Welcome to the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council


By Natalka Gawdiak, The Ukrainian Weekly #19 newspaper
Ukrainian National Association (UNA), Parsippany, NJ, Sun, July 19, 2009

JENKINTOWN, Pa. – On Sunday evening, May 17, a large roomful of supporters and friends of the Ukrainian Federation of America [UFA] met at the Ukrainian Educationcal and Cultural Center to honor the achievements of E. Morgan Williams.

Celebratory Ukraine-related events are often quite predictable: there is usually food, speakers get up, say nice things about the honoree, the honoree gets up, says a few words, thanks everyone, the people applaud and everyone goes home happy.

This evening was different. Although there was lovely food and an engaging atmosphere, it was truly an educational experience and the attendees learned much in a short time about why the work of Mr. Williams and others like him is so significant for Ukraine.

Most importantly, they were left with a heightened awareness of some quite serious issues that Ukrainians and the Ukrainian diaspora must confront. One of these pointed out by the master of ceremonies, former Congressman Charles F. Dougherty (R-Pa.), was what he called the current administration’s “Russia first” policy, in reference to the President Barack Obama’s trip to Russia.

One subtheme of the evening was that Ukrainians in the United States are not always aware of who their friends are, or they take those friends somewhat for granted.

The obvious very hard and time-consuming work of the organizers of this event, Dr. Zenia Chernyk, co-founder with her late husband of the UECC and founder of the Ukrainian Federation of America [UFA], and Vera Andryczyk, current president of the federation, along with the latter’s husband and others, are among these, often unsung, friends.

Their decision to help raise the profile of another friend of Ukraine, Mr. Williams, was exceedingly timely.

This same message was brought home by U.S.-Ukraine Foundation [USUF] President Nadia K. McConnell. She had high praise for Mr. Williams’ persistent battle against Washington officialdom’s indifference concerning the significance of Ukraine’s Holodomor and also for Mr. Williams’ patience when sometimes taken for granted by those who should know better.

Neither Mr. Williams, a descendant of Welsh immigrants to Kansas, nor the evening’s Irish American master of ceremonies, is Ukrainian – another reason this evening was unique.

Rep. Doughtery touched on the many high points of Mr. Williams’ career –his M.A. in economics from the University of Kansas; his leading role in the presidential campaign of Bob Dole; his work in international food distribution systems around the globe; his current position in the very successful SigmaBleyzer Investment Group, which invests billions [hundreds of millions] in Ukraine; and the awards he has received for his work for Ukraine, especially regarding his active interest in the Famine of 1932-1933, known to Ukrainians as the Holodomor.

Mr. Williams started working closely with the Ukrainian Federation of American [UFA] six years ago on a program to tell the world about the Holodomor. He became the trustee of the Dr. James Mace Holodomor Memorial Fund administered by the UFA and he is now, in cooperation with UFA, the founder/trustee of the Holodomor collection. Together with the UFA, Mr. Williams has also founded a collection called “Gulag: Through the Eyes of Ukrainian Artists.”

As a result of his interest in the Famine, Mr. Williams was asked to serve on President Viktor Yushchenko's committee for the 75th anniversary commemoration of the Holodomor and was awarded a Distinguished Service Award by the president in 2007.

Mr. Williams’ prescient vision of the value of Ukrainian art generally has also provided a rich basis for its appreciation by  a global audience. (See, for example, the “Genocide Gallery” on the website www.ArtUkraine.com)

Rep. Doughtery praised Mr. Williams’role in the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council [USUBC] [www.usubc.org] which has seen a major expansion under his  leadership and has increased Ukraine’s profile to possible investors.

He was also pleased to be able to surprise Mr. Williams with several congratulatory messages sent in from dignitaries who know of and respect his efforts on behalf of Ukraine, such as Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), the head of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus in Washington, a group of members of the House of Representatives.

Ihor Gawdiak, president of the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council [UACC], thanked Mr. Williams for his work and also brought up the question on peoples’ minds: How was it that an American from Kansas with no ties to Ukraine came to be so committed to Ukrainian causes?

Mr. Gawdiak, noting the contribution that non-Ukrainians sometimes make to Ukraine, quipped that Mr. Williams must belong “to that small group of Americans like Rep. Dougherty and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Miller, who have inhaled the fragrance of ‘yevshan zillia,’ ” the plant
that magically induces a nostalgia and love for Ukraine.

Another reason that made this event stand out was that, while at many Ukrainian functions only the older generation gets to speak, this evening gave the floor to two young academics, Mark Andryczyk and Roman Procyk, who analyzed for the audience some of the most serious and critical reasons why people like Mr. Williams and others working on Ukrainian issues must be not only recognized but supported.

