The Ukrainian Vietnam Veterans of Cleveland organized on December 2, 1983. The goals of the organization were to help members access veteran benefits, to provide a forum to meet and converse, and to use the new found respect America was giving to Vietnam veterans toward helping Ukrainian political actions. At the first election, Commander Zen Golembiowsky and Adjutant Jon Nych took over the administrative duties of the newly formed post. By April 1984, the post was meeting regularly on a monthly basis, and attendance grew from 5 members to 10 members regularly present.
After investigating joining the VFW and American Legion, the Ukrainian Vietnam Veterans of Cleveland decided to join and strengthen the Ukrainian American Veterans (UAV) brotherhood. A dialogue was initiated, and on September 14, 1985 Cmdr. Golembiowsky was informed that the Cleveland veterans were granted a Charter and accepted into the national organization as UAV Post 24 of Cleveland.
In the Fall of 1985, a historic meeting took place with Cmdr. Golembiowsky, Adjutant Nych, and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). It is difficult to describe the emotion of that event: A traditional drink, an exchange of greetings, some solemn reflections, mutual respect, a bridging of the gap between generations. At this meeting, the Cleveland UPA Commander Ivan Olijar proposed that the two organizations of veterans find ways to work together and help each other and the Ukrainian cause.
The two groups decided to hold a joint picnic, with the proceeds to go towards the purchase of a new modern weapon, the camcorder! The picnic was held on June 15, 1986 with UAV Nat'l Cmdr. Ed Zetick esq., and Nat'l Adjutant Dmytro Bykovetz Jr., formally presenting Post 24 its Charter.
In September, with the help of Jerry Sywyj, WJW Channel 8, and T.V. personality Dick Russ, the UPA and Post 24 obtained a state of the art camcorder. This camcorder has been used to document testimony of Ukrainian Death Camp survisors, film public and private talks of famous dissidents such as Terelya, Rudenko, and Shumuk, film UPA and Post ceremonies, and other Ukrainian public demonstrations.
On September 14, 1986 Post 24 held its second elections and Roman Rakowsky was elected as Post Commander. Cmdr. Rakowsky served as a combat artist and photographer in Vietnam. His combat art is in the U.S. Army History Department archives and some of his works are on permanent display in the Pentagon. In January 1992, Roman Rakowsky stepped down from his duties as Post Commander because of his responsibilities as National Commander, and Zen Golembiowsky again assumed the duties of Post 24 Commander until 1994.
After receiving the UAV Charter, Post 24 opened membership to all Ukrainian American Veterans, outside the original Vietnam veterans. Some non-veterans have also joined us as associate members. As of this writing, the official Post 24 roster has 71 members.
As the post grew it became more politically active, taking part in security measures during protests for John Demjanjuk, helping protest when the Ukrainian Radio Program was taken off the aid in Cleveland, and contacting elected officials to furthur veteran and Ukrainian causes. To date, the post has received recognition from Sen. John Glenn, Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, Cong. Dennis Eckart, Cong. Louis Stokes, and Cong. Mary Rose Oakar.
Through Congressional Aide and Ukrainian Museum Director Andrew Fedynsky, Post 24 has developed close ties to Cong. Oakar, who mentioned the group warmly in her last Inauguration speech and presented the post with an American flag flown especially in its honor over the Capitol. The post also supported the Vietnam Veterans Women National Memorial project, which Cong. Oakar champions.
In 1989 a member of Post 24 who served in very difficult combat duty in Vietnam was believed killed on Cleveland's Southside, where he lived homeless and destitute. A requiem Mass has held in his memory. Through the efforts of associate member Orest Wasyluk, a hospital director for the V.A., our lost veteran was found to be alive! That day was Easter Sunday. Beacuse of the post's intervention, our brother was granted a life pension and placed in a quality nursing home.
Recently, the post was involved in providing wheelchairs for Ukrainian Afghanistan Veterans, donated and helped raise funds for International Ukrainian relief programs, and locally sponsored a writing contest for the students of Taras Shevchenko Ukrainian school. Becaues many of the Post 24 members are also involved in leadership roles in other Ukrainian organizations, the commitment to community service is strong within our ranks.
The current (1999) Post 24 Commander is Roman J. Rakowsky PNC. For more information, write or call:
Roman Rakowsky PNC