AMERICA and UKRAINIANS in the 1950’s
Memory is the power to revive again in our minds those ideas, which after imprinting have disappeared, or have been laid aside out of sight.
It is said that human memory is eternal. Human memory is capable of collecting memories of events, facts, details from the life of a particular person, both light and dark pages from the history of a nation, its recent and ancient past. This unique characteristic of human memory, as is pointed out by the famous English philosopher John Locke, is a result of recalling the past, which is passed from one person to another through spoken words or found in the form of words on paper. Today, these very words will tell us of particular events occurring in the 1950’s in the United States of America. One such event -- the formation of the Ukrainian Federal Credit Union, in the city of Rochester, New York, by Ukrainian immigrants thousands of miles away from homeland.
Today it is evident that the 1950’s were the years of great global change affecting national politics and economies, culture, and most importantly the consciousness of the people. Two extremely harsh wars involving leading countries of the world had just ended. It is no surprise that these wars were indeed “world” wars for they engulfed the entire globe. It was not even half a century after the First World War when the WWII broke out. Over 60 countries were drawn into this conflict. Nearly 110 million citizens were called into the armed forces. This was a time when the world tested and used newly developed chemical and nuclear weapons.
Times changed. Events of the early 20th century were pushed farther and farther into the past. The world appeared peaceful and quiet, at least in the USA, its mainland territory not affected by warfare except for the Hawaiian Islands. People were not so much concerned about the war anymore, or how to feed their children or how to provide a roof over their heads. Almost everyone had a job. The economy kept growing day by day. Fundamental discoveries in science, development of new technologies, and great achievements in medicine and biology, fast improvement in the standard of living, new fashion trends, new culture, and even radical changes in the civil rights – all occurred in the 1950s. It seemed that the Great Depression with all its economic and social nightmares had somehow become the engine for the great period of mass prosperity in the 1950’s.
The 1950’s became to be recognized as one of the most outstanding decades in American history. The economy was boosted by the aftermath of WWII. Americans experienced a new living standard. The nation became the leading manufacturer of products in the world. Almost 60% of Americans could refer to themselves as the “middle class”. Poverty levels decreased to the point where they were lower than the middle class and the rich put together. Small businesses grew into corporations. Technological progress and innovation were also behind these economic improvements in the nation. The new age of television forever influenced and changed the country's culture and politics. TV forced many newspapers and radio corporations to work harder to maintain their business. Even though TV was black and white, the “baby-boomers” felt a strong connection to their television. Medicine also played a very important role. One major advance in medicine was a newly developed vaccine for the poliovirus, which was killing many young men and women all over the country. As it turned out this new medical approach of vaccinating people to prevent the virus was better than actually treating the decease after it broke out.
In the early 1950’s, segregation and racism were still a part of American life. However, major changes started to come about when in 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled segregation in public schools was unconstitutional and when in 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a public bus. These were the beginnings of the civil rights movements. Since then, the USA is looked upon as a country of equal opportunity for all.
As Europe slowly rose out of the ashes, ruins and devastation of WWI, positive changes occurred for the USA as well. New relationships were established with the Europeans, especially with Paris. Even though the majority of women at that time were still considered only as housewives and men as the main breadwinners in the family, there were new trends emerging in society allowing women to assume a greater role in the outside workforce. Jobs were mainly blue-collar industrial and agricultural, but a growing “white collar” male workforce increased the need for secretarial and professional office workers, which allowed women to work outside their homes.
Life went on and hopes for a better future continued to grow, but only a careless eye would see it as cloudless and peaceful. Humanity came across a previously unknown phenomenon – the Cold War, which developed between two systems of opposite worldviews. As a result, on May 4, 1949 the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created. The United States became one of the main founding countries of this organization along with Belgium, Great Britain, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Iceland, Canada, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, and Italy. NATO was created as an alliance of collective defenses, whereby members agreed to mutual defense in response to any attack by an external force. In response, in 1955 a new treaty was created called the Warsaw Pact signed between Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, East Germany, Poland, Romania, and the Soviet Union. The tension between NATO and the Warsaw Pact had an affect on the view of Ukraine and its people as to the goals, purpose and activities of NATO.
