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Ukrainian-Americans Say Independence Without Bloodshed is a Miracle With PM-Soviet-Ukraine

December 3, 1991

NEW YORK (AP) _ Ukrainian-Americans marveled at the vote for independence in their homeland and welcomed it as nothing less than a miracle.

″None of the people would have ever thought that without a war or a revolution any of this would have been possible,″ said the Rev. Steve Repa of St. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Carnegie, Pa. ″We didn’t think this would happen in our lifetime.″

About 92 percent of voters in the Ukraine endorsed independence from the Soviet Union in a vote Sunday.

The next question is whether Mikhail Gorbachev and President Bush will allow the move. The Ukraine, the Soviet Union’s second-largest republic, has 52 million people, or about one-fifth of the Soviet population.

The United States has said it is moving toward recognition of a sovereign Ukraine.

″When 92 percent of people anywhere say anything, it’s quite remarkable,″ said Joseph Dehner, a lawyer involved in a sister-city project between Cincinnati and Kharkov in the Ukraine.

″The moral authority that it holds is just unmistakable. ... For the former Soviet government and our government, for that matter, to ignore such a vote would be unthinkable.″

″We’ve been praying all these years that our country, under Communism, this is what would happen,″ said Myra Kiekisz, 57, treasurer of Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic in the Chicago suburb of Palatine. ″This is a miracle.″

Ukrainian organizations estimate 1 million to 2 million Americans are of Ukrainian descent.

New York City’s East Village, where thousands of Ukrainian immigrants settled after World War II, retains a Ukrainian church, cultural and political groups, restaurants and a Ukrainian museum.

Museum director Maria Shust said she never dreamed independence would happen without bloodshed. ″The whole world would not have expected this a year ago. For us to have been given this, it’s almost like a gift,″ she said.

At Veselka Restaurant, patrons dining on borscht, pirogies and other Eastern European fare pored over newspaper reports, whether American, Ukrainian, Polish or Russian.

″Obviously, I am very happy,″ said Mykola Sawchyn, 81, a retired cashier. ″Ukrainian-Americans are ecstatic that we finally have cut the shackles to Moscow.″

Bohdan Burachinsky of Florham Park, N.J., a spokesman for the Coordinating Committee to Aid Ukraine USA, said his group is organizing celebrations around the United States.

″Through much of our lives we have been working toward this day,″ he said.

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