With the advent of World War 2, many of the young men of the St. Mary's Ukrainian Orthodox Church became members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America to serve their country. Many of these young men gave the supreme sacrifice for which we, the living veterans who returned and other veterans who have joined our post during the past 50 years will never forget. We carry on their memory eternal through our activities of the post, remembering their supreme sacrifice.
In 1944, the girls of the "Will-O-Wisp" Social Club sent gifts to 14 servicemen. This small token of esteem perpetuated the entire parish to express their gratitude for our members in the Armed Forces. The letter writing club of this organization wrote and sent 1,485 letters as well as 300 greeting cards and 900 publications of "Global Echo" to our boys during World War 2. On August 30, 1942, a Service Flag was dedicated, on which were placed 43 stars. The flag dedication was held at Schuetzen Park with the Reverend Pysar and Donahue performing the service. Assisting in the dedication was the church choir under the direction of B.M. Hoptiak. Mr. Peter Kerelejza headed the dedication.
In April of 1943, under the leadership of Mr. John Seleman and Mrs. Helen Prestash the Servicemen's Committee had been organized. In the same year the New Britain Ukrainian Defense Council held various civil defense activities. Easter and Christmas gifts had been sent to servicemen. The Ukrainian Air Raid Wardens Organization (Auxiliary Firemen) under the guidance of Christy Scholar collected $500.00 for these gifts. Also during this time the U.Y.O.C. War Bond Drive, under the direction of Mr. John Seleman had already raised over $10,000. The parish was saddened by the news that one of our boys Tech. 4th grade Joseph Sinko was killed in action on July 10, 1943 in the South Pacific. Memory Eternal.
On September 19, 1943 a Servicemen's honor Roll was created by John Seleman, was dedicated and bore the names of 140 servicemen. It was during this time that the Servicemen's Fund Committee was established to raise a minimum of $ 5,000 for the returning servicemen. The Chairman of this committee was John Seleman. Mrs. Dorothy Kotyk served as Secretary and Mrs. Ann Salaby as Treasurer. In the fall of 1944 (Sept 3rd) a Servicemen's Day Picnic was held and the Fund Committee and all other individuals who supported the worthy cause were $ 1,200 closer to their goal.
The parish was to have its share of sorrow and sadness for on December 18, 1944, in Luxembourg, Pvt. Andrew Prestash was killed in action. In the same month, in a hospital in France we lost still another one of our boys, Pvt. John Scholar, Army Engineers Corps., who died of wounds received in action. In 1944 the parents of Sgt. John Nostin received word that their son was "missing in action" since March 2, 1944. Sgt Nostin was a tailgunner on a B-17 Bomber. At the regular monthly meeting of the Servicemen's Club, held on October 3, 1945 plans were formulated to turn over $ 5,000 to the returning veterans. Fifteen veterans had been discharged as of this date. The Letter Writing division of the Servicemen's Club issued "Global Echo" which was a 26 page booklet containing 50 letters from our servicemen. Miss Lydia Yawin was gracious enough to stencil the entire publication and the editor was Mr. John Seleman.
The month of October 1945 also witnessed a Servicemen's Card party. On January 12, 1946, a Servicemen's Ukrainian New Years Dance was held at the Indian Hill Country Club with many returning veterans and couples present.
On Tuesday, February 18, 1946 the first formal meeting was held at the Church Hall to formulate plans to organize the Pvt. Andrew Prestash Post Ukrainian American Veterans. The newly formed post had its first large social affair on May 29, 1946 at the Hotel Bond in Hartford, a Semi-formal Dance.
The formal election of officers for the newly formed post was held on September 1946. The first officers of the Pvt. Andrew Prestash Post were:
Commander - Steve Belas
Vice Commander - Myron Prestash
Adjutant - Michaek Kerelejza
Quartermaster - Stephen Prestash Jr.
Chaplin - Father Kowalchyk
The meetings of the post were held at the old Citizen's Club on Spring street. The post received its Charter in 1948 and in 1955 became a member in the national organization, Ukrainian American Veterans of the United States.
In 1954 the post erected and dedicated a monument for those veterans who "Gave their tomorrow for our today". The monument stands in front of the Parish House where services were held to honor this occasion. Memorial day services are still held there today.
Throughout its history the Pvt. Andrew Prestash Post has always assisted both financially and morally our church, and the youth of our church. The post has assisted many other organizations whenever possible. The Post has continued to hold Memorial Day observances throughout the years and has been a active member of the UAV.
Post 15 members who have held national offices are:
Emrick Prestash National Commander
Michael Chaika National Commander
James Pender National Historian
Ann Chaika National Adjutant
Above all the members of the Post have not and will never forget those veterans who gave their lives for our tomorrow.
History of the Pvt. Andrew Prestash originally written by T.J. Hoptiak, updated by Walter Demetro