tons of money from the USA and Canada and England and Australia diaspora. they spent it and bought nothing. I think Slava bought Yaroslaviv Val in Kyiv with some of the money. But the people who buzzed around in Munich spent it frivolously in my opinion. They don’t have a piece of land in germany they can call their own. That is shameful.

Moral of the story is If you own property you have a chance at survival That is why Ukraine is fighting for it’s land because it belongs to Ukraine. Israel fights for its land because they say God gave it to them. The USA fights for its land because the founding fathers said they should. So in Germany whatever the reason may have been resulted in the fact that there is no ownership and this lead a a weakened hromada. Simple lesson learned from downtown New York. Those that bought their buildings like Surmach and Bachynsky , resulted in their businesses surviving. Those that paid rent, couldn’t any more, and thus were forced to close. The Ukrainian store Arka folded, and Orchidea the infamous Orchidea which was home to hanging out for decades folded it simply became to expensive. There is something to be had for real estate and ownership…….

Halya Klymuk
October 2014