The first signs of relief between the United States and theSoviet Union became evident during the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower, between 1953 and 1961. Bringing to the Presidency his prestige as commanding general of the WWII victorious forces in Europe, Dwight D. Eisenhower obtained a truce in Korea in 1953 and worked incessantly during his two terms to ease the tensions of the Cold War. However, it was still a long way to truly unhostile relations between the two nations. The Cuban missile crisis still lay ahead – when reconnaissance photographs revealed Soviet missiles under construction in Cuba in October of 1962.
The death of Stalin led to evident shifts in relations between America and the Soviet Union. At that time both nations had developed hydrogen bombs. After the meeting at Geneva in July 1955 the relations between the USA and the Soviet Union improved. Dwight Eisenhower, supporter of peaceful politics, pointed out before he left office, “America is today the strongest, most influential, and most productive nation in the world.» In domestic policy, Eisenhower pursued a middle course, continuing most of the New Deal and Fair Deal programs, emphasizing a balanced budget. «There must be no second class citizens in this country,» he wrote. Therefore, most Americans trusted the government and believed in politicians. Society was expanding both economically and socially. New ideas of prosperity and success desired by so many Americans and the country as a whole was taking on real shape and becoming a reality.
However… to say it openly – there were some things that Americans were truly afraid of. As early as 1848 the theorists and founders of communism K. Marks and F. Engels wrote in their “Communist Manifesto” … “A specter is haunting Europe – the specter of Communism”. After the end of the WWII the specter of communism had engulfed large parts of Europe and spread to Asia. The creation of NATO was the result of that fear in face of communism.
What about those thousands of Ukrainians who had to move to the United States of America to build a new life under completely unknown condition? Why did they have to leave their native land and move? They did not leave Ukraine because they had a life filled with happiness and prosperity. An ancient folk proverb says – if you have it good, you don’t search for good. Many post-WWII Ukrainians dreamt of going back to their homeland but fate, internal and external forces and world events did not provide such an opportunity. Even though they may have had the financial ability to return home, they could not go back, for they knew that their road would lead to concentration camps in Siberia, to construction of the Belomor-channel or other global Soviet projects of XX century.
Pessimism — is a concept that does not have national or racial boundaries. All humans are inclined to it. And if pessimism did ever get a hold of the American people, than it happened in the 1950’s. Despite economic growth and national prosperity there was a growing fear of the spread of communism across the globe. The pessimism of Ukrainian immigrants arriving to the USA in the beginning of the 20th century, i.e. after the October Revolution in 1917 and subsequently after WWII, had its roots in the impossibility of return to their native homeland. Therefore, they readily accepted their new land and the American way of life. Today it is necessary to pay tribute to these stalwart immigrants. Despite hardships and difficult circumstances they did not perish in their new country even despite a serious language barrier. In spite of and because of these hardships they organized whole communities of churches, schools and cultural societies. They embraced and brought to life the idea of a financial cooperative that would serve the needs of their community.
Why were Ukrainians capable of accomplishing this? Maybe their success was due to their inherent determination, persistence and survival instincts as Ukrainians during centuries of difficulties, persecution and repression. They were willing to work hard – an ancient trait honed by working the land. Even though they lost hope in returning to their homeland, they did not lose the inherent to all humans hope for life.
In the next issues of the Credit Union Opinion we will continue to tell about the Ukrainian Federal Credit Union – it’s achievements, its activities, its people and the communities it served for over five decades.
Ph.D., Dr. Sci. in Physics, Senior Research Scientist of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine
Tamara Denysenko, Chief Executive Officer, Ukrainian Federal Credit Union
Oleksandr Vasilenko, Manager Sacramento branch, Ukrainian Federal Credit Union
FOUNDATIONS and BEGINNINGS
Ukrainian Federal Credit Union in Rochester 1953-1963 Memories of past events in the community, organizations and associations gradually fade. Human memory is not eternal. It weakens through time. That is why people record separate episodes and facts on paper, keep diaries, and by doing so, maintain connection with the past.
