School of Religion and Ukrainian Studies
Our school has been our fountainhead for gaining understanding of the Ukrainian language, its faith, people, history, culture and traditions. It has provided the foundation for bringing them up and has filled their souls with their faith and in the Ukrainian spirit. The realization of the value a school could bring to our children inspired the creation of the Lesia Ukrainka School for Religious and Ukrainian Studies at the Cathedral of St. Mary the Protectress in Southfield, Michigan.
The founders of the school were the rector of the parish Rev. Fahter Theodore P. Bilecky and teacher Olga Gachowsky. In 1955 the school opened its doors to 18 children and by the end of the year there were 38 pupils. In 1959, a kindergarten was organized by its first teacher Olena Liskiwsky. In the first years, the curriculum was modeled after the program established by the UCCA (Ukrainian Congress Committee of America) and divided into 7 grades. In the 1958-59 academic year, His Eminence Archbishop Volodymyr took the school under his guidance and registered it into the Educational Program of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. At the height of its enrollment, the school numbered 130 pupils with children ranging in age from kindergarten to the 10th grade. Fifty five years have flown by filled with classes, concerts, celebrations, dances and school holidays.
This school remains an important institution in our parish and stimulates a rich cultural life and a renewal of spiritual understanding. There are many examples within our parish of former pupils continuing their devotion to the Ukrainian ideal and the Orthodox faith. Indeed they have continued their interests by working in the Ukrainian Orthodox League, ODUM youth programs, the cathedral choir, the parish council, Kobzarska Sich bandura summer camps, dance groups, etc. Many have actively volunteered their time or were employed in Ukraine following the renewal of independence in 1991. To name a few - Natalia Melnyczuk worked at the U.S. Embassy and at NATO in Kyiv, Vera Petrusha, Olga Liskiwsky, Marianna Liskiwsky, Dr. Luba Petrusha volunteered for camps and programs organized by UCARE, Inc. and Maria Nazarenko taught English in Poltava.
Our school Principals were: Omelian Karanets, Paul Herman- Malinowski, Michael Smyk, John Chalawa, prof. Andriy Shashlo, Dr. Jurij Rozhin, Dr. Ivan Smereka, Dr. Ilia Wolynetz, Marianna Liskiwsky, Olga Liskiwsky, Nadia Romanchuk, Vera Petrusha, Maria Nazarenko. Teachers: Olga Gachowsky, Dora Jasinsky, Catherine Zhupinas, Omelian Karanets, Epiphania Hrynkiw, Maria Harasewych, Paul Herman- Malinowski, Olga Karpenko, Halina Kolosyuk, Olena Liskiwskyi, Marianna and Olga Liskiwskyi, Tatiana and Maria Nazarenko, Olga Kulakiwsky Michael and Apollinaria Smyk, John and Paraska Chalawa, Paul Malyar, Natalie Marushchak, Nadia Romanczuk, prof. Andriy Shashlo, Halyna Shashlo, Dr. Jurij Rozhin, Dr. Ivan and Zoya Smereka, Dr. Ilia Wolynetz, Prof. Roman Bzhesky, Danylo Mirshun, Lydia Kytasty, Lubow Jura, Halyna Milchynska- Symonenko, Alla Kot, Vera Petrusha, Svitlana Petrusha, Vera Mykolenko, Klava Kowalenko, Nadia Strychar, Ulana Parhomenko, Svitlana Rohowyk.
Music and singing teachers: Ivan T. Kytasty, Peter Kytasty, Hryhory Nazarenko, Evhen Ciura, Lubow Samarska, Irina Shamray, Irene Smyk, Michael Serdiuk, Anatoly Murha. Dance teachers: Motria Makar, Halyna Prytula, Lisa Hryzodub, Svetlana (Kot) Leheta and Tatiana Illyashevych.
In 2003, the school was revived and strengthened with the help of its graduates and the guidance of the parish's Cultural and Educational chair and the help of the newly elected head of the Parents Committee - Andriy Smyk. A library was created and organized by M. Nevenhlowsky - there are over 2,500 books and magazines found there. Marianna Liskiwsky acted as the administrator of the school and was followed in this role by Olga Liskiwsky, Vera Petrusha and Maria Nazarenko. Along with the work of the teachers, the Parents Committee has always played an integral part in the development of the school - fundraising, organizing, cleaning to make sure the school continues to survive and grow.
In recent years, our teaching staff has been augmented by teachers who have recently settled in this country from Ukraine. Over the last few years, the staff included: Bohdan Romanchyshyn, Halina Semets, Yuliana Sirman Felling, Julia Kuch-Ksenos, Andrij Zaritsky, Alexander Oleksienko, Nadia Pacholiuk Pinto, Victoria Volyaniuk, Elizabeth Symonenko, Lubow Lazurko, Halina Yalowenko, Vita Lukaschuk, Maria Nevenhlovska (librarian), Tatiana Illyashevych, Larissa Blysniuk, Marta Birko, Sofia Korostetska and Ludmila Adler.
The mission of our school was, is and always will be to provide an organized educational program for our youngsters to grow in the Ukrainian national spirit! They benefit greatly from the rich and varied programs presented to them - they continue to build their self confidence as evidenced in their performances on stage.
I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the parents, for their care and hard work in supporting the school. We as teachers and administrators are inspired by our pupils and continue to work in teaching the Ukrainian language, its culture, history, traditions and the Orthodox faith. While we mark the 60th anniversary of our parish community, we hope that the cheerful clamor of children's voices continue to be heard in our school.
(based on an article written by P. Chalava)