BRANCH OF LOS ANGELES
The Los Angeles Branch of the
Belarusian-American was formed on May 17, 1959 through the efforts of Joe
Arciuch, two years after he arrived from New York to work as an electronic
engineer for a large aerospace company in California. While in New York, he
was secretary of the Belarusian-American Association, Inc.
(Byelorussian-American Association at the time), a national, fraternal
organization in the United States. Prior to leaving for California, he was
asked by the organization's leadership to form a branch in Los Angeles.
At the founding, he was elected
the first branch president. He continued to serve in that position to August
22, 1965, when Ivan Brucky agreed to and was elected president. Mr. Brucky
resigned in December 1969 and the branch became inactivated for a few years.
When later reactivated, it existed for several years, but with young, active
members leaving for colleges, the Branch activity came to a standstill and the
Branch eventually folded up.
The Branch was established
primarily to serve as a center for the existing Belarusian community in
California. The membership consisted of post-World War II immigrants, most of
the members located in the City and County of Los Angeles. Its mission was to
pull people together and organize for participating in Belarusian cultural
activities, such as:
Community cultural life;
Representation of Belarusian community's interests relating to local
and state governments, social
agencies, and local ethnic groups; and
Participation in joint ethnic cultural events.
The most outstanding yearly event
was March 25, the day of marking the anniversary of the Declaration of
Belarusian Independence in 1918. Other events included marking the anniversary
of the 1920 anti-Communist Slutzk Uprising and paying tribute to Belarusian
prominent men and women of the past. Community social activities included
birthday anniversaries, weddings and picnics.
Belarus and Belarusians were
virtually unknown in Los Angeles and in the State of California as well. There
was a big problem of mistaken identity which surfaced when first trying to
establish contact with local and sate governments and agencies. To most,
Belarusians were identified as and Russians. To overcome this problem it took
some intensive writing and distribution of literature and articles written in
English on Belarus. The great help in this effort were the publications such
as Byelorussia, For Freedom and Independence of Byelorussia, and the
Congressional Record. Especially the remarks in Congressional Record made by
congressmen and senators on the occasion of the Declaration of Belarusian
Independence in 1918 created a positive response f rom both the American and
Good relationship was established
with Governors Pat Brown and Ronald Reagan, Los Angeles Mayors Norris Poulson
and Sam Yorty, U.S. Senator Thomas Kuchel and score of sympathetic
congressmen—Gordon L. McDonough, Glenard P. Lipscomb, and Craig
Hosmer. Mayor Sam Yorty was
especially good friend of the Belarusians and every year issued a formal
proclamation of Belarusian Day in the City of Los Angeles.
A close working relationship was
established with Los Angeles International Institute, a non-profit
organization dedicated to providing help for foreign-born people to get
adjusted to the new country. One of the Institute's main cultural and
community events was the International Day, a two-day festival held in
October. The event featured beautifully arranged exhibits of participating
nationality art and crafts, delightful programs of folk music and dances, and
delicious nationality buffets. Usually over 30 different nationalities
participated. The Belarusians participated for good many years, featuring
Belarusian art and crafts, folk songs and dances.
Other activities included
participation in Los Angeles City-sponsored events such as "Christmas
from Many Lands," and "All Nations Fair." The first was=2 0held
annually in December and lasted two weeks. The program encompassed displays of
nationality traditionally decorated Christmas trees and nationality arts and
crafts, and performing traditional folk songs and dances featured during the
holiday season. The Belarusians featured the nationality booth containing the
decorated Christmas tree, a sketch portraying the Belarusian traditional
Christmas Eve, and Christmas carolers. The youth group performed folk songs
and dances on the stage.
During the International Day, the
Belarusian contribution consisted of a display booth, national arts and crafts
and the rendition of folk dances.
All these events were covered by
TV, radio and the local press. The Belarusian group got a fair share of media
coverage, plus the exposure to the live audiences, interfacing with individual
visitors and taking advantage of personally answering questions about the
country and passing out handbills and literature pertaining to Belarus.
The Branch was responsible for
sponsoring and organizing Belarusian events within the community and in
participation in the outside activities described above. To broaden the
community base, Mr. Arciuch was successful in developing working relationship
with Mr. Cheslau Najdziuk representing the Belarusian Congress Committee in
California, making it possible in strengthening20the community life and
participation in the outside activities.
Most of the community supported
financially the above activities and participated actively in various
capacities, especially the youth in performing folk dances. The following
persons deserve thanks for contributing heavily to make those events possible:
Mrs. Katherine Winicki for training youths and children in folk dancing and
providing technical direction for the group performing at international ethnic
events; Mrs. Jusefa Najdziuk for assembling national arts and crafts for
displays and setting up the exhibits; and Mr. Alex Winicki for teaching the
children the Belarusian language and history.
Prepared by Joe Arciuch
to So Cal BAZA page