Ukrainian Congress Committee of America

Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (Український конґресовий комітет Америки; Ukrainskyi kongresovyi komitet Ameryky, or УККА; UKKA). An umbrella organization of Ukrainian civic associations in the United States of America founded at the First Congress of Ukrainian Americans in Washington, DC, on 25 May 1940. Its chief promoters were four fraternal insurance associations: the Ukrainian National Association (UNA), the Ukrainian Workingmen’s Association (see Ukrainian Fraternal Association [UFA]), the Providence Association of Ukrainian Catholics in America, and the Ukrainian National Aid Association of America. Besides them the committee represented, in 1980, about 70 political, social, scholarly, professional, economic, religious, women’s, young people’s, and veterans’ organizations of a national status and 65 local branches. By 1990 membership had dropped to 42 organizations in 67 local branches as a result of a major rift and the establishment of the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council, a rival representative organization for Ukrainian Americans.

The governing bodies of the UKKA are the Congress of Ukrainians in the United States, held every four years (the 16th in 1992); the Presidium and Executive (30 members altogether); and the National Council (formerly the Political Council, the Audit Commission, and the Court), consisting of two representatives from each of the national organizations and one representative from each of the 12 largest local branches of the UKKA. The latter body was intended to serve as a kind of parliament between congresses, but it does not sit regularly and does not have the authority needed to fulfill this function. The presidents, elected at quadrennial congresses, have been Mykola Murashko (1940–4), Stephan Shumeyko (1944–9), Lev Dobriansky (1949–84), I. Bilynsky (1984–92), and Askold Lozynsky. Executive directors have included Yuliian Revai, Vasyl Mudry, Ivan Bazarko, and Yaroslav Haivas. UKKA activists have included Antin Batiuk, Dmytro Halychyn, B. Hnatiuk, Joseph Lesawyer, Olena Lototska, Teodor Mynyk, M. Piznak, I. Roberts, Roman Smal-Stotsky, John Flis, and S. Yarema.

The UKKA has consistently defended Ukraine’s right to national independence and the interests of the Ukrainian people inside and outside Ukraine. As well, it has promoted recognition of the contribution of the Ukrainian community to American society. After the Second World War the UKKA opposed the repatriation of Ukrainian displaced persons to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and fought for their resettlement in the United States of America; it established the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee for this purpose. It demanded that the United States establish diplomatic relations with Kyiv and won the US president’s annual proclamation of Captive Nations’ Week. In the 1960s–80s the UKKA defended political dissidents and human rights activists in Ukraine. In 1944 the UKKA began to publish the Ukrainian Quarterly under the editorship of Mykola Chubaty and, later, Walter Dushnyck. It also issued the semimonthly Ukrainian Bulletin (1948–70) and numerous Ukrainian and English publications about Ukraine. A UKKA page has appeared occasionally in two Ukrainian-American dailies and two weeklies since 1975. An information bureau, directed by Lev Dobriansky, was set up in Washington, DC, in 1977.

Much of the UKKA’s energy is directed toward political goals and visible external events rather than internal community problems, such as generational changes, language retention and cultural awareness, and alienation among young people. It organized the celebration on a national scale of a number of important Ukrainian anniversaries: the centennial of Taras Shevchenko’s death (with the opening of his monument in Washington, DC, in 1964), the centennial of Ukrainian immigration to the United States of America (1976–7), and the millennium of Christianity in Ukraine (1988). It ensured that Ukrainian Independence Day was commemorated every 22 January by the US Congress, some state assemblies, and some municipal councils. The Educational Council, an autonomous body affiliated with the UKKA, which oversees Ukrainian Saturday schools (75 in 1970 and 40 in 1980), publishes textbooks (about 30 titles), approves school programs, and sponsors teacher training.

The UKKA supported efforts to organize and co-ordinate the activities of Ukrainian organizations abroad: it was one of the founders of the Pan-American Ukrainian Conference and the World Congress of Free Ukrainians. Maintaining a policy of consensus on political issues (up to 1980), it has tried to work with all noncommunist Ukrainian civic groupings. Occasional attempts by one group or another to seize control of the UKKA led to crises and factionalism. In 1966 an opposition group, the Committee for Community Unity, arose, and some of its members formed the Association of Ukrainians in America. Its conflict with the UKKA was finally settled, in 1978. A more serious crisis arose at the 13th Congress in 1980 in Philadelphia, when the organizations of the Ukrainian Liberation Front and their allies stacked the gathering with their own candidates and used their majority to override the UKKA statute and procedures. Two fraternal associations (the Ukrainian National Association and Ukrainian Fraternal Association) and 25 national organizations walked out of the convention and formed the Committee for Law and Order in the UKKA, which, after more than two years of unsuccessful negotiation, gave birth to the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]

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