America is built on the hard work and heritage of immigrants, but, as generations pass, that heritage can fade away.
“You can go to countless cemeteries now and the only way you can tell where the people came from is by the names on their headstones,” said Ihor Rymaruk, of Amsterdam. “But as families marry, the names and pronunciations mix, and you can’t tell any more. Genealogy is lost.”
Rymaruk wants to change that, at least in Amsterdam. He designed a three-stone monument, paid for by the trustees of the old Ukrainian-American Citizen’s Club, that was erected in St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cemetery on Thursday.
“We hope the monument will remind the youth of their ancestors that toiled in Amsterdam,” said Myron Swidersky, who will be speaking at the monument dedication ceremony on Sunday. “Remind them to carry on the traditions, get them interested in their Ukrainian culture.”
The monument’s three stones are set up in a semicircle. The two outer stones are 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide, with a 9-by-7-foot center stone.
The left stone, called the Millennium Stone, will be dedicated to the thousand years of Ukrainian Christianity starting with St. Volodymyr’s conversion in 988 AD. The right stone bears the insignias of all branches of the military and the inscription, “Dedicated to all the Ukrainian-Americans who served with honor to preserve our nation’s freedom.”
The largest stone will be dedicated to all Ukrainian immigrants and says, “Read and learn. Respect all cultures. Remember your roots.”
Rymaruk was only 3 years old Dec. 10, 1949, when he and his parents landed in New York City.
During World War II, his Ukrainian parents were used as slave labor by the German government, filling the massive hole in the work force created by most young German men fighting in the military. At the end of the war, they were transferred to a displaced persons camp, where they lived for two years, waiting to be sponsored by an immigration organization overseas. His story is just one of hundreds the monument honors.
“A lot of Ukrainians came to Amsterdam,” he said. “There was work at the rug mills and St. Nicholas would sponsor them.”
Rymaruk served in the Marines in Vietnam. For him, the veterans’ stone, though dedicated to all Ukrainians who served, can be applied directly to one headstone in the cemetery.
“Sgt. Peter Fedasch was one of my classmates and childhood friends,” Rymaruk said. “
He saw a lot of action, but died the day before he was supposed to go home. He’s buried in that cemetery.”
Those involved in the building of the monument and its coming dedication hope that it will revitalize the Ukrainian culture in the area.
“I hope that those that have left the Amsterdam area and moved on all over the country will come back when they hear about it and stand in front of it and know that they haven’t been forgotten.” Rymaruk said.
The monument dedication ceremony will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at the St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cemetery on Cemetery Road off County Highway 8.
Following the dedication there will be a reception at St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church on the corner of Edward and Pulaski streets.
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Categories: Schenectady County