Dr. Andryczyk, lecturer of Ukrainian literature and administrator of the Ukrainian Studies Program at Columbia University, as well as organizer of the
Contemporary Ukrainian Literature Series featuring Ukrainian poets at the Harriman Institute, shed light on an important consequence of Mr. Williams’ endeavors.

He extolled the broad outreach of the Action Ukraine Report, the online, English language Ukrainian information service that Mr. Williams started several years ago. He noted that the number of subscribers to the AUR is some 11,000. This collection of current articles in English helps to keep non-Ukrainian speakers abreast of Ukraine related developments, not only in business and politics, but in a wide range of disciplines.

Dr. Andryczyk noted that it is a great help for someone like himself who teaches Ukrainian literature if their non-Ukrainian audience is more informed about Ukraine generally, and the AUR service goes a long way to achieving that end.

Dr. Andryczyk recalled his first meeting with Mr. Williams in Lviv, when the latter brought to his attention that the Ukrainian government was about to issue a postage stamp commemorating the Holodomor, but depicting a collage of photographs erroneously ascribed to the Famine of 1932-1933.

Williams said the photos were taken in Russia during the famine of 1921-1922. It is not a well-known fact among many Ukrainians in the diaspora that [almost] no photos have come to light from Ukraine’s 1932-1933 Holodomor.

Mr. Williams’ insistence on publicizing only authentic material about the Holodomor led him to offer a reward for anyone in Ukraine who could  produce a photograph from the 1932-1933 thought to collect artwork inspired by the tragedy. He at first did not realize that under the Soviet regime artists were not allowed to portray the Famine.

Undaunted, he went to Ukraine to find or to commission contemporary art depicting the Famine. He noted that many artists did not want to attempt the subject because it was so painful, but others produced evocative images that are a fitting memorial to the Famine’s millions of victims.

Dr. Procyk, executive director of the Ukrainian Studies Fund, related interesting Internet statistics about the night’s honoree: a Google search for “E. Morgan Williams” results in 1,240 hits – a significant fact in itself.

Before going on to discuss Mr. Williams’ work on the Ukrainian Famine, Dr. Procyk noted that the Ukrainian Studies Fund has just published the first
booklet in “The Holodomor Series: Sources for the Study of the Great Famine in Ukraine” by Hennadii Boriak, a resource funded in large measure by the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council. The second booklet in this series, published with funds raised by the Ukrainian Federation of America, will be dedicated to Mr. Williams.

Using handouts copied from Soviet archives, Dr. Procyk gave graphic evidence – only one example of several – of a current Russian misinformation campaign aimed at distorting the history of the Holodomor. A document showed that Joseph Stalin had sent bread to Ukraine during the Famine, but the bread was to be given only to the agitators and the collective farm administrators who were implementing the draconian measures the Soviets were imposing.

In the face of this revisionist propaganda, Ukrainian researchers must use the most reliable, unassailable sources possible to combat malicious distortions and outright fabrications. For this work, Ukrainian Americans are urged to support those organizations seeking to underwrite continued research in this field, Dr. Procyk said.

In response to the praise received, Mr. Williams expressed his gratitude to Dr. Chernyk, Vera Andryczyk of the Ukrainian Federation of America [UFA] and to the other organizations he has worked with and been supported by, including the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation [USUF]  and the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council [UACC].

He explained for those wondering how a Kansan became so involved in Ukraine how he happened upon Ukraine through his early  work in the international food distribution industry and through his association with his current employer, Michael Bleyzer.

Mr. Bleyzer, originally from Kharkiv, was granted asylum in the U.S. in 1978 and has since made great strides in helping his homeland through his private equity firm. Mr. Bleyzer has also been generous in giving Williams time and leeway to develop the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council [USUBC], [www.usubc.org.]
This edifying evening ended with Mr. Williams relating some interesting facts about the connections of Welshmen and Ukraine, among them, Gareth Richard
Vaughan Jones, a Welsh journalist who tried to tell the world about the Famine but was murdered in 1935, and about historic connections between Ukraine and Kansas.

Probably very few in the audience knew that early Mennonite immigrants from Odesa and Crimea brought [Hard] Turkey Red [Winter] Wheat, which was far superior to American grains, to Kansas. This wheat spread throughout the Midwest and has been a boon to wheat farms ever since.

All in all, it was an instructive evening and a fitting honor for Mr. Williams. (To learn more, readers may log on to www.ArtUkraine.com, which contains information about a wide range of areas in which Mr. Williams is involved.)

Dr. Zenia Chernyk and Vera Andryczyk
of the Ukrainian Federation of America
with E. Morgan Williams
at the UFA’s reception in his honor.

LINK: http://ukrweekly.com/archive/pdf3/2009/The_Ukrainian_Weekly_2009-29.pdf