Andrew Fedynsky was born in 1947 to political refugees living in displaced persons camps in Innsbruck, Austria. He was 8 months old when the family came to America. His older brother George was born in Poland and spent his formative years in a warzone. His younger brother Peter was born in Pennsylvania after they had already emigrated to America. The family moved to Cleveland, OH, when Andriy was 7 years old, where he attended Cleveland Public Schools. Later he graduated from the University of Notre Dame, where he majored in English and German. One of the primary reasons, Andriy went to Notre Dame is because they had a sophomore study abroad program in Innsbruck, which he attended in 1966-1967.
After graduation in 1969, Andriy taught in the Cleveland Public School system for nine years. During that time, he became involved with the Ukrainian dissident movement, Helsinki group and the publishing house Smoloskyp, which published samizdat materials smuggled out of the Soviet Union. He translated Ukrainian dissident literature, gave lectures at various universities, lobbied for human rights, and was even arrested in Belgrade in 1977 at the first Helsinki follow-up conference. He and a few friends had organized a press conference to bring attention to the plight of Ukrainian dissidents, specifically Mykola Rudenko and Oleksa Tykhyj, in order to demonstrate to signatory countries that citizens of Soviet Ukraine that had volunteered to help their country implement the Helsinki Accords were now being arrested and put on trial. Fedynsky was arrested, put on a plane and thrown out of the country, a much milder fate than that faced by many of his contemporaries. Within a year he was offered a position on Capitol Hill to work as a speechwriter and foreign policy aid for Bob Dole in 1978. After going back Cleveland to get a masters degree in history at John Carroll University, he returned to Washington to work for the Congresswoman Mary Rose Oakar who represented Cleveland. As a senior legislative assistant, he worked on issues important to the city of Cleveland, such as development, transportation and foreign policy, as well as the Ukrainian community. Fedynsky was involved in the creation of the Congressional Famine Commission in 1983.
While Fedynsky was working on Capitol Hill, his father Oleksandr became the director of the Ukrainian Museum-Archives in Cleveland. It was during that time that Andrew became aware of the scope and value of the collection there. When his father passed away in 1987, Andrew returned to Cleveland to straighten out the collection. What was meant to be one year stretched into thirty. His boss Mary Rose Oakar allowed him to work half days for her in the district office in Cleveland and then half days at the museum. During that period, Fedynsky oversaw the stabilization of the collection, repairs on the house, and the acquisition of a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant to construct an archival building. Now, Tremont is one of the premier neighbourhoods in Cleveland, with million dollar properties. For instance, the hall of the Ukrainian American Youth Association was sold for $40,000 and its worth upwards of 2 million now.
The Ukrainian Museum-Archives was also under pressure to move the museum to the suburbs, but Fedynsky resisted that outcome with the help of a number of dedicated people—helpers, colleagues, co-workers—all of whom were all of the opinion that Ukrainian culture belongs at the center of influence, which is the city, where banking, economics, politics, and culture thrive. If the museum was moved to the suburbs, that would have been akin to moving to the village. According to Fedynsky, that has been Ukraine’s problem historically. Ukraine was a rural society with a thriving farming culture, which is wonderful, yielding beautiful handicrafts, Easter eggs, and deep traditions. Citing Mykola Khvylioviy, who saw in the development of the city an opportunity to create an urban Ukrainian culture, Fedynsky believes that maintaining a presence in the city of Cleveland is important for the UMA and further integration into the fabric of a reviving neighbourhood is one of the guiding principles shaping future projects and plans.
- Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
Author(s) of this page
- Kulick, Orysia Maria