W. Hawrylak The mass emigration of Ukrainians to the Americas spanned over the last century and a half. For obvious historical reasons, the stream of immigrants increased or decreased through these times, but almost never stopped. New generations continued to arrive to this continent of freedom and great possibilities. But here, there were also those who first saw this world already under the American sky. The entire Ukrainian emigrant community, which arrived to this continent, is conventionally divided into four waves: labor (the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century), intellectual (a period between the First and the Second World Wars), political (from the Second World War to the Soviet Union’s disintegration after Gorbachev’s «Perestroyka» inn the late 1980s) and economic (from the declaration of Ukraine’s independence up to now). As to the beginning and development of the Ukrainian Federal Credit Union in Rochester, NY, it is evident that from 1953 till 1963 the first three waves of Ukrainian immigrants were actively involved. 1953 corresponds with the third wave of emigration. Rochester Ukrainian FCU founders were representatives of the second wave of emigration. During the last 55 years UFCU has served no less than five generations, including the youngest members for whom their grandparents now open saving accounts. Indeed, the credit union’s vision of “Providing prosperity for generations” withstood the test of time.
Rochester is one of the first American cities where a strong Ukrainian community appeared. The first Ukrainian immigrant, Evstachiv Makohin, came to Rochester from the Rohatyn region, Western Ukraine, in 1904 (some claim even earlier). Within a few years, nearly 20 Ukrainian immigrants arrived from the same area, mostly Ukrainian Catholics. They were not idle. Looking for ways to meet their spiritual needs, they came together on November 15, 1908 to establish the St. Josaphat Catholic parish.
The first roots of the Ukrainian co-operative movements in Rochester also date to about the same time. Although these roots are lost so deeply in the larger history of the Rochester Ukrainian society, its early years were hardly auspicious for a cooperative to develop. The first cooperative grocery store was organized in 1914, but lasted for only a short time. A second co-op grocery opened in 1919, but was forced to close its doors in 1922. A credit union was opened at about the same time, in 1922, but it also failed. Although the idea of forming a financial cooperative was promoted by a number of people who had experience with the idea and appreciated its value to a community, the failure of the Ukrainian cooperative in 1922 was remembered by many in the community. It took a long time to change the negative attitude of the community to this cooperative idea.
Finally, the ice of skepticism began to melt. When the foundation was ready, an attorney of Ukrainian descent, William Andrushin, became a strong supporter of the movement and arranged for a federal credit union charter. The purpose was to form a financial organization open to all Ukrainians in Rochester and not limited to any particular parish or organization. Because a federal credit union had to serve a specific common bond, the credit union founders chose as its membership base two fraternal associations – the Ukrainian National Association (UNA) and the Ukrainian Workingmen’s Association, which later became the Ukrainian Fraternal Association (UFA).
In 1953, on June 10, the first eight pioneers, – enterprising, persevering and purposeful people, – signed the Charter of the Rochester Ukrainian Federal Credit Union. They were: William Andrushin (RUFCU first president and chairman of Board of Directors), Walter Hawrylak, (first RUFCU manager), William Kuchmy, Wasyl Ewanciw, Aleksander Papa, Illya Demydenko, John Swereda and Gregory Dmytriv. The detailed description of these individuals as well as a narrative of their contribution to the Ukrainian community would require a special issue of the Credit Union Opinion. Here, we can only mention that these people had a good understanding of the situation in the city and state as to readiness of the Ukrainian community for such a complex undertaking – the foundation of a cooperative financial institution. On August 21, 1953 the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) approved the charter and the first membership meeting took place on September 25, 1953 at Ukrainian Civic Center, 831 Joseph Ave. A total of twenty-eight members signed up as charter members.
At the end of 1953, Rochester Ukrainian FCU had 74 members and $2,528 in share savings. By 1955 it already had 200 members and $27,000 in share savings and $23,000 in loans. That same year, the Credit Union Bulletin was started. Rochester Ukrainian FCU can be proud that it has published the only quarterly, bi-lingual (Ukrainian-English) credit union publication for over 50 years. Its main goal was to develop a close connection to membership and to promote and grow the cooperative financial idea within the Ukrainian-American community in Greater Rochester and Monroe County. Already during that time, loans were given to members for large purchases such as home furnishings, automobiles and even financing the purchase of homes. The Credit Union also supported local community activities and organizations, including a Ukrainian radio program, schools and churches, Ukrainian Free Academy of Science, the Shevchenko Scientific Society and others.
