BELARUSIAN-AMERICAN ASSOCIATION, INC.

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 ethnic readers.
 
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
March 1974

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