Cheers of "Ukraine! Ukraine! Ukraine!" resounded at this year's Olympic games when the Ukrainian Olympians competed against athletes from around the world.
Cheers of "Ukraine! Ukraine! Ukraine!" filled the air when our athletes won gold, silver and bronze medals. For the first time in the history of the modern Olympic games, these athletes were representing their own, independent country -- Ukraine.
The following illustrates some of the highly emotive feelings felt by the participants in the 6th International CYM Ziizd Druzhynnykiv:
Feelings of eagerness -- a real hunger to see all the Olympic events where the Ukrainian athletes were to compete;
Feelings of elation -- elation because we were witnessing our young Ukrainian sportsmen and women competing under the blue and yellow Ukrainian national flag for the first time in history;
Feelings of great satisfaction -- a sense of gratification when we chanced upon events where Ukrainians were competing;
Terrific enthusiasm -- not the fervor of past political demonstrations but a passionate enthusiasm derived from being happy to be Ukrainian and vociferously supporting our Ukraine.
As you can see, a whole gamut of powerful, impassioned feelings reigned. Not least of these - a tremendous pride in being Ukrainian as the national anthem was played on an international forum during the medal ceremonies.
It all began when the intrepid members of the National Executive of the Ukrainian American Youth Association handed over a large sum of money for the Atlanta Olympic Games tickets. From that point in time, there was no turning back on the decision to organize the 6th International CYM Ziizd Druzhynnykiv.
And so began two years of planning to ensure that the participants of the Ziizd had a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime experience taking part in the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta. The members of the planning committee, based in America, were: Chairperson - Lida Mykytyn, Members - Jessica Bodniewicz, Stepha Hryckowian, Krys Kosz, George Mykytyn, Jurij Priatka, Tania Sawa, and Christina Jancew.
Participants drove and flew in to Atlanta from all corners of the globe - Australia, England, Canada, Germany, France, America and (for the first time) from Ukraine. All in all, 107 young adults took part. They came to the Ziizd not only to have a good time (which they did) but also to see Ukrainians competing, for the first time, for their own country.
At 2:00 p.m. on the 19th of July 1996 the Ziizd was opened with CYM's greeting "Chest Ukrainy! Hotov Boronyty!" by the Chairperson of the Planning Committee Lida Mykytyn. Lida then handed the reigns over to the Komandant of the Ziizd - Halyna Holowka from Montreal, Canada. Having welcomed everyone, Halyna then took on the colossal responsibility of coordinating the day-to-day program of events and outings. In other words, there was plenty of work for everyone. To go to the games or on any outings, the participants had to travel in organized groups in cars, minibuses and coaches. Sometimes they would start out as early as 6.00 a.m. and return (not necessarily in the same vehicle) at 2.00 a.m. Coordinating the daily travel arrangements of around eight groups of people, in an area where you would be stranded without prearranged transport, was very demanding. All of the members of the committee helped out in running the show.
The Ziizd Staff (komanda) consisted of the following people: camp master - Ivan Makar /USA/, women's coordinator - Christina Jancew /USA/, men's coordinator - Michael Bycko /USA/, secretary - Peter Kosciolek /USA/, athletic director - Larysa Lubka /Canada/, in additional to the members of the Planning Committee listed above.
The participants of the Ziizd stayed on the campus of West Georgia College in Carrollton, Georgia, about 100 km from Atlanta. This was about an hour and half's drive from Atlanta airport. Around 75 people flew in for the Ziizd, arriving between Wednesday 17th July to Saturday 20th July. Stepha Hryckowian not only arranged all the pick-ups from the airport, but met most of the new arrivals herself. You couldn't possibly get to know everyone at the Ziizd but kind-hearted Stepha was the exception, bidding each person farewell on their departure as well.
Having arrived on campus, some of the sumivtsi decided that it would be fun to explore. The grounds were indeed extensive with some 30 buildings - lecture, food and sports halls, dormitories, auditoriums, a swimming pool and over 10 sports fields. It seemed as if the grounds extended over 2 km whereas in reality, it was more like 1 km. And so some of the braver girls went on a "short" walk and - got hopelessly lost. But the school security guards gladly brought the wanderers back.
On the next full day of the Ziizd, sports competitions were organized for all the participants. The day could not have possibly gone by without some sort of a hitch! A group of volunteers set up the volleyball nets on one court whilst all the sumivtsi taking part in the tournament turned up at another one. Eventually, after an hour's ride round the campus they all found each other and the nets were put up on the right court. These sports activities took place during the day and in the evening there was a friendly get-together. This was held to give everyone a chance to get to know each other before they all started going off to see the Olympic events.
