Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

What is the OOL?

CLIFTON, N.J. – What is the Organization for the Defense of Lemko Western Ukraine Inc., (known by its Ukrainian acronym as OOL)? We are an organization of Ukrainian Lemkos who came to America in the early 1900s and settled in Western Pennsylvania and the tri-state area. The organization was formally created by a congress of Lemko immigrants in 1936 in Philadelphia in response to a need to unite, and to help each other publish a newspaper by Lemko editors for the Lemko readership.

As time passed, the organization grew and expanded and the by-laws were changed to meet the times. The current by-laws state that the organization’s responsibilities are: to organize Lemko Ukrainians in their respective communities, to conduct cultural and educational work among them, and to foster Ukrainian culture, language, music, embroidery, religious, secular and national traditions.

Most importantly, the organization and its members are obliged to give moral and material support to the Lemkos living in Ukraine, Poland (Lemko lands) and wherever else Lemkos reside and are in need of help.

The national executive sponsors various traditional Lemko activities and programs for its members and the public at large. The national executive and its branches have over the last 50 years donated and organized financial help for our brothers and sisters living in the traditional Lemko lands, as well as helped those Lemkos who were forcibly resettled beyond the borders of traditional Lemko lands starting in 1944 and ending with the infamous ” Akcja ‘Wisla ‘” in 1947.

Also of great note is the continuous publication of our magazine Lemkivschyna , which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and the tireless effort the organization puts forward in maintaining the Lemko museum in Stamford, CT.

In 1997, a group of young Lemko members discussed the commemoration of victims of the 1947 Akcja “Wisla” and an idea emerged to build a chapel in honor of their memory. The project was started with modest donations, and eventually the national executive decided to assist these young members in their efforts.

When a request was made to form a national committee, the Ukrainian American Youth Association (SUM) came forward and, together with OOL, the project became reality. Stefan Zurawsky was elected chairman, Bohdan Harhai from SUM and Zenko Halkowycz from OOL became vice-presidents, and the committee chose Teodor Bodnar as its architect. During the 2003 Vatra at the SUM Oselia in Ellenville, NY, a parcel of land was consecrated for the chapel that will be dedicated to the memory of the victims of Akcja “Wisla” in the name of Archangel Muchjila.

The national board of OOL and SUM announced that the tentative dedication and consecration of the Lemko chapel will take place during the IV Lemko Vatra at the SUM Oselia on June 25-27. The committee projects the actual blessing for noon time on June 27.

The organization is in the process of raising funds; as always, Ukrainian credit unions were the first to generously respond. The New York Self Reliance Federal Credit Union, Yonkers CYMA Federal Credit Union and Clifton-Passaic Federal Credit Union, as well as 1st Security Savings Bank of Chicago were the first to graciously donate to this cause. A traditional bell tower will be erected along with the chapel if funds permit.

The chapel will be opened to all Catholic and Orthodox church-goers. Its educational emphasis will be on display during SUM summer camps, when campers will have an opportunity to learn about Lemkos, their culture and traditions. Traditional wedding ceremonies will be performed in the chapel, and Sunday liturgies will be celebrated for summer campers, their parents and guests.

Source: The Ukrainian Weekly, June 13, 2004, No. 24, Vol. LXXII; Article written by Zenko Halkowycz

Leave a comment