The Credit Union celebrated its 10th anniversary in 1963 with great success – membership had grown to 1,100 with the assets of $800,000. In October, 1963 a 47 page illustrated tenth anniversary report was published: Ukrainian Federal Credit Union Jubilee Bulletin 1953-63, which highlighted the credit union’s many achievements.
Today it is difficult to recall all of the special moments in great detail, filled with unique human experiences or difficulties, which became part of the historical wealth of the Ukrainian society in the USA. On these pages, we highlighted briefly the beginnings of the credit union’s activity in Rochester. Indeed, time erases specific details from our memory but it is not able to wipe out memories about a job well done. From our personal experience we would like to say that any well intentioned activity cannot be started or continued without a strong belief in the goals and actions we undertake. In addition, if such an undertaking requires coordination between groups of people, it is especially important to have unity around a common vision, otherwise the undertaking will fail. That kernel of truth gave the Ukrainian Federal Credit Union in Rochester, NY, an opportunity to become an effective force that united and continues to unite the Ukrainian community on the American continent.
Ph.D., Dr. Science in Physics, Senior Research Scientist of the NationalAcademy of Science of Ukraine
Chief Executive Officer
of the Ukrainian Federal Credit Union
1953 - Our Beginnings - Eight members signed the federal
charter to start the Rochester Ukrainian Federal Credit Union. On July 19,
1953 twenty others attended the first member meeting in the Ukrainian Civic
Center, 831 Joseph Ave. Rochester, NY. RUFCU was initially organized to
serve members of the Ukrainian National Association (UNA) and the Ukrainian
Fraternal Association (UFA).
1955 - The credit union had 200 members, $27,000 in savings accounts and had extended $23,000 in loans. A quarterly newsletter called the Credit Union Bulletin was born to aid in communicating with the membership.
1963 - The credit union celebrated its 10th Anniversary with a membership of 1,100 and $800,000 in assets.
1970 - The Credit Union Bulletin went through a transformation in its format and content and its name was changed to the Credit Union Opinion.
1987 - Our New Home - A major milestone was achieved
when the Rochester Ukrainian FCU leadership purchased and remodeled a
former health spa facility at 824 Ridge Road East in Irondequoit, NY to serve
as the credit union's new facility.
1989 - The Rochester Ukrainian Federal Credit Union began publishing a informational newsletter called the RUFCU News as an additional way of keeping members informed about credit union services and special offers.
1998 - The credit union celebrated its 45th anniversary with almost 6,000 members, and assets exceeding $58 million.
2000 - The Rochester Ukrainian Federal Credit Union joined the Rochester Ukrainian-American community in celebrating 100 years of the first arrival of Ukrainian immigrants to the area.
2001- The Capital District branch of the Rochester Ukrainian Federal Credit Union officially opened its doors at 1828 Third Avenue in Watervliet, New York on May 12, 2001.
2003 - Our New Name - As the
Rochester Ukrainian FCU grew and expanded its services to other geographic
locations coast-to-coast to include branches in Albany, NY and Sacramento,
CA and the pending merger with Selfreliance Syracuse FCU, the credit union
leadership determined that the new name "Ukrainian Federal Credit Union"
would better reflect the national scope of the multi-branch credit union. That
same year the credit union celebrated 50 years of service to its members.
2004 - A merger between the Ukrainian Self Reliance Syracuse Federal Credit Union and the Ukrainian Federal Credit Union added over 1900 members and over $16,900,000 in assets.
2005 - The Ukrainian Fraternal FCU in Boston, Massachusetts merged with UFCU as of March 1, 2005. Ukrainian FCU assets exceeded $120 million with membership of 15,000 members.
2007 - December 1, UFCU upgraded the computer system. Membership grew to over 16,800 and assets exceeded $130 million.
2008 – Celebrating UFCU`s 55th anniversary!