Unique Ukrainian heritage

Sophomores Zoryana Makarenko and Emily Lencyk in 2009 at the Ukrainian festival in Yonkers, New York wearing traditional costumes for their dance recital.
Courtesy of Emily Lencyk '17.

Sophomores Zoryana Makarenko and Emily Lencyk in 2009 at the Ukrainian festival in Yonkers, New York wearing traditional costumes for their dance recital. Courtesy of Emily Lencyk ’17.

 

Sophomores Zoryana Makarenko and Emily Lencyk in 2009 at the Ukrainian festival in Yonkers, New York wearing traditional costumes for their dance recital. Courtesy of Emily Lencyk '17.
Sophomores Zoryana Makarenko and Emily Lencyk in 2009 at the Ukrainian festival in Yonkers, New York wearing traditional costumes for their dance recital.
Courtesy of Emily Lencyk ’17

Although over 5000 miles separates Ukraine and the United States, Convent of the Sacred Heart sophomores Emily Lencyk and Zoryana Makarenko celebrate their unique Ukrainian heritage close to home. Emily and Zoryana embrace their roots every weekend when they attend local Ukrainian schools.
Emily’s father is of Ukrainian descent. Her family speaks Ukrainian at home and often enjoys authentic Ukrainian delicacies such as holubtsi, a cabbage roll dish, and kielbasa, an Eastern European sausage.
Every Saturday from 9:00 am until 1:00 pm, Emily attends the School of Ukrainian Studies in Stamford, Connecticut. Teachers conduct literature, grammar, history, and geography classes solely in Ukrainian. They aim to encourage students’ language fluency and cultural knowledge.
“My parents wanted to put me in Ukrainian school because my dad’s family is from the Ukraine and they wanted me to master the language and learn about the history,” Emily said.
In addition to embracing the culture at home, Emily and her family are also members of St. Vladimir Cathedral, a Ukrainian Catholic church in Stamford.
Although Ukrainian is a Slavic language, Emily finds that learning it has helped her read, speak and write in French. She also uses her knowledge of Ukrainian history to help supplement the information she learns in her current world history class.
“I’ve really learned to appreciate what we learn in Ukrainian school,” Emily said. “Knowing the language and history of the Ukraine has even helped me in regular school.”
 Zoryana’s family similarly incorporates Ukrainian culture into their daily lives. Both of Zoryana’s parents are from the Ukraine and in an effort to help their children learn the language, speak it regularly at home. 
“When you come into my house you will find either a Ukrainian embroidered handkerchief, carving or poem hanging on the wall,” Zoryana said. “My parents want us to embrace our Ukrainian upbringing.”
Zoryana attends the Saturday School of Ukrainian Studies at St. Michael’s in Yonkers, New York, which is affiliated with St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church. Ukrainian members of the community in Yonkers, as well as the church, fund the school.
“I started when I was five and my parents decided to send me because although we speak Ukrainian at home they wanted me to learn about the history and literature,” Zoryana said.
Zoryana’s school day begins with a half hour of either religion or music depending on the schedule. Afterwards, the students split up into groups, based on grade, and attend each of their classes. 
Emily and Zoryana’s Ukranian school communities both celebrate important Ukrainian holidays and occasions. The students memorize poems and songs and perform for friends and family at school recitals.
Sophomore Emily Lencyk's first day of the 2014-2015 Ukrainian school year.  Courtesy of Emily Lencyk '17.
Sophomore Emily Lencyk’s first day of the 2014-2015 Ukrainian school year.
Courtesy of Emily Lencyk ’17.

In addition to taking part in school projects,  Emily has also participated in Ukrainian folk dancing for nine years. Her group is called Kalynonka Ukrainian Folk Dance Ensemble and is based in Stamford, Connecticut.
Although Emily and Zoryana enjoy expressing their Ukrainian heritage through the arts, they also have several Ukrainian academic requirements to fulfill.
Both students must take the Matura exam next year, a Ukrainian test comprised of several essays. This is an exit exam that children of Ukrainian descent that live in the US and Canada, who have attended Ukrainian school, must take in order to graduate. The exam assesses each student’s knowledge of the Ukrainian language, history, culture, literature, and geography. 
Studying at Ukrainian school has allowed Zoryana and Emily to meet and socialize with fellow Ukrainians in their community, as well as deepen their admiration for their heritages.
“The appreciation I have been taught for the Ukraine and its strong culture has had a strong influence on me,” Zoryana said. “I will never forget my Ukrainian upbringing and the close friends I have made.”
-Nadia Zuaiter, Staff Writer