On the first Friday of the Ziizd, everyone watched the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on television. We were joined by some of the athletes from the Ukrainian Olympic Team who were staying in our dormitory (Carrollton was the official training base of the Ukrainian Olympic Team). We were not just passively watching any old program on the television, but impatiently awaiting the appearance of the Ukrainian athletes carrying the Ukrainian national flag. For the first time, in the renewed Olympic Games, we would actually see Ukraine taking part as an independent nation!
These feelings of joy and eager anticipation carried over to the next day when we all went to watch a game of Olympic baseball. Unfortunately, Ukraine was not competing but some of us joined in by supporting the Japanese team which was playing against Cuba.
From Monday to Friday we were spectators at various Olympic sports: volleyball, basketball, athletics, Greco-Roman wrestling, gymnastics, judo, shot-put, shooting, swimming, tennis, beach volleyball et cetera. Luckiest of all were those who had managed to see Ukrainians competing. One of these was our camp master, Ivan Makar, who not only saw Lilia Podkopaeva win the gold medal in the women's gymnastics but also witnessed the raising of the Ukrainian national flag and the playing of the national anthem at an international event. In addition, he was also lucky enough to catch some lovely flowers thrown by her. He will obviously treasure these memories for many years to come.
On the days when the sumivtsi did not have tickets to see any of the Olympic games, they had an opportunity to go on outings such as: horse-riding; rowing; visiting an adventure park or a winery. The most popular activity proved to be canoeing . People went canoeing not only on fine sunny days but on days when the Southern weather was trying to do its worst. Even the rain and storms did not stop our hardy sumivtsi from enjoying themselves.
On Tuesday evening, everyone turned up for the Southern Ho-Down. They were tired - either from the intensive program of activities or from the heat. But nearly everyone came to life when the instructor started to teach them how to dance Southern-style. His enthusiasm and vitality were so infectious that no-one sat out. Even the intense heat could not put a stop to the energetic dancing.
On Friday evening, we sat round a "pretend" (due to yet another storm) camp-fire and commemorated the following anniversaries:
50 years of CYM activity in the Diaspora;
10 years since the tragic Chornobyl nuclear accident;
5 years of Ukrainian independence.
In the dark, the members of the staff held lit candles whilst Tania and Nadia Sawa sang the prayer "Hail Mary". We honored the memories of our departed brothers and sisters - the innocent victims of the Chornobyl tragedy who could not be with us to celebrate neither 50 years of CYM in the Diaspora nor 5 years of Ukrainian independence. This official part of the evening was followed by some light-hearted entertainment and games. In a game of "Blind Date", Boyan was lucky enough to get a kiss from the women's director. The young men from Cleveland, Ohio and Ukraine kept everyone entertained with funny sketches and jokes.
Towards the end of the Ziizd, Ehven Cholij, Chairman of the CYM World Executive, paid us a visit. He lead an interesting discussion on "The future of our organization". Everyone had an opportunity to voice an opinion, to exchange their views and to focus on how we could improve our work with Ukrainian youth under the motto of "God and Ukraine".
On Saturday, all the attendees and guests arrived for the "farewell evening" which was held in a lovely hall called Maple Street Mansion. The evening began with cocktails at 6.00 p.m. At 7.00 p.m., the organizer of this event, Jessica Bodniewicz, gave a short speech and then handed over the reigns to Iryna Shust. Next, the Komandant of the Ziizd, Halyna Holowka, thanked: the members of the planning committee for their initiative; the staff for their good teamwork; and all the druzhynnyky for making it a successful camp. She then bid a final farewell to everyone. The evening's enjoyment was enriched by Larysa Yurchyniuk's dancing and the singing of a mixed vocal group with accordion accompaniment played by Stefan Holowka.
Everyone then sat down to a very good dinner. During the meal, at the request of those present, Stefan went from table to table playing Ukrainian folk tunes. After dinner, the partying and dancing carried on into the early hours of the morning.
As luck would have it, the 10 days flew by too quickly. Those days of the very successful 6th International CYM Ziizd Druzhynnykiv, were filled with a rich and varied program. This included not only attendance at the Olympic games but other outings and visits. Yet the most treasured moments were when those present were lucky enough to be spectators at Olympic events - seeing Ukraine competing for the first time under its blue and yellow national flag; athletes winning gold medals and, for the first time, bringing glory to their homeland, independent Ukraine!
Such an occasion arises once in a lifetime and that is why the participants of the 6th International CYM Ziizd Druzhynnykiv were very lucky. Lucky not only because they made new friends but because they were at a Ziizd during an historic period for Ukraine. Maybe sometime soon we can all meet again - in America once more, at the next Olympics in Australia in the year 2000 or even, one day, in our homeland with Ukraine hosting the Olympic games and welcoming guests from all over the world onto its native soil.
Here's to a wonderful reunion at the next Olympics!
This article first appeared in the Sep/Oct 1996 issue of Krylati. Translated from Ukrainian into English by Daria Bebko-Bilan