T h e U k r a i n i a n M u s e u m
222 East 6th Street (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) New York, NY 10003
Wed. thru Sun. 11:30 am - 5:00 pm (212) 228-0110 * e-mail: info@UkrainianMuseum.org
December 8, 2002
"Beseeching God's blessing, with thoughts about Ukraine and her children who settled here in America; with gratitude to this hospitable country; and with respect and sincere thanks to the Ukrainian community and to all people who contributed in some way to the building of The Ukrainian Museum."
This message, as well as numerous signatures of members, friends and supporters of the Ukrainian Museum were lovingly imprinted on the painted white surface of a steel beam. This beam, slated to complete the infrastructure of the new Museum building, was poised to be lifted by a large construction crane. A strong gust of wind unfurled the two flags - the Stars and Stripes and the blue and gold, suspended on each end of the beam. Centrally positioned on the beam a six-foot pine tree decorated with red bows, red and gold ribbons lorded in splendor.
This unusual configuration began its ascent toward the top, hoisted by a construction crane. Its upward journey was accompanied by the strains of the song "God Bless America" followed by "Bozhe Velykyj", sung a cappella by Anna Bachynska. The beam swayed, rising slowly, its path guided from the ground by handlers, manipulating thick ropes. On its way up the beam passed a large blue sign with a white inscription, which proclaimed - "The Future Home of The Ukrainian Museum." As the beam found its permanent home on the highest point of the steel frame of the building a resounding Mnohaya Lita was dedicated to all whose efforts on behalf of the Museum distinguished them as "builders" of this institution.
On this cold and windy afternoon on Sunday, December 8th, 2002 a sizeable crowd assembled on East Sixth Street in New York City in front of the new museum construction site to witness and partake in a centuries-old ceremony called Topping Out. The placing of the final and highest beam, which links the infrastructure of a new building is marked by crowning the structure with a tree, a branch, or flowers. This act represents the attainment of an important milestone in the building process.
Other singular rites and customs of the Topping Out ceremony were observed during the event. The superintendent on the construction site, Bob Mankowski from DiGiacomo & Son, was surprised to receive a Ukrainian embroidered handkerchief instead of the traditional silk one. The palanytsia, a flat bread, shared with the participants during this event, expressed a traditional Ukrainian "thank you" to all who helped in this endeavor.
In order to chase away any evil spirits that may inhabit the new structure, the Museum placed an evergreen tree, imbued with spirits with kindly dispositions, on the steel beam. The tree is destined to remain on the beam on top of the infrastructure until the roof caps the building.
The gathering consisting of members, friends and supporters of The Ukrainian Museum, past and present members of the Board of Trustees, and employees of the institution have waited a long time for this event. The Museum's building project had its start in 1986 with the purchase of the property on East Sixth Street with the purpose of building a new and modern facility for the institution. Although fiscal considerations delayed the start of the project, fund-raising continued actively during that time.
The Topping Out ceremony began with blessings rendered by the Rev. Philip Sandryk, Pastor of St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church and the Rev. Ivan Leshyk, Pastor of St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Olha Hnateyko, President of the Board of Trustees, flanked by members of the Board, past and present, as well as the Museum staff, greeted the numerous enthusiastic participants of this momentous occasion. She said that the Topping Out ceremony at the site of the new museum building is the result of the cumulative efforts, dedication and generosity of many people in the greater Ukrainian community.
With much emotion she paid tribute to the founding organization of the Museum - the Ukrainian National Women's League of America and its members throughout the United States, for their unfailing and sustained support. Mrs. Hnateyko thanked Museum members and donors, individuals who subscribed to funding opportunities in the new building, Ukrainian financial institutions, and the Ukrainian press for genuine, positive and kind-hearted support of the Museum through the years. She especially highlighted the unusually generous donation from Self Reliance NY Ukrainian Federal Credit Union ($500,000) and the princely gift ($2.5 million plus $1 million Challenge Grant) from entrepreneur Eugene Shklar and his wife Daymel.
Regretting that they were unable to attend the Topping Out event, Mr. and Mrs. Shklar sent a greeting congratulating "everyone who has worked so smart and so hard over the years to have made this possible."
Nicolas Andreadis, chair of the Museum's Building Committee praised the hard work and cooperative efforts of all involved with the building project. He said that having overcome "challenging site conditions... the team of general contractor S. DiGiacomo & Son and all contractors, architect SawickiTarella Architecture+Design and the Ukrainian Museum Building Committee members have this project on schedule." He stated that construction of the 25,000 sq. ft., three-storied facility is slated to be completed by summer 2003.
Architect George Sawicki praised the Ukrainian community for providing strong support for this significant endeavor up to now and that such support will also be needed in the future. He also expressed his great satisfaction that the building project has reached this important milestone.
Amid the overwhelming focus on the future, The Topping Out event also provided reflections on the historical past of the Museum. Toward that end Iryna Kurowyckyj, president of UNWLA was the first to sign the steel beam. She signed in the name of the members of UNWLA who founded the Museum in 1976 as well as for its current membership.
The Museum honored its first president (1977-1978), Alexandra Riznyk, whose name was signed on the beam by her son Myro Riznyk. Signing for the legendary and long-time president (1978-1990) of the Museum, Dr. Bohdan Cymbalisty, was his grandson Jurij Kuzmycz. Among the signatories was former Board President John Luchechko. Former presidents of the Board Osyp Danko and Titus Hewryk were not able to attend.
As members and donors, old and new friends and supporters of the institution came up to place their signatures on the white steel beam, there was no doubt that the Museum's anticipated achievements in the years ahead will be realized. The signing ceremony concluded with the "hosts' of the event signing the beam, namely¾Director of the Museum Maria Shust, members of the Administration, members of the Board of Trustees and last, President of the Board Olha Hnateyko.
The Ukrainian Museum has been a viable member of New York City's cultural community for twenty-six years. Its work on behalf of the cultural legacy of the Ukrainian immigration in the United States has earned the institution popularity with the public, respect among its peers and endorsement and commitment of cooperation from the government of Ukraine.
The new building project has been a huge undertaking not only on the part of the Museum's leadership but on the part of the community as well. To date the funds for the construction of the building are in place. However, money is needed is to equip and furnish the new building, organize and mount representative inaugural exhibitions, develop and sustain enriched programs.
Following the Topping Out event at the construction site, all were invited "na mohorych", to a celebration party, organized by the Special Events Committee, at the Museum's current location at 203 Second Avenue. Food and wine warmed the body, while reflections on this special occasion invigorated the spirit. During the afternoon more than $35,000 was donated and pledged to the Building Fund.
To support the building project please send you donation to: The Ukrainian Museum, 203 Second Ave., New York, NY 10003 212 228-0110; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our web page at: www.ukrainianmuseum.org.
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