Sunday, September 27, 2015

Celebrating Lucas County's Ukrainian heritage ...

Several hundred of us got together on the courthouse lawn Saturday to celebrate Lucas County's Ukrainian heritage. Yup. Not Dutch (you're thinking of Pella) --- but Ukrainian.

We enjoyed good food, music, games, cultural displays, socializing --- and some preaching and prayers for peace (in Ukraine and elsewhere), too.

The latter shouldn't surprise anyone --- the Ukrainians who have made Lucas County their home in some cases for more than 15 years are united not only by a native language (Russian) and culture, but by faith (a strong ethnic expression of Pentacostalism), too.

Saturday's celebration was a joint effort of Chariton Area Chamber-Main Street (and its Lucas County Tourism division) and the Ukrainian community with aid from a major Union Pacific Foundation grant and financial assistance from US Bank, Lockridge Lumber & Supply and HyVee.

Alex Primakov and his large family generally are credited with founding Lucas County's Ukrainian community. He arrived in the United States during 1991 in search of freedom from violence, economic opportunity for his family and the liberty to practice his faith unimpeded as the former Soviet Union was beginning to dissolve.

He reportedly found Chariton while driving cross-country in 1998 from Tacoma, Wash., where he had settled first. Lucas County's soil, landscape and climate reminded him of home --- and he stayed. Hundreds of others have arrived since. Some have moved on, as immigrants to the United States always have, but many have remained.

At least two Slavic Pentecostal congregations now have buildings in Chariton and a third, which has been meeting Sunday afternoons at St. Andrew's Church, is expected to move to quarters of its own this fall.

Some Ukrainian craftsmen specialize in applying stucco finishes to buildings --- and so some family homes scattered around Chariton are easily recognizable. Most often, these are older homes rescued by immigrant families, reshaped into vaguely European form and --- covered in stucco.

Our Ukrainian neighbors fall into all age categories. Great-grandparents in some cases speak little if any English; their children do the best they can with the language; and the youngsters are easily bilingual.

Whatever the case, it was a great afternoon on the square and there's neither rhyme nor reason for the arrangement of these photographs.

We just wish you could have been there --- if you weren't.

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